The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Monday an appeal by a Warren County man who claimed that a DNA test of his wife’s remains might clear him of charges that he murdered her in 2008 by drowning her in a bathtub in their home.
Ryan Widmer, convicted in 2011 of the killing of his wife, Sarah, had argued that a DNA test would show that she suffered from a congenital heart defect that might have caused her to drown. The trial judge rejected the request and the justices let stand the lower court ruling.
Sarah Widmer was cremated, but Ryan Widmer’s attorneys have argued that tests could be conducted on what they call “still-existing biological material’’ that is in the hands of state prosecutors.
The justices’ decision, issued without comment, does not end what has become a high-profile case in southwest Ohio. Michele Berry, an attorney for Widmer, plans to file a federal habeas corpus appeal – a post-conviction appeal process available to defendants — early next year in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.
Berry, a Cincinnati lawyer, said she would ask a federal judge in Cincinnati to order a new trial, claiming that prosecutors withheld evidence showing fraud by one of the investigators in the case and that Widmer had ineffective counsel during the trial.
Widmer, sentenced to 15 years-to-life in prison, has a legion of defenders who have helped set up a Facebook page entitled “Free Ryan Widmer.”
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said “they can keep filing motions,’’ adding that he has jokingly said that Widmer “would be filing appeals for the next 15 years-to-life.’’
“At some point, it truly becomes absurd,’’ Fornshell said. “I think they are going to continue to file meritless motions for as long as he’s in prison.’’
Widmer claimed that on the evening of Aug. 11, 2008, he was watching a Cincinnati Bengals football game on a downstairs TV while his wife took a bath upstairs. At 10:49 p.m., Ryan Widmer telephoned 911 to report he found his wife face down in the bathtub.
An autopsy showed that Sarah Widmer had bruising and hemorrhaging around her neck. Prosecutors introduced evidence at the trial showing there was no sign of neurological or cardiac conditions that could have caused her death.
Widmer was tried three times. In 2009, a mistrial was declared because of misconduct by a juror. The second trial ended in a hung jury and the third trial ended in his conviction.