PITTSBURGH – A man who confessed two decades ago to killing his girlfriend’s toddler daughter, only to have the case thrown out because of lack of corroboration, was charged again Wednesday in her death.
Timothy Wayne Widman was charged with criminal homicide in the death of 3-year-old Nicole Lynn Bryner, who vanished in March 1982. Prosecutors had dropped an involuntary manslaughter charge in 1987 because state law required corroborating evidence.
The criminal complaint did not appear to detail any new developments in the case against Widman, 51, of Pittsburgh.
“Clarifications in the laws surrounding these types of cases, that being cases without a body, enable the city to refile these charges,” said Mike Manko, a spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen J. Zappala Jr.
In March 1982, Nicole’s mother, Melody Thomas Childs, reported her daughter missing from a supermarket, but the child’s body was not found.
Four years later, Widman told police that on March 9, 1982, he slapped Nicole when he became angry after she bit his toe, according to the police criminal complaint. He said she fell backward and struck her head, police said.
Widman told the mother what happened and they put her to bed, according to police. They later realized she was dead and put her body in a plastic bag, and Widman buried it in a wooded area, police said.
In 1987, then-Allegheny County District Attorney Bob Colville said charges were dropped because prosecutors couldn’t prove a crime occurred. Investigators have been unable to find any independent evidence to support Widman’s confession, he said.
State law required corroborating evidence, even when there was a confession, to guard against the prosecution of a mentally ill person making a false confession, Colville had said.
At the time, Widman was imprisoned for burglary and receiving stolen property.
It was not immediately clear if Widman has an attorney.
W. Christopher Conrad, who had been head of the county’s homicide unit at the time, said Wednesday he believed Widman wanted to ease his conscience and bargain the case by implicating the mother. But she refused to admit culpability and Widman refused to testify against her.
She was charged with hindering apprehension and giving false reports, but the charges were withdrawn in 1987, police said. She died in 2001.