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Judge: ‘You owe Tim to fight off heroin’
Hardyman sentenced for overdose death of South Wayne man
Jeremy Hardyman
Jeremy Hardyman

DARLINGTON — A man whose fentanyl-laced heroin caused his friend to overdose and die was sentenced June 8 to another 18 months in the state prison system.

Jeremy H. Hardyman, 34, appeared for his plea and sentencing hearing via video conference from a prison for men in Chippewa County where he’s serving two years for an unrelated Green County drug conviction.

In the current case, he pleaded guilty to delivering heroin, a Class F felony. The more serious charge, reckless homicide, a Class C felony, was dismissed as part of a plea deal.

The charges together carried a maximum potential sentence of over 50 years. But, as part of the accepted plea agreement, Hardyman is ordered to spend an additional year in prison plus six more months on extended supervision.

Hardyman’s cooperation with investigators was a big factor in the plea deal, Lafayette County District Attorney Jenna Gill said.

“He was fully cooperative and gave a full admission of what happened,” Gill said. She said she and defense attorney Guy Taylor worked together very closely on the case from the beginning. 

‘A very selfish act’ 

Timothy J. Williams Jr., 31, died at his South Wayne home on Feb. 20, 2016.

Williams’ parents searched for answers in their son’s death for years. In the fall of 2018, the family started posting flyers offering a $1,000 reward for information on the case.

The mystery was the identity of a man who called 911 from Williams’ cellphone at his home at about 3:30 a.m. Feb 20. The caller provided Williams’ address on West Center Street, and when the 911 dispatcher asked, “What’s going on?”, he answered, “Um, my friend —” before the call disconnected.

The 911 caller, now identified as Hardyman, left Williams dying or dead, with no one else at home with him but his 4-year-old daughter. First responders found Williams “slumped onto the kitchen table” next to an uncapped syringe and the little girl standing next to him trying to wake him, according to reports from Lafayette County sheriff’s deputies.

Even though Hardyman was an early suspect, Gill said it was technology that allowed a Lafayette County detective to reopen the case last summer. Studying phone records, Det. Paul Klang built a case that Hardyman texted and called Williams earlier in the night from an anonymous burner phone.

“Hey buddy just letting you know there’s some really really good stuff around if you need anything,” Hardyman wrote in one text. Williams texted back that after paying bills he had $200 leftover “if you could grab me 2 and bring them down to me.”

Taylor described his client as a “co-adventurer” that night.

“They both passed out, I think from the fentanyl. When he came to, my client saw that the deceased was not doing well. He called 911 but then panicked and left, so he wasn’t subject to the Safe Harbor Law,” Taylor said.

Hardyman gave his version of events when given the opportunity to speak at his sentencing hearing.

“The night of Tim’s overdose, I really did try to (help him). When I woke up... the only way I knew how to help was 911. My hope was the first responders would be able to respond with Narcan. I wish I had come to sooner,” he said. 

He left because he was on probation and didn’t want to get in trouble, which he now calls “a very selfish act.”

According to Det. Klang’s reports, Hardyman didn’t consider himself a drug dealer but a “middle man” who supplied drugs to friends. He’d been using heroin since 2012 and overdosed on it in 2013 and 2017.

Hardyman at first denied ever being at Williams’ home, but Klang noted that when Williams’ name came up, Hardyman “took a big swallow and spoke quieter, as well as looked down frequently.” His full admission came later.

Klang also found that Hardyman was associated with other, non-fatal heroin overdoses around the time of Williams’ death. About two weeks after Williams died, Hardyman drove a friend who was overdosing to the Monroe Clinic ER. 

‘Our hearts are broken’

Williams grew up in South Wayne and Gratiot and graduated from Monroe High School in 2003. Like Hardyman, he battled a heroin addiction for years. He was too ashamed to seek treatment, his family told the Monroe Times last year. They remember him as a loving father to his two children, a talented guitarist and enthusiastic music fan, a “huge” Packers fan and a respected welder.

At Hardyman’s sentencing, in statements read aloud by a victim witness coordinator, Williams’ parents described the shock of losing their son and the numbness his absence left.

“When my son died, I feel like a part of me died. The last time I saw my son, I said, ‘I love you, Timmy,’ and he said, ‘I love you, Mom,’” Linda Williams wrote in her statement.

Her husband, Tim Williams, said when someone walks in the door, “I can only stare at them, wishing it was my son. My wife, Linda, still cries for him... Our hearts are broken.”

At his sentencing Hardyman described the clarity that sobriety brings.

“My mind is so clear today. But that also makes me acutely aware of the pain I have brought on the Williams family as well as my own,” he said, adding that he feels regret and “huge amounts of shame” for “not providing answers” sooner.

Reading from a statement he prepared, Hardyman said his “heart aches when he thinks about the loss of such a wonderful person.”

“I think about the trauma, the anxieties, the anger, the insecurities that are caused by Tim’s absence. I am truly sorry that Tim’s family has had to be exposed to this tragedy. ... I am sorry for my actions in this tragedy,” he said. “Losing Tim to an overdose showed me how fragile life really can be.”

He sees staying sober and changing around his life as the “one real-world tangible action” he can take now in the wake of Williams’ death. He’s inspired by the Narcotics Anonymous saying, “We can only keep what we have by giving it back.”

He ended with an apology for the Williams family: “I’m genuinely sorry for all of the hurt I brought into your lives.”

‘It needs to stop’

Ellen Berz, the Dane County judge assigned to the case, gave her condolences to the Williams family and said she was taken by Linda Williams’ statement that a part of her died with her son.

“The truth of the matter is, although Tim is no longer with us, he lives on through you, through mom, through dad, through his children. That is how he lives on. That part that is in you is worth cherishing and sharing,” she said. “Nothing I do today will bring Tim back.”

She lamented the scourge of heroin in society, likening the drug to a plague and a parasite.

“It is a poison being peddled to new people so that those who are already suffering can continue to take it,” she said.

Turning to Hardyman, she said, “It is unfortunate that it took a death and incarceration to sober you up so you could think clearly. ... When you do get out, heroin is going to be calling to you. It’s like a siren song from mythology. The sirens used to call the sailors who were out on the ocean to come to them. They would be on rocks, and the sailors would sail and kill themselves on the rocks.

“When it calls out to you, I’m going to ask you to do one thing: remember Tim. ... You owe Tim to fight off heroin. That is the absolute least that you owe him.”

Berz noted that this wasn’t the only overdose associated with heroin Hardyman provided.

“It needs to stop. People who interact with you should not have to pay the price of their life for interacting with you. And again sir, you are smart enough, you know enough and quite frankly you’ve experienced enough to change the direction that you are going,” she said.

Berz ordered Hardyman to pay restitution for the Williams family’s funeral expenses for their son. Hardyman must also submit to random urinalysis tests every two weeks and not drink or possess controlled substances or drug paraphernalia during his extended supervision.

Her parting words for Hardyman were, “Make your future be a reflection of your remorse over Tim and live life in a sober way that shows your true character.”