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  Monday, January 28, 2002 | Updated: 1 a.m.

UF professor murdered, son charged

By Staci Zavattaro
Alligator Writer


A UF adjunct professor was found dead Friday in her Gainesville apartment, apparently beaten to death with a baseball bat.

Her 18-year-old adopted son, Gainesville High senior Tavares Eugene Williams, was arrested late Friday and charged with the murder of Barbara Roth, a member of the Political Science Department and a research analyst at The Center for Studies in Humanities and Social Studies.

Roth, 51, lived at Covered Bridge Apartments, 1810 NW 23rd Blvd., with Williams, also known as T.C.

“She didn’t show up for work and we were all concerned about her,” said Diane Craig, Roth’s supervisor and a research analyst at The Center.

Gainesville Police spokesman Keith Kameg said Roth’s colleagues called the apartment manager, who then called maintenance. When maintenance workers received no response from inside the apartment, they proceeded to enter the home and found Roth lying on the floor.

According to an arrest report, Roth was dead on arrival and appeared to have trauma to her head and side of her face.

Kameg said officers, detectives and forensics units all responded to the call. Officers found that Roth’s car was missing, which was “out of character.”

Williams arrived at the scene at about 5:15 p.m. Friday, driving his mother’s car, claiming not to know anything about the incident and appearing to be a victim.

“He told officers he didn’t know what happened,” Kameg said.

Williams made statements to detectives Reginald Johnson and Joe Senn that they found inconsistent with his story, Kameg said. After questioning, Williams implicated himself at about 8 p.m., Kameg said.

According to an arrest report, after being charged with murder and hearing his Miranda rights, Williams admitted to detectives that he struck Roth in the head three times with a baseball bat.

Kameg said there was no clear-cut motive for the murder.

“I’m shocked. T.C. would be the last person in the world I would ever dream of doing something like that,” said neighbor Jim Fondren. “Nothing like that ever happens here. It’s quiet, safe and secure.”

Some neighbors did report hearing noises, but nothing that would warrant calling the police, Kameg said.

“I just think it’s a tragedy,” said neighbor and friend Nancy Tigar, a clinical assistant professor in the UF College of Nursing. “It’s a waste of two lives.”

Roth received her doctoral degree from the Political Science Department in August. She was an adjunct professor and taught American government while conducting research for The Center under the direction of former UF President John Lombardi.

David Hedge, the undergraduate coordinator for the department, said Roth was putting together a course on higher education policy.

“She took her work very seriously,” he said.

Roth’s neighbors and colleagues said that she and Williams had a very close relationship, and they did almost everything together.

“They were very close,” said Lynn Leverty, assistant director of the Askew Institute. “This is what makes this thing so confusing.”

Albert Matheny, the assistant dean for Student Affairs, said Williams’ parents had abandoned him, then Roth took him in when she was employed as a social worker.

“He thrived with her,” he said. “He was a really nice kid. It was the furthest thing from anyone’s imagination in the department.”

Community members also had high opinions of Williams.

“He was a good student and on track for graduation,” Gainesville High principal Charles Hall said.

Hall said Williams was involved with many activities in school, including chorus, ROTC and football.

Williams was “well liked and well respected by his peers,” Hall said.

“This is not something I would expect to hear from any of our children. Everyone who knew him is surprised,” he said.

Bobby Humphries, assistant football coach at Gainesville High, has been involved with the team since last summer.

“I’ve been around T.C. since August, and from what I saw he was a dedicated athlete,” Humphries said. “He was a good kid.”

Officers at the Alachua County Jail said Williams has no criminal past and is not eligible for bond.

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