A Warren County court has denied Ryan Widmer’s attempt to secure a fourth trial, but his lawyer vows to fight all the way to federal court if necessary.
Widmer, now 31, is serving 15 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him of murder last February in the 2008 drowning of his wife, Sarah, 24, in their Hamilton Township bathtub. It was his third trial, following two mistrials in a case that stirred intense public debate.
On Tuesday, the county Common Pleas Court denied Widmer’s motion for a new trial.
The decision comes just as a national TV program is planning a rebroadcast of an episode about “the Bathtub Mystery” – and as the lead detective in the Widmer case prepares to appear in an unrelated federal court case that raises questions about his credibility.
Details of Tuesday’s decision were not immediately available; the prosecutor’s office gave no comment in its news release. Michele Berry, Widmer’s lawyer, said she had not been informed of the outcome until a reporter contacted her seeking comment.
Berry said she doesn’t know the reasons for the ruling, but she will appeal it to the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals in Middletown, where Widmer’s main appeal is already pending.
“If we don’t succeed in the state courts, we will proceed to the federal courts. We have strong claims that warrant a new trial, and we will be relentless in our efforts to get that result,” she said.
In its ruling Tuesday, the Warren county court also refused to order genetic testing on any usable DNA from Sarah Widmer. Although she was cremated, Ryan Widmer’s lawyers say there may be blood or other tissues that would allow for the testing. Ryan Widmer’s lawyers were seeking those tests because they wanted to find out whether Sarah Widmer may have suffered from a genetic condition that can cause a heart-rhythm disturbance. They argue that such an undetected medical problem may have contributed to her drowning.
Prosecutors have contended there was sufficient evidence to support Widmer’s conviction, and that the evidence included marks on her head and neck areas that were suggestive of force. Defense witnesses said the marks could be attributed to life-saving efforts.
On Sunday, the national TV program, Dateline NBC, has scheduled a rebroadcast of its segment featuring Widmer’s case, a spokeswoman for the program, Amy Lynn, confirmed Tuesday. The program will air at 7 p.m. on NBC’s local affiliate, WLWT-TV, Channel 5. “The Bathtub Mystery” episode was first broadcast nationally last May.