Defense in Widmer cases rests after calling surprise witness; biological engineer

Melissa Waller during her testimony on the stand at the Ryan Widmer trial
Melissa Waller during her testimony on the stand at the Ryan Widmer trial
Sarah Widmer
Sarah Widmer

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LEBANON, OH (FOX19) - Defense attorneys for the Hamilton Township man accused of drowning his wife rested their case Friday, leading the way for closing arguments to start on Monday morning.

Ryan Widmer, 30, is facing his third trial in the death of his wife, Sarah.

The defense started their last day of testimony by calling Melissa Waller, 29, to the stand first thing Friday morning. She is a Widmer supporter who contacted him through the website, after seeing the Dateline episode featuring the case. She is a married administrative assistant from Issaquah, Washington, near Seattle.

She testified the Widmer case struck home with her because she had a sister-in-law who died unexpectedly, and her brother had tried to save her. The sister-in-law suffered from lupus.

After finding the website, she made a small donation to his defense, and got a thank you e-mail from Ryan. They continued to e-mail, and she made a tribute video to Sarah that was posted on YouTube.

Their relationship escalated to phone calls and text messages, and Waller even visited the area in November 2009 to attend a fundraiser.

Three of those phone calls took place the night of Oct. 26, the same night Jennifer Crew testified that Ryan called her and confessed to killing his wife, Sarah.

Waller testified that Ryan did not seem intoxicated or emotionally distraught when he talked to her that night. Their last phone call ended six minutes before Crew testified Ryan called her.

Defense attorney took another stab at Crew by asking Waller is she had ever been addicted to pain medicine or been diagnosed as bipolar. Those questions were sharply objected by prosecutor John Arnold, and prompted a warning to Clark from Judge Neal Bronson.

Waller said she still talks to Ryan and describes their relationship as "friends."

Jurors also heard from Dr. Chandler Phillips, another expert witness who was approved to be paid for by taxpayers dollars, since Ryan is broke after paying legal fees from two trials.

Dr. Phillips is a biomedical engineering professor at Wright State University who studies injuries on patients and the environment they are obtained he. He said in his opinion, there is no way Ryan could have forcibly drowned Sarah due to the lack of certain injuries he would expect to see on Sarah, and the lack of any injuries on Ryan.

Judge Bronson ended the day by reminding jurors to not talk about the case and to not conduct any experiments or research on the case.

Widmer is accused of killing Sarah in 2008. A conviction during his first trial was overturned due to juror misconduct and his second trial ended in a hung jury.

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