Advertisement
Crime

Two former Annapolis roommates plead guilty to second-degree murder in gruesome Shady Side killing from 2017

The two former roommates of Megan Tilman, an Annapolis woman found dismembered along the Shady Side shoreline in October 2017, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Wednesday.

Christina Harnish, 45, and William Rice, 47, both of Annapolis, face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison for killing Tilman, a penalty prosecutors said they will request at their May 26 sentencing hearings.

Advertisement

Both Harnish and Rice, who fled to Arizona after the murder and were extradited to Maryland in February 2022, were set to stand trial next month. However, a recent interview between Rice and Assistant State’s Attorney Glen Neubauer clinched the state’s case, and the two defendants were rescheduled for plea hearings.

Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, who attended Wednesday’s hearing, thanked several law enforcement actors for their long-term roles in the case, saying she hoped the pleas “will bring justice to Megan’s family.”

Advertisement

“This was no easy task for any of us to build a circumstantial case against the defendants,” Leitess said, “but we agreed to take on the challenge and now two killers have been held accountable.”

Neubauer told the court that he would spare details for the sake of the family, who sat in the first bench behind the prosecutor, and provided an overview of the events that led up to Tilman’s death. He said a verbal altercation on Oct. 3, 2017, between Tilman and Rice accelerated after Harnish started punching Tilman. Rice then started choking Tilman from behind while Harnish covered the victim’s mouth and nose until she stopped breathing.

Before Harnish’s plea, public defender Anne Stewart-Hill amended the description of the fight, claiming Tilman had attacked Rice after a comment he made, breaking his glasses, before her client got involved.

Neubauer kept what happened next vague, saying Tilman’s body underwent severe “blunt force trauma” over the next several days.

Megan Tilman’s remains were identified 18 months after they were discovered. During that time and for almost two years after, police said Harnish and Rice had been living in a homeless encampment in Arizona.

Pictured are William Rice, Jr., left, Megan Tilman, center and Crystal Stallings, right. Police are hoping to talk with peole who came into contact with or have information about these three from the weeks leading up to Tilman's dissapearance, reported Nov. 1, 2017.

Before the murder, Harnish, Rice and Tilman were living together on Rockwell Court in Annapolis with Tilman’s mother, who required regular medical attention from her daughter. The mother was also the household’s main source of income and after she was transferred to an assisted living facility, her family decided that Tilman no longer needed to control her mother’s finances. It was around that time that Tilman disappeared, police said.

Family members told law enforcement they stopped hearing from Tilman in late September 2017, minus “a number of unusual and suspicious text messages and social media posts” detectives said were really from Rice or Harnish.

Cellphone data from a number shared by both defendants also placed the pair in Shady Side on the night of Oct. 7, 2017, and the next morning. Social media posts from that time showed Rice and Harnish together in Tilman’s Jeep. And further investigation into Harnish’s online posts showed she had an intimate familiarity with the Cedarhurst community. At one point, Harnish posted a photo of the exact area Tilman’s body was recovered.

Advertisement

“I love this pic,” the caption said.

Though the sentencings are five months away, they may close a saga that has confused and plagued Tilman’s family for over five years.

Jim Tilman, Megan Tilman’s father, told The Capital after the hearing he was happy his family wouldn’t have to endure a trial. Tilman said after he heard the defendants planned to enter pleas last week, attorneys shared additional details they had learned about the case, including where Harnish and Rice hid parts of his daughter’s body.

“I lay down in my bed and every time I close my eyes, I heard my daughter screaming,” he said.


Advertisement