A Buckhannon man, the subject of an overturned murder conviction in the 1980s, took a plea deal Thursday in his father’s murder case in Upshur County Circuit Court.
Timothy Allen McWilliams, 66, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea deal with Upshur Prosecutor David Godwin.
Judge Kurt Hall said he will wait to hand down his decision on whether to accept McWilliams’s plea deal until after McWilliams participates in a 60-day diagnostic evaluation to determine if he is competent and of sound mind to engage in the plea deal.
Once the evaluation is complete, Hall said, he will either accept or reject McWilliams’s plea during a hearing set for July 3.
McWilliams’s attorney, Dennis Willett, said the original first-degree murder charge against his client was rushed, and the plea deal, if accepted by Hall would be an acceptable outcome for the McWilliams family, noting that even the 3-to-15-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter still could be a life sentence for Timothy McWilliams.
“It’s a real tragedy for an upstanding family,” Willett said. “His family is supportive of him and stand behind him. This is going to help his family put this episode behind them.”
McWilliams is accused of killing his father, 84-year-old Norman “Leo” McWilliams, during an altercation on March 8, 2018.
Timothy McWilliams was living with his parents at the time of his father’s death, according to court records.
Godwin provided the facts of the case as a part of McWilliams’ plea deal.
McWilliams told police that he and his father got into a physical altercation on March 8, Upshur County Deputy Sheriff Seth Cutright wrote in the criminal complaint filed in the Circuit Court.
When the older McWilliams was face down on the ground, Timothy McWilliams got on his father’s back and cut his throat with a knife, Cutright said in the complaint. Leo McWilliams died from a “severe laceration to his throat, according to the complaint. Timothy McWilliams, who also suffered a laceration in the fight, was treated at a local hospital, Cutright said.
Leo McWilliams, a retired machine shop teacher who ran a kennel for Old English Bulldogs, was suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease when he died, according to an obituary in The Record Delta newspaper in Buckhannon.
The initial first-degree murder charge related to his father’s death was the first time Timothy McWilliams appeared in any government records in a little more than 30 years.
In 1984, a Monongalia County jury convicted McWilliams of shooting Donald Askew, Michael Carter and Alan Antonek, killing Antonek, in Morgantown in August 1980.
McWilliams had been an athletic stand-out and performed well academically at Buckhannon-Upshur High School in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as U.S. Embassy guard in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia before enrolling at West Virginia University.
Once at WVU, McWilliams’ mental condition began to deteriorate, with him telling a court-appointed psychiatrist in the 1980s that he believed the government had brainwashed him and severed his head and replaced it to keep him silent about government secrets.
In December 1986, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned McWilliams’ convictions, saying he clearly had not been competent to stand trial.
As of March 1987, McWilliams had been ordered to Weston State Hospital, and his case and name fell out of court and other public records.
According to a book “Sleeping in the Bathtub,” written by Kimberli Roessing-Anderson, a former girlfriend of McWilliams’ brother, McWilliams moved back in with his parents after staying at the state hospital for two years, and he lived there until March 2018, when his father was killed.
Last year, McWilliams was deemed competent to stand trial for his father’s slaying.
McWilliams has been incarcerated at the Tygart Valley Regional Jail since March 8, 2018.