Dr. Werner Spitz. (Enquirer/Cara Owsley)
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Dr. Werner U. Spitz, a forensic pathologist who has decades of experience working on some of the nation's most celebrated murder cases, took the stand today as attorneys continued their case in defense of Ryan Widmer in Warren County, Monday. Widmer's retrial on a sole count of murder in the death of his wife has entered its third (and likely final) week of testimony.
Spitz's testimony will center around an autopsy he performed on Sarah Widmer just days after she drowned in her bathtub two years ago. Spitz is testifying on behalf of her husband, Ryan, who is charged with her murder.
Ryan Widmer was convicted of murder last year after a lengthy trial and several days of jury deliberation. However, his conviction was thrown out after Judge Neal Bronson found that several jurors had conducted home experiments in direct violation of jury instructions.
Now, the prosecution again tries to convince a jury that Widmer murdered his wife. The first two weeks of testimony have centered around two theories: the prosecution's theory that Ryan forcibly drowned Sarah in the bathtub; and the defense theory that Sarah had some medical problem (such as a seizure) that caused her to drown without force.
At the first trial, Spitz testified that he found many of the same things that the county coroner (and prosecution expert) found, but there also were some conflicting findings. Most significantly, Spitz last year testified that he disagreed with Dr. Russell Uptegrove's ruling that the manner of Sarah Widmer's death was homicide.
Spitz testified last year that the manner of death was "undetermined", meaning that neither he nor any other expert could discover the manner of Sarah's death.
Spitz, who speaks with a heavy German accent and regularly has both jurors and court-watchers in laughter, has been considered a world-renowned forensic pathologist for decades. He has been an expert in the investigations of the JFK and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations, was a witness in the Jon Benet Ramsey murder and the O.J. Simpson civil trial. He is the author of multiple textbooks and treatises on forensic pathology and testified that he has conducted many studies on drowning.
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