The people who came into contact with Timothy Tyree the teenager foresaw a brilliant future for the Tiffin native.
He always earned straight A’s. Women found him handsome and charming. And boy, could Tyree strum the banjo.
At 10, Tyree learned to play the electric bass guitar. But Tyree found his calling with the banjo a short time later, when he and his family traveled across the country performing gospel music for anyone and everyone who would listen.
Before Tyree enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, even offered Tyree a job as a musician at The Grand Ole Opry. Tyree declined.
“I would have gone -- even just for two or three months -- but he didn’t take it for some reason,” said Clifford Tyree, Timothy’s father, who still performs gospel on Channel 52 inCastalia.
“I’d rather have Tim playing banjo behind me more than anyone in the world. He had been playing for so long, he knew just how to fill in the spots. He had a million-dollar mind. ... You couldn’t ask for a better kid.”
Yet like a supernova lighting the sky, Timothy burned his brightest before fading into darkness.
Shortly after he graduated from Margaretta High School in 1977, the Marines stationed Timothy in Tennessee and North Carolina for brief stints before he was shipped to Japan.
When Timothy returned to Ohio in 1980, his parents and two siblings immediately noticed a change.
“He was not himself,” Clifford said. “Just a little bit different.”
His parents suggested -- and friends confirmed -- Timothy first tasted drugs while overseas.
Ronald Lucas, a one-time acquaintance and recovering drug addict, said Timothy tried marijuana and opium while in Japan with several of his Marine buddies.
After returning to the states, his opium habit led to alcohol abuse, more marijuana, cocaine and other drugs. Timothy struggled with sobriety for the next 30 years.
Just two weeks before Charlotte Evans’ burning body was found beside pond No. 7 at Resthaven Wildlife Area, one cousin in Letcher County, Ky., said Tyree burst into his home drunk and barefoot, “acting wild.”
According to his parents, Timothy would go from relative to relative and from church to church, begging for money.
Many of his relatives live in Letcher County, where he was arrested two days after the murder.
His stepmother, Mary Tyree, said even as Timothy’s sobriety and mental health declined, he could still sweettalk someone into trusting him. She described him as having a split-personality disorder.
“Sometimes he could be really good to you,” Mary, 75, said. “But then he’d just fly off the handle.”
His mental illnesses were evident to those around him. His father said Timothy would sometimes take more than 30 seconds to answer a simple question.
He suffered hot and cold flashes. He often didn’t know where he was. Acquaintances said he could collapse into tears or burst into a fit of rage at any moment.
In 1997, Timothy almost killed a man by beating him with a baseball bat. He spent six years in prison, convicted of felonious assault.
His most recent conviction -- of child enticement in 2007 -- came after he tried to lure a 12-year-old girl into his garage. Because the girl didn’t actually go, Timothy only spent a short time in prison.
Although doctors at local mental health facilities prescribed medicine that mitigates some of his mental regressions, Timothy usually refused to take his pills.
Even before the 1997 baseball bat incident, his parents stopped trying to help him. They became estranged, seeing him only at a funeral or when Timothy stopped by to ask for money.
“We tried so hard for years,” Mary said. “But you can only help someone if they want to be helped.”
Like when he was young -- motoring across the country as a banjo-playing wunderkind --Timothy spent most of his life drifting through the Lower 48.
He worked at a McDonald’s in Florida, performed odd jobs in Louisiana and the Carolinas and worked in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas.
Even with a drug habit and declining mental health, Timothy still impressed those who crossed his path.
Lucas, who met him in Oklahoma, said no one could operate a drilling rig like Timothy. Timothy also excelled as an electrician and carpenter. He even helped build his parents’ home.
“I really think Tim would’ve been a million-dollar kid if he didn’t have mental problems,” Clifford said. “He had a super personality. Could’ve done anything. But boy, that all went down the drain.”
On Friday, Clifford expressed deep sadness for Evans and her family. He said he wept and prayed for them since he learned of his son’s alleged crime.
“No matter who she was, she didn’t deserve that,” he said. “Her kids don’t deserve that. Her family doesn’t deserve that. No one deserves that.”