Mystery witness revealed during opening statements in Widmer trial

Published: Jan. 26, 2011 at 9:44 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2011 at 4:24 AM EST
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Jennifer Crew, Source: Cedar Rapids Iowa Police Department
Jennifer Crew, Source: Cedar Rapids Iowa Police Department

LEBANON, OH (FOX19) - The identity of a mystery witness was revealed Wednesday during opening statements in Ryan Widmer's third trial.

During her opening statement, defense attorney Lindsey Gutierrez identified the witness as Jennifer Crew, the manager of a gentleman's club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Crew contacted Ryan through the website after seeing the September 2009 episode of Dateline featuring the case. The relationship evolved into e-mails to Ryan's personal account, then text messaging and phone calls to Ryan's personal cell phone.

Crew states that there was a call with Ryan that lasted an hour and that in that call he confessed to drowning his wife, Sarah.

She cannot say when the call took place, or the number it took place from. Defense attorneys say phone records showed no record of an hour long call on Jennifer's cell phone.

When interviewed by investigators, defense attorneys said Crew could quote word for word the Dateline episode. Crew also has a long history of theft convictions and fraudulent practices that could hurt her credibility as a witness.

Prosecutors say Crew told them Ryan appeared to be intoxicated when he confessed.

She sent several texts to Ryan in December, and then seven months later, after sending birthday presents to Ryan and his twin brother, she told investigators Ryan confessed to her.

Judge Bronson reminded jurors that opening statements are not evidence.

CLICK HERE to follow the live blog from inside the courtroom.

During opening statements, prosecutor Travis Vieux encouraged jurors to use common sense when deciding this case. He said the evidence will prove that something was not right with Sarah Widmer's death, and it was Ryan who killed her.

Gutierrez repeatedly called the case "extraordinary" and said Sarah's death was nothing but a tragedy. She said there were a series of mistakes made by investigators in the case, and that Sarah Widmer's friends said she often complained of headaches and stomach aches and would often fall asleep in odd times and places.

Crew did not testify Wednesday. Jurors heard from Don Sebastianelli, an application analyst with Warren County telecommunications. He helped jurors understand the police and fire time logs from the night Sarah Widmer died. They also heard from Deputy Steve Bishop, the first officer on the scene, and EMT Teague, one of the first EMTs on the scene.

Bishop explained to jurors how he performed CPR, and said he did not push on her throat. He said he did not notice any moisture on her body. Teague demonstrated his CPR techniques that he used on Sarah's body. Also, Teague noted that he didn't have to dry Sarah's body to use a defribillator.

The day began with jurors touring the home on Crested Owl Court where Sarah Widmer died.

Only one person from the media was allowed in the home Wednesday morning, after the jury was finished, and for only 15 minutes. Judge Neal Bronson allowed an Enquirer reporter to retrace the jurors' steps after they left, serving as a "pool reporter" and later sharing observations with other news reporters.

This is the reporter's account of the home:

The staircase leading to upstairs is only a few feet from the front door. There are seven steps that end at a landing, then a turn and five more steps to get to the top of the stairs, where one turns a corner to get to the master suite.

The master bedroom is connected to the bathroom where Sarah Widmer drowned in the tub. There is a shower next to the tub.

In the bathroom, it is only about eight steps from the doorway to the far wall. The width from the bathtub to nearby cabinets is only about three feet.

It would be difficult for two adults to stand shoulder to shoulder in that space. The bathroom is small, but looks larger in photos.

Tub fixtures were removed by order of the court because they had been changed since new owners moved into the house.

The judge prohibited media photography inside the home at the request of the home's new occupants.

Ryan Widmer is accused of killing 24-year-old Sarah Widmer at their Hamilton Township home in 2008. Jurors visited the home Wednesday, despite prosecutors' objections that the house has new owners and a new bathtub.

A murder conviction in Widmer's first trial was thrown out because of juror misconduct. A second jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

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