Until last week, Kimberli Roessing-Anderson felt like she’d written a story that didn’t have an ending.
Roessing-Anderson released her book, “Sleeping in the Bathtub,” in December, and until Timothy Allen McWilliams pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for his father’s death last week, the amount of uncertainty in McWilliams’ story was something she couldn’t shake.
“It bothered me,” Roessing-Anderson said from her home in Colorado. “The fact that he had done this, killed before, and this is just a really disheartening story.”
“Sleeping in the Bathtub” chronicles portions of Roessing-Anderson’s personal experience with McWilliams and his immediate family, as well as court and other public records that, pieced together, tell the story of Tim McWilliams, an all-star athlete and star student at Buckhannon-Upshur High School who went on to shoot three men in Morgantown, killing one, in 1980 after years of deteriorating mental health.
“It’s a story about somebody who had everything going for them, and in the matter of a couple of years went from a star at everything he tried to do to decomposing into someone who was barely functional and ended up shooting three people and spent the better part of eight years in and out of a mental hospital and the Monongalia County Jail,” she said.
What’s more is Roessing-Anderson accounts for almost 30 years of time when Tim McWilliams seemingly was off-the-grid after the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned his convictions for first-degree murder and malicious wounding in 1986 but before he allegedly killed his father, Norman “Leo” McWilliams, in March 2018.
“He had no presence,” Roessing-Anderson said. “He was not counted in a Census after 1980. He had no social media. No phone number. No bank account. I’m not even sure if he had a driver’s license, and most of his neighbors didn’t know he was there with his parents.”
A glimpse into one family’s life
Roessing-Anderson’s take on McWilliams’ life isn’t borne of the desire for a dishy true crime story, but it’s based on an affection for a family she almost called her own.
Roessing-Anderson grew up in Charleston and dated Jeff McWilliams, Tim McWilliams’ younger brother, for about two years from 1986 to 1988, when they were students at Marshall University. The couple briefly were engaged, and Roessing-Anderson spent several weekends visiting the family’s home in Buckhannon.
Jeff was the youngest of the four McWilliams children, so it didn’t seem odd to Roessing-Anderson that Tim nor any of his other adult siblings weren’t living at home with Leo and his wife, Ginny.
It wasn’t until she was looking for a scrap piece of paper to write a grocery list a little more than a year into their relationship that she learned why her boyfriend’s brother wasn’t around.
“I pulled on a piece of typing paper from a stack, and all of these articles and court papers fell out on the floor,” she said. “I thought, ‘Uh-oh. What have I done?’ ”
Roessing-Anderson came to learn that Tim McWilliams had been a “golden child” while at Buckhannon-Upshur and joined the United States Marine Corps after he graduated high school in 1971.
It was his plan to spend four years in the Marines until he could enroll at West Virginia University and, for the most part, the plan went as Tim McWilliams intended.
While in the Marines, Tim McWilliams earned a spot as an embassy guard for the U.S. Embassy facilities in Saudi Arabia and later in Tunisia. He was honorably discharged from the military in November 1975, and he enrolled in WVU as an engineering student in January 1976.
However, by the summer of 1978, Tim McWilliams had either failed or withdrawn from most of his classes, with his energy instead spent on concerns that the government was monitoring him and that his mother may be poisoning his food.
He began sleeping in the bathtub, Roessing-Anderson said, because he thought it would keep him safe if someone from the government tried to shoot him. He also began making phone calls to his younger sister, Rita, from the bathtub, which Roessing-Anderson said became his safe space from the rest of the world.
“One day he was OK,” Roessing-Anderson said. “Then it started being about conspiracy theories, then it was ‘Someone is following me,’ and it went downhill from there.”
Tim McWilliams shot a neighbor’s dog that was in a bush near his apartment in the summer of 1978 because he thought it was a person who was after him.
The dog lost its tail in the incident, and Tim McWilliams wasn’t cited or arrested. However, the incident was enough for him to be put on the Morgantown Police Department’s radar.
A murder, trial and a disappearance from public life
When Morgantown police received a report of three men shot near the former Stadium Bridge on Aug. 1, 1980, Tim McWilliams quickly became their lead suspect, Roessing-Anderson said in her book.
Court records show McWilliams, 27 at the time, shot 18-year-old Allen Antonek, Donald Askew and Michael Carter, both of whom were 19, after a verbal altercation at Finnerty’s nightclub in Morgantown’s Sunnyside neighborhood.
All three men were taken to a local hospital. Antonek died not long after arriving at the hospital, and the other two men were treated and survived their injuries.
After Tim McWilliams was arrested, he twice was declared not competent to stand trial.
In her book, Roessing-Anderson said prosecuting attorneys in Monongalia County initially didn’t believe Tim McWilliams suffered from mental illness and that he was using it purely as a defense strategy, but they later came to accept his condition.
Tim McWilliams was deemed competent to stand trial in 1983, and his first trial took place in March 1984.
That three-day trial ended with a hung jury.
A second trial ended in November 1984 with Tim McWilliams convicted on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of malicious assault.
In December 1986, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned McWilliams’ conviction, ruling he had not been competent to stand trial and certain evidence in his trial shouldn’t have been introduced.
In Monongalia Circuit Court, a judge ordered Tim McWilliams be committed to Weston State Hospital for a two-year civil commitment, which at the time was as much as a judge could order for defendants who were not guilty by way of insanity.
Today, when a defendant is found not guilty by way of insanity, a judge can order them committed to a mental health treatment facility for the duration of the sentence of their crime, as opposed to prison time.
It was during this time Roessing-Anderson was introduced to the McWilliams family.
She knew of Tim McWilliams from his visits to his parents’ home on the weekends. Their interactions were few and short.
Then, one day in 1988, after Roessing-Anderson learned his story, Tim McWilliams was home for good.
Even though she met him several times, Roessing-Anderson said it was hard to get a sense of who Tim McWilliams was.
“It was hard to tell much of him because he was so heavily drugged,” she said. “He was usually bent over, shuffling through the house. He mumbled. ... He kind of lived like Boo Radley in the house with his parents. I don’t see how they lived in a house for 30 years with all of the things that had evolved since 1988 with alternate sentences and other things.”
The family often sat around and played cards, and Tim McWilliams helped his parents out around the house.
Roessing-Anderson said in her book that Tim McWilliams’ family supported his well-being with his father, Leo, being his biggest champion.
In talking with neighbors and former co-workers of Leo and Ginny, not many people knew Tim McWilliams came home, least of all the families of the victims of the 1980 shooting.
Roessing-Anderson contacted relatives of Donald Askew and Allen Antonek, all of whom declined to be interviewed for her book.
“But they were clear on how this absolutely destroyed their families,” she said.
Roessing-Anderson also said she wanted to reach out to Tim McWilliams’ sister, Rita, but she decided against it, saying a personal tragedy in Rita’s own family made it feel like the wrong time to talk to her.
Despite that, she said she knows the McWilliams family supported each other, even though it must have been difficult.
“It was not a good living situation in the end,” Roessing-Anderson said. “The judge talked about it in a hearing recently, that if two elderly people, both in their 80s, have a 65-year-old schizophrenic man taking care of them, it’s not a good situation.”
Even though state law has changed, Roessing-Anderson’s goal in sharing Tim McWilliams’ story from her perspective is to help people recognize if they or a friend or loved one is showing signs of suffering from a mental illness, and to get help as soon as possible.
“This is not just an isolated incident,” she said. “There are people in this situation all over the country. I think it was hard for his family to accept, especially his parents, that this kid — who had close to a genius IQ, was good looking, was captain of the football team and had awesome grades — he decomposed to a point where by 1978 he’d shot a dog, and by 1980, he shot three people and killed one.”
She also hopes to give Leo McWilliams, who so loved and supported his son, some voice in death.
“He was such a nice man,” she said. “Granted, I had not talked to or seen him in almost 30 years, so I don’t know what he was like toward the end of his life. When I knew him, he could make you laugh. He was so funny. He was such a good guy.”
Upshur County Circuit Judge Kurt Hall deferred ruling on whether to accept Tim McWilliams’ guilty plea on Thursday, pending the result of a 60-day diagnostic evaluation.
Tim McWilliams has been incarcerated at Tygart Valley Regional Jail since March 8, 2018.