By Ed Runyan
Maj. Thomas Stewart of the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and Margaret Scott, clerk of courts for Warren Municipal Court, say they don’t believe they’ve seen a bigamy charge filed in Trumbull County in at least 40 years.
That is until Friday, when Michael Wilms, 35, of Hubbard, was booked at the Trumbull County Jail, then released to appear Monday in Warren Municipal Court on the misdemeanor offense.
Stewart, who has been in law enforcement 49 years, said he even tried to warn Wilms that his marriage last Saturday was illegal, but Wilms didn’t return phone calls.
Stewart said he received a phone call from a staff member in the Trumbull County Probate Court on Monday indicating that Wilms and Alison Tucci, 28, also of the Hubbard address, applied for a marriage license in May, but Wilms’ legal wife, Amber Wilms, had called Trumbull County officials to let them know that Michael Wilms was still married to her.
Stewart checked into the matter, contacting Mercer County, Pa., officials and confirming that Michael Wilms and Amber Wilms are still married, and no divorce had ever been filed.
That’s when he called Michael Wilms, but he couldn’t reach him.
On Wednesday, Stewart located Michael Wilms at his house on Gladys Street in Hubbard, and Wilms admitted that he knew he was still married to Amber Wilms, that they had been separated since 2007 and “for several years, he had tried to get a divorce.”
But he and his new bride had made plans for their wedding at Chestnut Ridge Church of God for last Saturday, a lot of money had been invested and he “didn’t want to let her down” by not going through with the wedding, Stewart said.
Michael Wilms also admitted he lied when he answered “no” to the question on the marriage application that asked whether he’d ever been married before. That’s falsification, so Wilms also is charged with that. Both charges carry a possible penalty of six months in jail.
Wilms said he’d lived in Ohio about three years, moving from Pennsylvania, and planned to somehow handle the dissolution of his 2002 marriage to Amber Wilms by himself.
Stewart talked to Tucci about the matter, telling her that her marriage is void, because no person can get married while already married to someone else.
According to Ohio law, the person getting married a second time is not guilty of bigamy if he or she can prove that his or her spouse was “continuously absent for five years immediately preceding the purported subsequent marriage” and the newly married person didn’t know the first spouse was alive.
According to the website Legalzoom.com, bigamy is illegal in all 50 states. The website says someone who commits bigamy should “immediately annul” the second marriage “so the problem no longer exists.”
Scott said the charge of bigamy doesn’t come up anywhere in the records of Warren Municipal Court dating back to 1995, and she doesn’t remember one in any of her 40 years working in or with the courts.