Book reveals new insights in Ryan Widmer 'bathtub murder' case

New book delves into Ryan Widmer murder case
Published: Jul. 11, 2018 at 10:12 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2018 at 4:34 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The untold story of the Ryan Widmer "bathtub murder"--and some unexplored clues--are revealed in a new book out Sunday, Submerged: Ryan Widmer, his drowned bride and the justice system.

Submerged details - for the first time and just before the 10th anniversary of the case - Widmer's account of the night his wife of just four months, Sarah, died, Aug. 11, 2008.

Ryan Widmer found guilty of murder in wife's bathtub death

The book is based on fresh interviews with more than two dozen people, including Hisle's jailhouse visits with Ryan Widmer throughout 2017; 6,000 pages of trial transcripts; Hisle's personal recollections of the trials, thousands of previously undisclosed documents such as Ryan's personal journal, his lawyers' files and more than a thousand pages of police investigative records.

Submerged includes a surprising revelation about Sarah that was never explored during Widmer's three trials in Warren County.

Author Janice (Morse) Hisle, who covered the case during her 15 years as a Cincinnati Enquirer reporter, discovered a long-forgotten document, Ryan's notes on the case prepared for his lawyers, that says Sarah exhibited a peculiar behavior, including the night she drowned. She walked on her tippy toes.

That behavior could be linked to a neurological disorder or other condition, medical resources say.

But no tests were done to rule out several suspected disorders.

"I was a reporter for many many years and this was the murder case that had more unanswered questions than anything I ever covered," Hisle said.

"For example, there was no testing done whether she suffered from narcolepsy. There was no testing done she suffered from something called Long QT Syndome, which can actually cause partial paralysis of the legs."

Warren County prosecutors decline to release Sarah's DNA for additional testing, an issue that Widmer's lawyer is still fighting in appeals and comes up again now in light of the book's release.

One of Widmer's lawyers has argued the case had an egregious example of testimony involving "junk science." She also contends the bathtub Sarah died was illegally seized.

A federal district court magistrate judge, however, has ruled against Widmer, saying his objections lacked merit and any further appeal would be frivolous.

If appeals fail, Widmer, who is now 37, will remain locked up at least until his first possible parole date, July 2025.

He is serving 15 years to life in prison.

Even though a Warren County jury convicted Ryan of murder in 2011, jurors never agreed on a scenario that fit all the evidence; nor did they settle on a reason why Widmer would have killed his wife of four months.

"I felt that the jury was having a hard time without having any kind of medical condition, known medical condition, that Sarah might have had that would have contributed to a drowning," said one of Ryan Widmer's lawyers, Charlie H. Rittgers

The book, published by former Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson's company, Chilidog Press, is available at

Hisle declines to say if she thinks Ryan Widmer killed his wife or not.

She said she encourages readers to reach their own conclusions about the case.

Warren County Prosecutor Dave Forrnshell did not respond Friday to requests for comment via email and text.

We also reached out to Sarah Widmer's mother but did not  hear back.

Warren County Coroner Russell Uptegrove declined comment.

Hisle said the coroner, Sarah Widmer's family, the Warren County Prosecutor's Office either declined to talk to her as she researched her book or did not respond to her requests for interviews.

Widmer's lawyers, his father, Gary Widmer, and two of FOX19 NOW's legal analysts are among those attended the book's official launch Sunday at a private home in Indian Hill.

Widmer's father is hopeful this book will bring about an appeal: "This is monumental. This is one that I feel you are going to have a groundswell and it's just going to multiply from here."

FOX19 NOW's legal expert, Mark Krumbein, said he would like to see the Warren County Prosecutor's Office release Sarah Widmer's DNA for further testing. He said this book provides more information than wasn't allowed in court.

"Even though this case was tried so well by the original attorneys, there are things that have come out now that are really revelations that I think help the Widmer case perhaps get another appeal."

Widmer's father, attorneys and two of our FOX19 NOW legal analysts including Krumbein wrote glowing reviews of "Submerged" that appear on the book's back cover or inside:

  • "Janice Hisle knows more about the Widmer case than just about anyone else.  She has captured the essence of the case and all of its in's and out's.  Submerged is an easy read and a real page-turner.” –Mike Allen, legal analyst and former Hamilton County prosecutor
  • “Janice’s writing perfectly captures the emotions we were feeling when all of this was happening. Even though I lived the story, I could not put it down.”—Gary Widmer, father of Ryan Widmer
  • “Out of this world! Filled with unique insights, meticulously researched. Janice Hisle has successfully made the transition from excellent courtroom-drama reporter to riveting true-crime writer.” —Mark Krumbein, criminal defense attorney and legal analyst
  • “I’m happy that the whole story is finally being told—and some new facts might make people think twice.”—Dana Kist, friend of Sarah and Ryan
  • “Among all the reporters who covered the Widmer case, Janice was the best-informed, most inquisitive, most persistent and definitely the most aware of all of the subtleties of a case that had many layers.” —Charlie H. Rittgers, Ryan Widmer’s first lawyer.

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