Husband convicted in bathtub drowning case

LEBANON – A man accused of drowning his wife in a bathtub at their home has been convicted of murder. Jurors in the trial of Ryan Widmer deliberated for more than 21 hours over two days before finding him guilty last night. Prosecutors said he drowned Sarah Widmer in a bathtub on Aug. 11 at their home in Warren County’s Hamilton Township, north of Cincinnati. Ryan Widmer, 28, originally faced a more severe charge of aggravated murder, which indicates premeditation, but the judge gave the jury the option of the lesser charge, said Matt Nolan, a spokesman for the county prosecutor’s office. Judge Neal Bronson, of Warren County Common Pleas Court, sentenced Widmer to 15 years to life in prison, the mandatory penalty under state law, and Widmer was taken into custody. Widmer maintained his innocence after the verdict, saying he loved his wife and didn’t hurt her. The verdict was delivered by a jury of six men and six women, who asked to see the bathtub used as evidence by prosecutors. The prosecution had argued that a bruise on Sarah Widmer’s neck indicated she was grabbed and her head was forced underwater. The defense said she may have fallen asleep in the tub or suffered a medical problem and the bruising could have been caused by resuscitation attempts. Defense attorney Charlie Rittgers noted that friends and co-workers testified that Sarah Widmer, 24, sometimes fell asleep at odd times and in unusual places. He also said there were no defensive wounds on her and no marks on her husband. Assistant prosecutor Travis Vieux argued that it wasn’t reasonable to think that Sarah Widmer fell asleep or that she suffered a seizure or some other medical problem. He said there wasn’t any family or personal history of seizures. Paramedics testified that Sarah Widmer’s hair was wet, but her surroundings and her husband seemed to be dry, even though he claimed he pulled her from the tub while trying to save her. Jurors also listened to a recording of his sobbing call to 911, on which he says, ‘C’mon, baby, c’mon.’ County dispatcher Ron Kronenberger, who answered the call, said he thought it was unusual and suggested that Widmer might have faked the attempts to resuscitate his wife. ‘Dealing with most accidental-death calls, it seemed that the caller was rather calm,’ said Kronenberger, who conceded that not everyone responds the same to emergencies. Widmer said in the call that he was watching television before finding his wife face down and unresponsive in the tub. Prosecutors were confident that the conviction would be upheld if appealed, Nolan said.