BUCKHANNON – A man who allegedly killed his father in March remains in jail awaiting further court proceedings, but a book has been written about what happened with an earlier murder conviction, its appeal and the aftermath.
“Sleeping in the Bathtub” is written by Kimberli Roessing-Anderson and is based on the story of Timothy McWilliams, of Buckhannon, who shot three people near West Virginia University in 1980, one of whom, Alan Antonek, died. The first trial resulted in a hung jury while the second jury convicted Williams. However, the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned McWilliams’ conviction and entered a judgment of acquittal in 1986. McWilliams spent a couple years in the Weston State Hospital but was released to his parents in 1988 and resided with them in Buckhannon until March 11 of this year when McWilliams was arrested for the alleged murder of his father, Leo McWilliams.
The story intrigued Roessing-Anderson, who dated McWilliams’ brother, Jeff, and is an author.
“I think it was a combination of being familiar with the family and also the whole situation with the state of his mental health,” she said. “From what I could find through the research I did for eight months, he basically lived in that house for almost 30 years without any kind of public record at all. I couldn’t find anything.”
The author spent months researching, including two trips to West Virginia this year.
“I was in Morgantown twice – once in May and once in August,” she said. “I had trouble finding the exhibits from the trial. They were unable to find the trial exhibits when I was there in May. They called me in late July and said they had found two boxes, so I decided to fly back. I flew back and I was there for a week or 10 days and I was able to go through all the trial exhibits.
“They gave me a much better feel for everything that happened and what people looked like and being able to talk to some of the siblings of the murder victims.
While neither wanted to be interviewed for the book, Roessing-Anderson said she appreciated their conversations anyway.
“Alan’s sister is still very emotional about losing her brother,” she said.
Roessing-Anderson also found a former girlfriend of McWilliams.
“During the time when he was in the military, they had a relationship and she cast some light on the progression of him being fine and then him starting to become more paranoid and becoming really interested in conspiracy theories.
Roessing-Anderson came into the picture after McWilliams had returned home and was living with his parents.
“I knew him for approximately a year and a half and I saw him maybe five to 10 times when I could come home with his brother for a weekend in Buckhannon,” she said. “He was a just a zombie, very heavily medicated. “He didn’t look anything like the pictures in high school or even the pictures of him in the military.”
Roessing-Anderson said that McWilliams never acted threatening towards her but that she “did not feel safe around him.”
“He just seemed very on the edge,” she said. “Everybody was handling him with extreme care. If you would have asked me back in 1988, did I think something like this would have eventually happened, I would probably have said yes.
“I did not think he would be able to acclimate back into society. They really had nowhere to go with him because Weston [State Hospital] was in such bad shape. After that two-year period was up, the doctor said you can go home and follow-up. I don’t know if they ever did. I just did not think he would ever fit back into society.
Although the majority of the book is on the murder of which McWilliams was acquitted from, Roessing-Anderson has written about Leo McWilliams as she remembered him and also about the crime alleged to have happened in March and what she has found out.
“Leo was always his biggest supporter,” she said. “That was the sad part about it. He even said during the first trial that [McWilliams] was the child he was closest to.”
The author has kept up with media accounts from McWilliams since his arrest in March.
“I haven’t been able to find out a whole lot that isn’t already public record somewhere,” she said.
But what she has learned is included in the book. In her inquiries back in Buckhannon, Roessing-Anderson said, “I was surprised by the amount of people who did not know he was out or how long he had been living there.
“They were shocked that he had been living there for 30 years. He had no job, no social media presence, no cell phone.”
Roessing-Anderson said she had not reached out to the McWilliams family in writing her book although she had considered it.
“I tried to be very fair in it,” she said. “I want [the reader] to know and understand somebody really was living in that community that was so under the radar and was obviously still dangerous.
“Because he was acquitted when the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned that first trial, it is very possible when he goes to trial the second time that they may not be able to mention the first trial if they don’t come to a plea agreement.”
Roessing-Anderson also said she has another purpose in writing the book.
“I want people who have mental health problems to be able to get the help they need and not be in a situation where they are 65 years old, have schizophrenia and living at home with two elderly parents.
McWilliams had been diagnosed with schizophrenia,’ she said.
“I really hope they come to a plea agreement and that he gets the help he needs,” she said.
Although Roessing-Anderson has written academic articles and freelances, this is her first solo book project.
“In the beginning, you are tempted to go a whole bunch of different directions,” she said. “What I decided early on was this isn’t a book about me and my relationship with Jeff. This is about Tim. Once I was able to get the focus and weed out the other stuff, I was able to write a lot more quickly and make it a lot more tight and cohesive.”
“Sleeping in the Bathtub” is available through Amazon.com, www.bn.com, Kobu and Apple – all in e-book form.
A paperback copy could be forthcoming and an audio book is in the works. mFor more information, visit www.sleepinginthebathtub.com or like @Sleepinginthebathtub on Facebook.