Janice Morse reports:
The tentacles of the Ryan Widmer murder case aren’t letting go.
Just when it seems that the controversial case is about to drift away, something happens to get people talking about it again.
Most recently, Widmer’s mother, Jill, was found dead at age 58 in deplorable conditions in her Mason home July 29. Many argue that stress and heartache helped send her to an early grave.
Sunday marks five years since newlywed bride Sarah Widmer, 24, drowned in her Warren County bathtub, plunging her family and friends into sorrow. Her death also spawned a controversial criminal prosecution against her husband, Ryan. Now 32, he’s serving 15 years to life in prison for murder, a crime he insists he didn’t commit.
The case captivated Greater Cincinnati with through three sensational trials. Debate over the case polarized the community – an effect that seems to have lingered.
“There are people who think three trials is two trials too many – that he should have just been convicted and kept in prison after the first time,” said Mark Krumbein, a defense lawyer who attended parts of all three trials. “Others feel that three trials still aren’t enough, that there were a lot of problems with the case. They think he’s still an innocent man and he should get a fourth trial and have his freedom.”
But another lawyer who watched the case closely, former Hamilton County prosecutor Mike Allen, identified perhaps its most extraordinary aspect: “It’s almost as if there’s a curse associated with this case, when you look at the trail of tears behind it.”
“Of all the cases I’ve been involved in, either as a defense lawyer, prosecutor, judge or police officer over the last 35 years, there’s not one that comes to mind where there’s been so much tragedy spread around.”
Allen also has never seen a criminal case maintain such a strong grip on the Cincinnati psyche for so long, nor has he seen a case undermine so many people’s confidence in the criminal-justice system.
“I still get questions about it, when I go to Kroger or I’m walking down the street – and people are passionate about it,” Allen said. “They’re passionate about it on both sides – about whether he’s guilty or not guilty. And if you get people in a conversation about it, you almost can’t get them out of it.”
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