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W.Va. man convicted in ex-wife's murder

July 23, 1999

W.T. WidmyerBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County Circuit jury on Thursday found William Trampas Widmyer guilty of first-degree murder in the 1998 shooting death of his former wife.

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The jury made no recommendation for mercy, meaning Widmyer will serve life in prison, according to Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson.

Had the jury recommended mercy, Widmyer could have been eligible for parole in 15 years.

Widmyer, 30, of Bunker Hill, showed little reaction when the verdict was announced at 11 a.m., about two hours after the jury began deliberating.

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The jury also found Widmyer guilty of malicious assault, destruction of property, breaking and entering, petit larceny and possessing a vehicle knowing it to be stolen.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. tentatively scheduled sentencing for Aug. 30.

Widmyer's former wife, Tara Widmyer, 25, died after being shot three times in the stomach and once in the leg while in the living room of her Ranson townhouse on Nov. 16, 1998.

Her boyfriend, Larry Miller, 32, was shot in the stomach and right knee while lying on a sofa bed in the room, according to testimony.

At least five shots from a .35-caliber rifle were fired through the living room window of the 107-B E. Sixth Ave. townhouse, police said.

Miller would not comment on the verdict, other than to thank the prosecutor's office and local police for their work on the case.

Defense attorneys had said they planned to use an insanity defense. In his opening statement Tuesday, attorney S. Andrew Arnold told the jury he planned to call at least two witnesses who would testify about Widmyer's condition after the divorce.

On Wednesday, the defense rested without calling any witnesses. Arnold said the defense would rely instead on a statement from Widmyer that showed him to be a "confused, chaotic thinker."

The person hurt most by the slaying is the daughter of Tara and William Trampas Widmyer, said Robert Wilbourne, minister of Child's Road Church of God and Tara Widmyer's father.

Although she is only 6 years old, the girl has expressed concern about her children not having a grandmother when she grows up, said Lois Wilbourne, Tara's mother.

"She will never be paroled from this position. She should have never had to face this," Robert Wilbourne said.

Several members of Tara Widmyer's family were in the courtroom during the trial.

Friends and family members of William Widmyer, visibly upset over the outcome of the trial, described Widmyer as a good person.

"The jury didn't know the real Trampas. He's a good Christian boy who made a mistake," said Angel Arrington, Widmyer's sister.

His mother, Ruth Widmyer, said she was upset because her son wanted to plead guilty but was discouraged from doing so.

Widmyer, in a letter to Steptoe, said he was scared and was considering pleading guilty. He confessed in the letter that he committed the "evil deed" and said, "This is the worst thing I have ever done."Widmyer said in the letter that ministers at his former church in Williamsport believed he was lying because he did not plead guilty to the charges.

Widmyer turned himself in to police in Woodstock, Va., three days after the shootings.

Police believe that after the attack Widmyer stole a Pontiac Sunbird and drove it to Bunker Hill in Berkeley County, W.Va., where he abandoned it and stole a pickup truck. Police also believe Widmyer may have stayed in a cabin in Morgan County, W.Va., before turning himself in.

Police had said they believed Widmyer had problems coping because his former wife had started a new life, and the shootings were a "sad conclusion."

The divorce from Tara Widmyer "took all the life out of me," Widmyer said in his statement to police.

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