Prosecutors filed a brief in response to Widmer's motion for acquittal on Wednesday, setting forth their intentions to prosecute Widmer for a third time while introducing a new piece of evidence that, if believed, constitutes the most damning evidence against the defendant presented so far.
[Read the prosecutor's memorandum here]
Prosecutors now allege that a previously unknown witness has come forward and informed them that Ryan Widmer admitted to murdering his wife, Sarah, in their home in 2008. According to the brief, Widmer also detailed to the witness the argument that led up to the murder as well as the methods he took to cover up the crime.
This unidentified witness will change the layout of a third trial in two sizable ways. First, the prosecution now has its first piece of direct evidence of Ryan Widmer's guilt. In the first two trials, prosecutors were forced to rely up on circumstantial evidence, essentially arguing that no one or nothing else could have killed Sarah Widmer, so her husband must be guilty. Now, they may have a "smoking gun."
Second, prosecutors may now be able to provide a jury with a motive behind the murder. Much of the criticism surrounding the prosecution of Ryan Widmer in the first two trials was the unanswered question of what motivated Widmer to commit murder. While the state argued and explained that they are not required to provide a motive for the murder, it was clear that the lack of motive was one of the biggest holes in their case. If this mystery witness can supply the prosecution with the "why" of the murder, the whole landscape of the state's case changes in their favor.
Widmer, 29, is accused of forcing his 24-year-old wife, Sarah, to drown in their Hamilton Township bathtub in August, 2008. The couple had been married just shy of four months and had no prior history of domestic violence. Nevertheless, Widmer was convicted after his first trial only to have the conviction overturned by the court. His second trial, which ended two months ago, ended in a hung jury.
While the appearance of this star witness may seem to be a goldmine for the prosecution, it doesn't come without its problems. First, the prosecution is asserting its right to not disclose the identity of the witness at this time. Naturally, this has fueled speculation in local and national media about who the witness might be. Could it be a prisoner that served time alongside of Ryan at the Warren County Jail or during his short stint in prison after his first conviction? If so, the credibility of the witness will be attacked relentlessly by defense counsel during the next trial. Could the witness be a friend or family member of Ryan's? If so, why didn't they come forward sooner? Why wait until two trials have been completed and come forward now?
In the meantime, it appears a near certainty that Ryan Widmer will stand trial a third time in the near future. Judge Neal Bronson will hear oral arguments on the motion for acquittal on August 3rd and, assuming that motion is denied, the third trial will likely come in the late Fall.
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