Updated: 7:49 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 | Posted: 8:58 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011
By Denise G. Callahan
Widmer trial timeline
Warren County resident Ryan Widmer is accused of drowning his wife Sarah Widmer in the bathtub of their Hamilton Twp. home on Aug. 11, 2008. A third trial is ongoing, because the first verdict — guilty — was thrown out due to juror misconduct, and a second trial ended with a deadlocked jury. The jury of six women and six men has heard from 44 witnesses during 13 days of testimony. The jury will hear closing statements Monday and then deliberate.
Day 1 (Jan. 26): Jury tours home on Crested Owl Court in Hamilton Twp. where Widmer is accused of killing Sarah Widmer. During opening statements, the prosecution tells jurors a young, healthy woman like Sarah Widmer would not have drowned without being forced under water. The defense tells the jury they may never know how Sarah Widmer died, but it wasn’t at the hands of her husband. The jury hears the 911 call made by Widmer. EMT Jeff Teague said he found Sarah Widmer’s body dry.
Day 2 (Jan. 27): Hamilton Twp. police Sgt. Lisa Elliott testifies the bathroom where Sarah Widmer drowned was dry when she arrived. Warren County sheriff’s deputy Steve Bishop testifies he saw a small pool of water in the middle of the bathtub. In prior testimony, first responders have only said there were droplets.
Day 3 (Jan. 28): Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove, testifying for five hours, said following his autopsy, he determined Sarah Widmer’s death was a homicide. Uptegrove said bruising and injuries found on her body were not from CPR rescue efforts. Dr. James Moore, a physician and adjunct professor at Ohio State University, testifies Sarah Widmer’s medical records revealed nothing that could have led to her death, and nothing that would make him think she was a candidate for seizures.
Day 4 (Jan. 31): Dr. William Rogers said he has never seen bruises caused by medical intervention look like the livid marks that showed up on Sarah Widmer’s body. Rogers admits there is a chance Sarah Widmer may have suffered a first-ever seizure, but says it’s not likely. Hamilton Twp. EMT Derek Roat testifies he performed three of the five attempts to intubate a lifeless Sarah Widmer. Roat starts to say that usually family members try to insert themselves in life-saving efforts, but Judge Neal Bronson quickly stops his comment.
Day 5 (Feb. 1): Sarah Widmer’s mother Ruth Ann Steward testifies Ryan and Sarah Widmer could at times be “hateful” toward each other. She later admitted during defense questioning that her daughter’s relationship with Widmer didn’t appear to be distressed. Hamilton Twp. police Officer Quillan Short testifies they were unable to unearth any money or fidelity problems in the four-month old marriage. Hamilton Twp. paramedic Brian Dapper testifies heart monitor pads were placed on the front of her body. Others testified they were placed on her back because the floor was dry.
Day 6 (Feb. 2): Jennifer Crew testifies Widmer confessed to her during a frantic phone call on Oct. 26, 2009, that he killed his wife by punching her in the chest, causing her to fall down and hit her head. Crew, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, resident, said an inebriated Widmer told her he had gotten in an argument with his wife, Sarah, about his drinking, smoking and looking at pornography. He then allegedly told her he dried up the scene, hid the towels and dialed 911.
Day 7 (Feb. 3): The lead detective in the case, Hamilton Twp. Lt. Jeff Braley, testifies what he found during his investigation: a mostly dry bathroom and bedroom where Sarah Widmer was found. He says he found no wet towels. Braley says the county coroner’s declaration the death was a homicide was a major factor in his decision to charge Widmer. Sarah Widmer’s former boss Dr. John Becker, a dentist from Fort Thomas, Ky., testifies Sarah Widmer inquired about obtaining life insurance shortly after she married Widmer. Criminalist William Hillard testifies the small handprints that streaked down the back of the tub were made by a “small statured” person. Sarah Widmer was 5-foot-1.
Day 8 (Feb. 4): Dr. Jeffrey Lee, a forensic pathologist from Licking County, says the Warren County coroner made the right decision declaring Sarah Widmer’s death was a homicide. Lee testifies he believes Sarah Widmer received some kind of blunt force trauma to her neck. He tells jurors the injuries and bruises he examined in the autopsy reports were caused before she died.
Day 9 (Feb. 7): The defense begins its case by reading the testimony of Dr. Werner Spitz from the second trial (Spitz could not be present because of health issues). Spitz testifies that Sarah Widmer died from drowning, but it was not caused by Widmer. He argues bruises found on Sarah Widmer’s body were caused by paramedics attempting to revive her. Three witnesses testify that the Widmers were a perfect couple. A neighbor who was outside the Widmers’ home at the time of the drowning says she didn’t hear any arguing.
Day 10 (Feb. 8): Emergency room expert Dr. David Smile testifies to the possibility Sarah Widmer suffered a first-ever seizure or cardiac event that caused her to drown. Smile says livid bruising on her head, neck and arms are consistent with the prolonged efforts to revive her. “I was not surprised by the injuries I saw, but I was surprised by the lack of injuries,” he said. Under cross-examination, Smile says a mark on the right ride of Sarah Widmer’s neck was likely a finger mark and could have been caused by manual strangulation.
Day 11 (Feb. 9): The defense shows jurors a portion of the “Dateline NBC” episode about Widmer to show Crew could have learned information about the couple from there. Part of the tape includes Widmer saying he didn’t kill his wife after being found guilty in the first trial. Chris Kist, a college roommate and long-time friend of Widmer’s, testifies he was with Widmer the night Crew claims Widmer confessed to her. He says Widmer was not drinking. Several friends and co-workers testify that Widmer did not have issues with anger, alcohol or other vices. Some claim Sarah Widmer often fell asleep in unusual places.
Day 12 (Feb. 10): Dr. Michael Balko, a forensic pathologist from Fort Mitchell, Ky., says after studying county coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove’s autopsy work, Uptegrove did not take tissue samples from the sections of Sarah Widmer’s brain that could have been studied microscopically. “I have issues with the thoroughness of the examination.”
Day 13 (Feb. 11): Dr. Chandler Phillips, an expert in human factor engineering, says Widmer did not forcibly drown Sarah Widmer. Based on the human environment, Phillips says he would have expected to see more injuries on both if a struggle ensued. Melissa Waller, a Washington state resident, had a phone friendship with Widmer after watching the “Dateline NBC” episode. She says Widmer never was drunk, angry or hostile. They always discussed stuff about Sarah Widmer. Waller allegedly talked to Widmer minutes before he allegedly talked to Crew on the phone, and says he was not drunk.
— Staff reports