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Widmyer requests retrial in murder

March 07, 2001

Widmyer requests retrial in murder



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


Convicted murderer William Trampas Widmyer is seeking a new trial in the 1998 shooting death of his former wife, charging that police arrested him illegally and that the trial judge erred in his instructions to the jury, according to an appeal filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

In his petition for habeas corpus, Widmyer claims a number of errors in his arrest and trial, including an "illegal arrest" by Ranson Police and the decision by the judge in the trial not to offer the jury instructions for a second-degree murder charge.

Habeus corpus is a type of appeal under which a convicted person requests that he be brought before the court to determine whether error was made at trial and, therefore, a new trial is warranted.

Widmyer's request is one that convicts frequently use in attempts to get new trials, said Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson.

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"He can get in line. We got about 30 of those waiting," Thompson said Tuesday afternoon.

A Jefferson County jury found Widmyer guilty of first-degree murder in June 1999 in the shooting death of his former wife, Tara Widmyer. The jury made no recommendation for mercy, meaning Widmyer will serve the rest of his life in prison, assuming his conviction stands.

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.

Tara Widmyer and Larry Miller, her boyfriend, were shot Nov. 16, 1998 while they were watching television in Tara Widmyer's house at 107-B East Sixth Avenue in Ranson.

When police arrived, they found Tara Widmyer dead in the living room and Miller crawling out the front door and yelling for help. Although Miller survived the attack, although he may be stiff-legged for life due to his wounds.

Police alleged that Widmyer had problems coping with the fact that his former wife had started a new life, and that the shooting was a sad conclusion to those problems.

Police searched for Widmyer for three days before he turned himself in to police in Woodstock, Va.

Widmyer, who is representing himself in his petition for a new trial, said he turned himself in to the Shenanoah Co. (Va.) Sheriff's Department. Later that day, Ranson Police also placed Widmyer under arrest, the petition said.

Widmyer claims in his petition that Ranson Police "were without authority" to arrest him. Ranson Police Chief William Roper interviewed Widmyer in the Shenandoah County Jail shortly after his arrest.

Roper declined to comment about Widmyer's case. If a new trial were granted, Roper said his department would cooperate with Thompson's office to make sure the evidence in the case is presented.

Widmyer is asking that all his convictions be reversed and that he be given a new trial.

No hearing has been set for the petition.

Widmyer has also tried to appeal his conviction through the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Convicts may petition for habeas corpus even after they have sought an appeal on their cases through the Supreme Court of Appeals, Thompson said.

Thompson said processing a habeas corpus petition requires a lot of time and is burdensome on the court system.

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