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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  May 17, 2014 8:00pm-10:01pm PDT

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it's love, your way. what goes on behind the not always apparent. >> she was lays face down in the bathroom. obvio, ella estaba boca abajo en >> she was tine -- he could never ever love a woman as much as he loved her. >> what had happened? >> did she haven't a aneurysm, a seizure? >> police baffled. >> i expected it to be wet, water on the floor. >> things weren't adding up. >> something was screaming to me, something's bad was wrong.
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>> could this death have been deliberate? >> i loved her. i would never hurt her. >> i started crying, because i felt so bad for him. >> there was no chance he had anything to do with it. >> one trial, three juries. >> we're scared that the truth may not come out. sometimes the shades are drawn early in a marriage, even for a young couple so in love, like newlyweds sarah and ryan. everything in life was still fresh. even at home on your average monday night. after his workday as a sports planner, he said he flopped down on a sofa on an august night to chill with the bengals preseason opener against green bay. sarah, he says, went upstairs to draw a bath in the master. she liked her calming bath. the young dental hygienist were
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tormented by headaches that evening. they were married just under four months. 114 days, to be exact. they vowed until death do us part, and that moment was only minutes away from arriving. they'd begun the two of them with a blind date as a pub that worked out. sarah, sarah stewart, had been fixed up by her friend dana. dana had an inkling she would hit it all with her husband's former roommate. >> sarah is say maze isavannahi >> what happened over drinks and nibbles was chemistry. laid-back jock and baseball player super organized sarah, needed everything just so talked about getting together again. >> she said, let me check my book. gets out her little black book and is looking through it. he's peeking over looking.
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he said -- later he calls as tells us, there was nothing written in her black book. >> it was a fast-track courtship and before very long, ryan was bringing his new girlfriend home to meet his mom jill. >> i liked her a lot. probably the number one thing that struck me the most was how beyond her years in maturity she was. >> poised? >> yeah. sarah didn't have a problem telling anyone anything. so if you made sarah mad, you knew you made sarah mad. >> as for ryan, he never seemed to lose it. >> i don't think i've ever seen him upset. he doesn't get mad. >> laid back, easy going, go with the flow. she's so organized, this where we have to be and he just says, okay. >> jill witmer enjoyed his days with ryan and his new girlfriend sarah. >> our family tends to do a lot of picnics and things like that. we'd spend time on the lake. we would spend time down there.
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>> were you pleased she was becoming a part of the family? >> very pleased, yes. >> the inacceptable couple bought a house in a good neighborhood and ryan surprised sarah with an engagement ring. >> put the ring on the dog's collar. she was very excited. he was excited. >> soon the wedding invitations were in the mail. the bridesmaids knew they better snap to. >> she's a planner. wanted everything ready to go. girls wore the same eyeshadow, eye makeup so we all looked the same. >> how's ryan doing? >> just as happy, happier than i've ever seen him with her. >> it cost sarah big screen tv to seal the deal but show got ryan to take ballroom dance lessons for the wedding. >> i was amazed. never in a million years -- >> your son would take dance lessons? >> yeah. she could get him to do more things than any woman he had ever dated. >> the wedding was a are toal
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affair. the bride was beautiful. ryan's dance came off without a hitch and the happy bridesmaids all matched, just as sarah wanted. >> very beautiful. i mean, every detail was planned, obviously, to the t, because it was sarah, and she was gorgeous. >> it was probably the most fun wedding we've ever been to, ever. >> the newlyweds went to costa rica for their honeymoon and had a great time. then it was back to cincinnati to begin their journey together at mr. and mrs. ryan witmer. >> they worked really hard, built a beautiful deck on the back of their house. had a trip planned to cancun. they had everything to live for. >> so august 11th should have been just another day on the calendar in their young marriage? >> it should have been, yes. >> ryan remembers being downstairs watching monday night football. sarah had gone upstairs to her bath and was in trouble. >> 911, what's your emergency. >> my wife, she fell asleep in the bathroom, i just came up
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here she was laying face down in the bathroom. >> i got a call. it was ryan. something's happened to sarah. >> the emts were rushing sarah to the hospital. by then they'd worked on her for 40 minutes but hadn't gotten a response. minutes later jill witmer was with her son waiting anxiously together in a room off emergency. >> finally a woman came in and then we said, is she gone? and she said, yes. he just dropped down to his knees and was just bawling and sobbing into the chair. >> sarah witmer, 24 years old, a bride of less than four months was dead. her husband ryan said he thought she's fallen asleep in the bathroom and drowned, but the emts doing cpr didn't understand what crucial observation made at the home that night. there's something here that doesn't look right. a drowning in a dry bathroom? >> i expected something to be
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that monday night the cincinnati bengals were looking more than decent against glee bay. fans across town like jeff
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wondered if this could finally be a miracle season for the franchise of the nfl, but he didn't get to see all of the game. he was a cop, a detective, and you don't get to pick your down time. >> home watching the bengals game and get it call from my sergeant, we're out on a drowning, the paramedics are working on here but something's wrong that night. >> as he rolled to the house he knew something to expect. when you're a cop more than a decade you become familiar with the signs of a drowning. like the froth about the victim's nose and mouth. >> your mind starts returning immediately about possibilities. they initially tell me a 24-year-old browning victim that died in the tub i'm thinking we'll find evidence of something. we're going it find some drugs or evidence of an overdose or something. >> as he pulled up, the victim was already loaded in the back of the ambulance. the arriving police officer was still inside the house, and he gave the detective a fill on what he'd found when he was led to the master bedroom where the 24-year-old woman lay on the
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carpet off the bath. >> he felt for a pulse. he assisted with cpr on what he described as a completely dry body with her hair being only damp. >> wet head. dry body. >> that's correct. >> for someone who drown in a bathtub full of water? >> get her out of the bathtub and on a flat surface. >> the 911 dispatcher was quite clear. he had instructed the husband to get his wife out of the bathtub and put her on the floor. >> i'm -- dropping the phone. >> the husband went away and came back on the line to say he just moved had is wife from the tub to the bedroom. >> okay. go ahead and get back to cpr. they'll be there in a little bit. okay? >> okay. >> the detective wondered along with the emt and arriving officers why a woman who drowned in a bathtub would be mostly dry. he needed to see the scene. what story would it tell him? >> i started mentally preparing myself based on what they told me. what do i want to see versus
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what do i see? >> he ed headed for the master bathroom. i expected something to be wet, i expected water on the floors, towels, whatever it might be and it's simply not there. dry, dry. a small rim of the water. what you might call droplets on the bottom of the tub right around the drain. other than that, there's nothing. >> you got any bath mat, well towels on the floor, anything? >> a towel on the floor. a mat on the floor, but everything's perfectly dry. >> now he had not only a drowning victim who didn't appear to be wet, someone who supposedly fell asleep in the tub and found face-down in the water, but a bathroom itself that was both dry and undisturbed, eve be though presumably the husband had to wrangle her limp body out of the tub as he moved her to the bedroom. >> do you know whether it's lotions, soap, whatever is on the side, they weren't knocked off. that bothered me. if you're pulling somebody quickly out of a tub, that that's still together. >> the detective making mental notes. >> something was screaming to me, something bad is wrong. something really, really bad has happened here and more so than
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just a tragic accident where she drowned. >> the forensic techs arrived and were taking photos cutting owl sections of the bedroom carpet where the mixture of blood and fluid common in drownings had stained it. what they wondered is, was there another explanation for the stains. >> we wanted to get those things to the lab right away to start checking out some things. >> even though it was early hours in an incident, so much would depend on the findings of an autopsy, the detective knew this was not a chase was going to be closed out that night. >> when i left the house at 2:00 a.m. i knew i had a suspicious death. >> questions. how long had sarah been out of the tub and had she been out of the tub long enough for her body to air dry? >> it wasn't possible. you know, if you're pulling somebody directly out of a tub of water, the body has to be wet. there's no other way around it, unless the substantial amount of time has passed or we're not being told an accurate story of what actually transpired. >> question -- is was it possible for ryan to lift
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sarah out of the tub without knocking over the bottles the detective noted were undisturbed? was it possible for water not to be splashed around as she was moved to the bedroom, and that overriding question -- what had happened to the young wife -- >> in her master bedroom. we knew she had drowned just from the scene itself. it was the manner in which she drown that raised all the questions. >> but the detective would have the most questions for the seemingly happily married husband. was it possible there was stress in the marriage that no one knew about? >> i had to rely on the fact in the back of my mind that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. >> did she van aneurysm? a seizure? >> was there something medical behind the mystery? explained of having headaches. i said, how long since you had been to the doctor jp? earned, usaa auto insurance is often handed down from generation to generation. because it offers a superior level of protection.
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sarah witmer had died of drowning in her home and her body would be examined by the county coroner. there was nothing of ryan her husband of four months could do
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but leave the hospital and head home. his mother, jill witmer took him back in the wee hours. >> ryan said i can't go back in there. can you go in and grab some clothes for me. so i went upstairs. when i got upstairs to their bedroom there were a couple pieces of carpet cut out of their carpeting, which i thought was odd. >> it hadn't occurred to mother or son that the authorities were already looking at sarah's death as anything but a tragic explainable incident of some sort. >> there were a million questions in my mind did she were have an aneurysm? did something medically happen to her, a seizure? >> daylight and word was spreading that sarah was gone. dana and chris, the couple who had fixes the newlyweds up could not believe what they were hearing. >> we had just gotten back from a trip, and i told her i'd call her as soon as i got back to get together for dinner and i didn't even get a chance to do that. >> shocking news, to say the least. shocking news. >> dana, a nurse, tried to make some sense out of what had
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happened to her dear friend. she thought back to her last conversations with sarah. >> she was complaining of headaches. she would call and say, what do you think from a medical background? i said maybe get your blood pressure checked and telling her you basically need a checkup. how long since you've been to the doctor? >> then that funny trait sarah had she used to be kidded about. she used to fall asleep at the drop of the hat. maybe that wasn't funny but part of an underlying condition that helped explain her sudden death. her mother-in-law noticed it when she first got to know sarah. >> it was christmas, 2007, and jill was taking home videos. >> all of a sudden, i panned over, there's sarah, having a good time at the family christmas. and sarah was sound asleep, in a chair in my family room. we were -- 15 or 20 people in the room, all laughing, talking. kids running around and she could just go to sleep. >> sarah, asleep at the dinner table. snoozing in the car. friends kidded her about it. >> she would always fall asleep
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in the beginning of movies and he would be nudging her the whole time. sarah. sarah, wake up, watch this movie. >> so noticeable you joked about it? >> every time we went somewhere, even the dinner table, sarah, don't fall asleep. >> sarah, you have nep lepsy. i do not. i'm just tired all the time. >> was falling asleep in the tub possible jl ryan seemed to think so. >> my wife fell asleep in the tub and i think she's dead. >> sarah with her headaches was just anecdotal information not the stuff of real medical investigation. the medical examiner would have the first real result about sarah's dearth. >> what was he finding? >> no evidence of stroke, of a heart attack. >> but the medical examiner discovered something else. bruising to sarah's head and neck what had caused those injuries? investigators checked off what they had so far.
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a young woman supposedly drowned in a bathtub with a damp head of hair and a dry body. it didn't figure. >> if you're pulling somebody directly out of a tub of water the body has to be wet. there's no other way around it. >> a victim with unexplained bruises, and a husband whose story they didn't believe about a hohum monday night watching football then finding his wife dead in the bed. >> ryan's story, it doesn't fit. it doesn't fit at all's we determined at that point we had a homicide. >> sarah witmer, murder and authorities believed her husband did it. >> how shocking is that to you? >> i can't even tell you. >> they, chaed ryan with murder. >> you've got to be kidding me? why would they say -- why? and i can't even tell you what that was like. so on top of losing this beautiful member of our family, he didn't even get a chance to grieve, because now we're scared to death and he's scared to death that he's going to be charged with murder. >> and that is exactly what would happen.
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just two days after his new bride's death, a warrant was issued for ryan witmer's arrest. >> by ryan's own admission, he was the only one in the house. so ryan murdered sarah, or he's covering for somebody that did. >> it didn't seem possible at first glance. a clean-cut young couple. him without a criminal record of any kind, them with no clear-cut history of arguments or problems in their marriage. where was the motive for murder on a monday night? >> any boyfriend, girlfriend issues here? >> there was no evidence whatsoever to point that there was a girlfriend/boyfriend. >> money trouble? >> not that we could find. >> any anger issues in the guy? >> no, no. >> you're really not getting a negative picture of this couple. >> no, we're not. >> as unlikely as it may have seen, police said there was no other explanation for sarah's death. ryan witmer was charged with his wife's murder. >> the state of ohio versus ryan k. witmer. >> his family and friends were devastated.
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>> ryan and i were both so broken-hearted. i could not have ever conceived nor could ryan that they would have had any idea that he would have been the person to hurt her and that it wasn't just a tragic accident. >> just broke my heart. just knowing he was feeling that grief and fear for his own life, too. >> was there any moment when you think, maybe another guy. maybe there was a -- >> never. this instant of something awful happened. >> never. never said anything where he was remotely angry. >> even sarah's family was behind ryan. so much so the two families decided to delay sarah's funeral until ryan was out on bond. >> sarah's family, they were very livid about the fact that, you know, he wasn't guilty, and that he were not going to go forward with the service until ryan could be there. >> the families are both on the same page here? >> yes. >> that your four square behind rhine and n ryan and not going to grieve
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formally until he's there with you. >> yes. >> the dead woman's brother -- >> in our heart of hearts we don't believe ryan did this. >> eight days would pass before the judge lowered his bond from $1 million to $400,000. by then, too late. the funeral had already been held so out of town relatives could return home. >> it was a nice ceremony. her brother got up, said a few nice words and i know that ryan wrote a letter that was read during the service. the minister that did their wedding did her funeral as well. >> chris and dana grieved for sarah. and also tried to comfort a shattered ryan. >> i remember him telling me, dana i love her so much. >> ryan was so distraught, he felt he couldn't go back to the home he'd bought with sarah. so while he waited for his trial date, he moved in with his mother. >> it was great to have him staying with me, but -- >> only one topic in the household? >> well, two. one was, continuing to talk
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about how much we miss sarah. trying to grieve for her, but at the same time, this young man who lost the love of his life is trying to grieve for his wife and he's got a murder charge hanging osies over his head he go to prison. >> ryan witmer wondered why couldn't everyone see he loved his wife and she died a death perhaps even a medical examiner could never satisfactory explain but that it wasn't murder. >> the case goes to court, and out comes the evidence. >> it would be virtually impossible for somebody to fall asleep and not wake up. >> and later -- ryan witmer speaks out at last. >> so you think they wanted to make a case here? >> why would they arrest me a day after if they didn't want to make a case? [ male announcer ] with great power comes great results. ryobi has cutting-edge, upgraded lithium+ batteries that will bring your project ideas to life. with over 50 one+ tools and special buys on drilling and driving kits,
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sarah was wonderful's the most loving person, just a great person. >> sarah witmer had been a daughter, a wife, a loyal friend in her brief life, but in death, to those who would never know her, she had become simply "the victim" and the case could be summarized as breezily as the title of a true crime paperback. the bathtub murder. on talk radio in the greater cincinnati area, the host could feel the court of public opinion responding to the story. the bathtub murder case had the phones ringing. >> the idea that such a young man could be watching a bengals game and within a few seconds turn from a bengals fan, long suffering, to a murderer was a little bit shocking. >> for months listeners debated whether the husband could have done it. >> i had a large number of callers who said to me, he didn't do it. he doesn't fit the profile. there's no history, and i said
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to them, wait a minute. wait until the trial takes place. i'm led to believe that there's going to be clear and convincing evidence. >> seven months after sarah's death, the om jnly jury that mattered was sworn in to hear are the case against ryan witmer, the charge, aggravated murder. a couple friends were sticking by him. >> basically the 12 jurors. >> a scary thought. >> there is a chance he could go to jail. >> in the courtroom, sarah's family sat across the room from ryan's, much as they had the previous year during the couple's fairy tale wedding. but now sarah's family a port for him eroded. for ryan's mom, another twist in a situation that seemed to get stranger by the minute. her son on trial for murder. >> i see my scared baby is kbwh i see. he was scared to death. >> the prosecution was blunt. a violent confrontation in the witmer home that night.
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>> ryan witmer purposely killed sarah stewart witmer and murdered her by drowning. >> the prosecution began with the first minutes of the case. ryan's call to 911. >> my wife fell asleep in the bathtub. i was downstairs i came up and he was laying face down in the bathroom. >> the emergency dispatcher said the voice on the phone was giving more details than normal. >> it seemed the caller was rather calm. usually we -- i can't get anything out of them. >> she's in the bathtub? >> yes. right now. i was out there watching tv. she falls asleep in the tub all the time. >> to prosecutors john arnold and travis, the husband was trying to place himself as far away as possible from the bathroom where sarah had died. >> he really gives very little information about her condition. it's really important for him to say i wasn't there and really don't have anything to do with this.
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>> and could sarah even be dead face down in the bathtub? could a body contort that way? >> seems an odd position for something who's fallen asleep, face down with your faucet, almost bent in two. >> in terms of the possibilities how the enclosed space of a bathtub is shorter than she is long. >> we're not talking about a mcmansion whirlpool tub here. are we? >> right. >> and so much more of the prosecution case was built upon the observation of the first arriving office and emergency responders. they noted not only was ryan not wet, this man who lifted his wife's body out of the tub minutes before they arrived, sarah was also mostly dry. >> i noticed that her body was dry. her hair was damp. >> and others on the scene corroborated this observation. damp head, dry body. >> things were not adding up. it would seem to me her body wa have been wet, the floor would have been wet. the carpet would have been wet. >> you're talking about from the
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thyme says i'm taking her out of this bathtub to the time that other people are there, her hair is described as simply damp, not even wet. carpet's not wet. there's no water dripping off of her hair on to the rest of her b body. the floor's not wet. >> the officer noticed something else. the victim's fingers and toes. we all know what happens to them when they've been soaking in a bathtub. >> it was my understanding she'd been in the water 20 to 30 minutes, and i would have thought that her fingers would have been pruned up, her toes pruned up. >> and did you see any indication of that? >> no. >> from simple observations of the murder case had grown. the jury was told that ryan witmer's story didn't jive with what officers on the scene had taken note of, like the bathtub and surrounding tiles that should have been soaking wet but weren't, and that implicitly raised a question for the jury. is it possible that this young woman who drowned had never been in the tub in the first place? >> bottom line is, there would have been water everywhere, if
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there wasn't, it was cleaned up. and if there was a clean up, there was something to hide, and that was her murder. >> an expert witness for the prosecution spoke to the issue of whether a person can actually fall asleep and drown in a bathtub. her testimony was, no. that can't happen. >> it would be virtually impossible for somebody without the influence of drugs or alcohol or something external to fall asleep and not wake up. so -- the sensation of water in your face would wake you up. two would be the gag reflex. water entering your airway, just choking. three, for some reason that didn't, the drop in oxygen would actually cause you to stimulate and wake up. >> but maybe sarah hadn't fallen asleep? perhaps he suffered a catastrophic but perfectly natural event, something to her heart, her brain? the coroner didn't find that. >> any evidence of heart problems? >> no. >> any evidence of brain injury or seizure? >> no.
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>> one of the amazing things about sarah witmer is that she had regular medical care. for a person of her age she went twice in two years for a regular physical. this is not a person who didn't have the opportunity to interact with her medical professional. >> and to the coroner, the bruising he saw on sarah's neck and scalp while performing the ought popsy looks ominous, the wounds too significant and not in the right spot to have been caused by emt's life-saving efforts. >> the things that were the most disconcerting was the three bruises which were able to be seen on the right side of the scalp. another faint bruise on her forehead, she's got this significant degree of neck h hemorrha hemorrhage, has undergone significant cpr, however, no hemorrhage anywhere in the area of the chest. so it's difficult to try to rationalize that the hem ret hemorrhage in her neck can be the result of cpr.
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>> as the coroner saw it, it was caused by ryan's forceful drowning of her. >> do you have an opinion as to the manner of sarah's death? >> yes. the manner of death was homicide. >> and that took prosecutors into the realm of speculation. what had happened in the bedroom that night if sarah hadn't drowned by herself in the bathtub? this forensic pathologist had one scenario explaining a damp head but dry body. >> her head was pushed over the edge of, you either the bathtub, the sync or the toilet. either forwards or backwards eveninger in a pool of water or under running water. that's how she skied. >> and expert also noted these strange prints invisible to the naked eye. he couldn't say when they were left on the tub or even that they came from sarah but felt confident the prints were most likely made by a small person. if ryan had forced sarah over the side of the tub, had she tried to brace herself as she was pushed into the water? >> from my experience, those looked like prints that are
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going down, a downward motion. >> how do you fight back? do you try to keep your head out of the water? do you put your hands against the back of the tub? or do you put your hands on the bottom of the tub and try to lift out of the water, 0 are do you grasp and, at somebody and lose your only hold on life? >> a stark image. the husband pushing his wife's head under water and holding her there until she drowned. >> this was a drowning. she had been subjected to forcibly holding her throat over some object to drown her. >> but the jury had to wonder what the motivation could be for such an awful crime. sarah's mother who had initially supported ryan was now testifying for the prosecution. she said that when she was out shopping with sarah, her daughter seemed to feel she needed to check everything with ryan, who could see her purchases on his computer. >> she would buy something. ryan would call her as soon as she bought it sometimes telling her, did you really need it? why did you buy it or something. he thought she was spending too much money.
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>> very concerned about her shopping habits. >> correct. there were still stresses, things going on in their family. >> but even the prosecutors had to acknowledge that this didn't necessarily add up to a clear motive for murder, but they believe there were things happening in the little house that no one but sarah or ryan knew about. >> anybody who's been married or in a relationship knows that what goes on behind the closed doors of a marriage is not always apparent to the outside. >> but was the prosecution's case too thin? too much observation light was not enough persuasive hard enough. the defense would argue passionately that it was and that ryan had nothing to do with his wife's sudden death. >> it didn't add up that this man of 27 years who had never even shown anger in his entire life would all of a sudden kill his wife. >> ryan's side of the story. sarah's friends take the stand.
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what was the toughest thing to surmount? that we had a lovely 24-year-old woman who was dead, and no one could explain why. >> the defense wasn't going to be able to tell the jury what caused sarah witmer to drown that night, but they were going to show that ryan witmer had no reason to hurt his wife, and as far as damp hair, dry body, they'd explain that. the bottom line for the defense -- >> i know one thing. ryan witmer had nothing to do with his wife's death. >> charlie, his defense attorney,ing a attorney, argued his client was plagued from the get-go. >> falls asleep in the tub all the time. >> electing to say she fell asleep in the tub sets alarms
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going. >> exactly. >> in other words, had ryan told the 911 dispatcher only that his wife was unconscious, it wouldn't have been so suspicious. >> the om thing ryan knows is she fell asleep in the tub, but they jump on that and say he's a liar. >> the defense attorney argued the coroner had been all too quick to rule the death a homicide. >> he had no idea she had unusual sleep habits. he had no idea that she was suffering from a headache that day. >> remember, an expert witness for the prosecution had said it would have been impossible for sarah to fall asleep and die in the tub. but those who knew her sleep habits said it may have been a sign of an undiagnosed underlying medical condition. sarah's boss, the dentist, testified that her quirky sleep habits were well known around the office. >> she would normally grab a quick lunch and then go out to her car and take a nap for 30 or 45 minutes. it was odd, because people don't generally do that. >> and the dentist recollectsed
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that sarah hadn't been feeling well on that last day of life. >> she had a sore throat. her stomach bothering her earlier in the day. >> she was still feeling crummy later that evening when she spoke to friend. >> she had a headache, and the back of her neck was hurting. and she sounded tired and she didn't sound like she felt very good. >> sarah turning off the day and retreating to her bathtub, that sounded just like the sarah they knew. >> she would always leave our house and she had to get home to take her bath. >> and from childhood days, very familiar with. >> she had fallen asleep in the bathtub before. we talked about that, because i had fallen asleep in the bathtub before, too. >> the sleeping habits, headaches. the defense claimed they could well have been the symptom of an undefined health issue. something not taken seriously. even with all the ientific help, sometimes pathologists
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simply cannot say why a person died. a doctor who specializes in emergency medicine testified that unexplained deaths occur far more often than many of us would guess. >> nationwide, there are approximately 300,000 episodes of sudden death per year, and of those episodes of sudden death, 1% to 2% occur in young people, but one-third of those young people that die have normal autopsies. >> in other words, people sometimes just die, and their autopsies may never reveal the cause, but the issue that might decide the case was the observation by the arriving officers and emts of damp hair and dry body. what looked suspicious was easily explainable, said the defense. hair simply stays wet longer. >> if they get out of a swimming pool or a bathtub, skin dries before the hair. >> yes. >> the defense told the court you have to look at the clock. the elapsed time of the incident. the defense claimed that sarah's body dried off in the time
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between ryan first speaking to the 911 dispatcher and when the police officer arrived. and what about the fingers and toes that should have been pruned up, but weren't? well, no one knows what time sarah got into the tub. >> we don't know if she was primping in front of the mirror, we don't know any of that stuff. >> and by the way, sutted the defense, you can't have it both ways with the dry bathroom theory. if ryan had killed sarah in the small bathroom, there also should have been water slashed everywhe splashed everywhere. >> a violent struggle, then there would be water on the floor, on the counter on the walls, everywhere, and if they want to claim that it was a staged scene where he cleaned up the water, well, where's the wet towel? >> and investigators looked for wet towels, in the dryer, even in the garage. nothing. and say for argument's sake there had been a struggle. you think ryan would have gotten scratched up as sarah fought for
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her life, but ryan didn't have a mark on him. >> how would sarah have reacted if attacked? >> sarah was a very spunky person. small in stature, probably 5'1", weighed around 140 pounds but wasn't frail by any stretch of the imagination. she was a strong girl. >> so she would have gone for her attacker? >> i full heartily believe, yes. >> and sarah's french manicure was in pristine condition when the emts found her. no sign of a fight. >> there was absolutely no damage to the nails. >> she had beautiful french manicured nails. none of them were damaged at all's she didn't have skin from ryan underneath her. >> and the very notion of ryan attacking sarah is preposterous. >> in the event of an argument, chris says, what can we do to fix it and let's move on. that's kint kind of how ryan is.
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>> the bruising were certainly caused by emts working on sarah. >> 45 minutes. not 5, no the 10. 45 minutes. >> it looked per spectly consistent to this emergency room doctor, an expert for the defense. >> i was not surprised as the injuries at all based on the prolonged cpr and the number of intubation attempts. >> add it all up, injuries the result of life-saving efforts, skin that may well have dried before authorities showed up and you were left, the defense argued, with an unexplained death. something that experts tell you happened and jurors, the reason you didn't hear about love affairs or out of control finances is because none of those things existed. motive, they don't have motive. >> it didn't add up that this man of 27 years who had never even shown anger in his entire life would all of a sudden kill his wife. it made no sense.
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>> i hope that you agree that ryan witmer is not guilty of any wrongdoing. >> but the prosecution would tell the jury in its closing argument that while they may never know why ryan killed his wife of only four months, that he nonetheless did, and that the clock was ticking as he staged the scene before he called 911. that, they said, explains the damp hair, dry body mystery. >> sarah witmer was either out of that bathtub for a longer period of time, had been dead for a longer period of time, or her body was never full any that bathtub. >> and, they claim, that ryan spent so much time cleaning up the scene before he called for emts, that sarah's dead body was showing signs of rigor mortis when she arrived. >> she was already dead by the time they got there. they had difficulty intubated her because her chin kept
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wanting to fall. rigor mortis had set in. >> now it was up to the jury to decide if ryan witmer had killed his wife. >> we're scared that the truth may not come out. we know without a doubt ryan did not do this. >> 23 hours of deliberation. the verdicts, and the controversy. aflac. ♪ aflac, aflac, aflac! ♪ [ both sigh ] ♪ ugh! ♪ you told me he was good, dude. yeah he stinks at golf.
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about the only fact of the
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case that was indisputable was that sarah witmer had drowned, but was it a natural death in her bathtub? >> what about the suggestion of a neurological event? something with the heart? >> that the medical examiner could not find. >> her medical history is completely devoid of anything that would even suggest these things. >> or had sarah died at the hands of her husband ryan? >> they failed to prove their case. they'd failed. >> inside the warren county courthouse, the jury was out all day. the couple's friends waited. >> we're scared. scared that the truth way not come out. we know without a doubt that ryan did not do this. and we pray to god that everyone else sees that, too. >> billy cunningham, i am a great american -- >> ryan witmer might have wished the listeners to bill cunningham's radio show had been on his jury. >> the call split 90-10 in favor of ryan witmer, because during the trial there was no smoking gun.
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>> ryan's mother agreed. she was cautiously optimistic. >> i never let myself get cocky. i just felt that in having sat there and listened, that there were a lot of holes, and not a lot of evidence. i never felt like it was a slam dunk, but i threfelt there were lot of reasonable doits. >> the jurors were hard at work and asked for the tub where sarah had been found dead to be brought to them in the jury room. by the second day, ryan's defense attorney was getting anxious. >> when they're out more than 20 hour, it's clear that somebody's saying that this isn't as straightforward as it seems. >> correct. >> bit the prosecutors weren't worried by the long deliberation. >> we nigh knew it was a hard co lay a lot of evidence. >> count one, did ryan premeditate the in umurder of h wife sarah and non-premeditated, did it happen suddenly without prior thought?
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finally after 23 hours the jury reached a verdict. the lawyers were summoned. >> a very traumatic moment. your heart's racing. it's in your throat and you're anxious to hear from the jury says. it's a profound moment. >> as jill hurried back to the courtroom, outside a storm hit with biblical fury. she saw that as an ominous sign. >> the sky's just opened up. there were tornado warnings, and it all culminated when the verdict was about ready to be read. >> ryan witmer took his place at the defense table. >> the defendant will please rise. verdict on count one aggravated murder we the jury find the defendant ryan k. witmer is not guilt of aggravated murder. >> a moment of relief for ryan witmer. the jury did not believe that he killed his wife with premeditation, but he still faced the second count of murder. >> the verdict reads we the jury in this case find the defendant
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ryan k. witmer is guilty of -- >> guilty. the jury decided ryan witmer murdered his wife sarah. is there anything you wish to say? >> the accused now the convicted would kiss his wedding ring and then address the court for the first time. he hadn't taken the stand as was his right. >> i loved my wife. i did not hurt her. i was never given a chance. the day after she passes away, they charge me with murder, i didn't -- if i had an answer i would give the answer to what happened to her, but i can't. i was not in the bathroom with her. >> he was very upset. he doubled over when addressing the court. i was surprised that he was as outspoken as he was, but he indicated to the judge and everybody that he loved sarah, he would never have hurt her. >> i loved my wife and i did not hurt her. >> ryan witmer was given the mandatory sentence.
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15 years to life in prison. he was cuffed and moved to a holding cell. >> and he stopped next to me. can i say good-bye to my mom? they said, no, just keep moving. >> how difficult is that? >> beyond difficult. >> she set up her friend with ryan, was devastated. >> she wasn't murdered. one of my best friends. >> so there isn't a whisper of doubt that says my best friend may have been killed by this -- >> absolutely know. >> close as you were to him you still defend him? >> i do, ryan's attorney took the loss personally. >> awful. just -- was on my shoulders, it was my duty to my client to get a proper verdict, and i failed. >> as ryan witmer got processed into the ohio prison system, it wasn't the end of the bathtub murder case. the fax machine in the defense lawyer's office began to spit out other shocking information.
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the case of ryan wit mmer was f, far from over. >> as we speak it isn't the end of things? >> that's correct. >> something amiss in the jury room. >> said that two or three of the female jurors had done home experiments where they had showered and then air dried. >> home experiments? what was that all about? ryan witmer was about to get a break. [ terri ] my antidepressant worked hard to help with my depression. but sometimes, i still struggled to get going, even get through the day. so i was honest with my doctor. i told him i'd been feeling stuck for a long time. he said that for some people, an antidepressant alone only helps so much and suggested we add abilify (aripiprazole). he said that by taking both, some people had symptom improvement as early as 1 to 2 weeks. i wish i'd talked to my doctor sooner. [ female announcer ] abilify is not for everyone. call your doctor if your depression worsens or you have unusual changes in behavior, or thoughts of suicide. antidepressants can increase these in children, teens and young adults.
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♪ and grace will lead us home >> my impress was that the community was stunned by the verdict. ♪ amazing grace >> the verdict was so unpopular in the court of public opinion, that candlelight vigils were staged to protest the jury vote. >> there has never been a case where hundreds of americans come out of their homes carrying candle lights to listen to prayers about a condemned, convicted killer. it's never happened before. >> talk radio host bill cunningham, a lawyer by training,rd ras himself as a hang 'em high conservative, but even he felt this was a case of justice denied. >> judging this case against 100 other murder trials, this one of the phlegmsiest and weakest i've ever seen. >> my name is mike maylevin, creator of the website, and -- >> someone out there following the trial was mike, a young newlywed and web page designer.
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even though he never met ryan, he so believed in this innocence that he launched a free ryan website. >> the goal for him to get a new trial. if he doesn't get a new trial i believe it is going to outrage a lot of people. >> angry citizens, taxpayers, voters. even though the real trial was over, the prosecution hadn't entirely called it quits. in their postverdict victory lap that spoke of things the judge had not allowed the jury to hear. the weekend before his wife died when she was away were visiting relatives ryan frequented a website called adult friend finder, an organization that bills itself as the world's largest site for swingers. >> we found evidence he'd been on the site, but no evidence that he followed through. if they were such a happy couple, why somebody on the computer surfing for a hookup spot? that makes no sense to me. that would combat the idea of the happy couple. >> the judge had not allowed the web surfing or other pornography found on his computer to be
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introduced as evidence since there was no way to know sarah even knew about his internet trolling. still, was it a sign as the detective thought their marriage was not as happy and friends and family believe? >> my understanding is some of these sites supposedly he visited ended up being pop-ups on a computer and, i'm not the most computer literate person, but i don't think the full story was told there, either, and i don't understand if they got the verdict they wanted, why they have to continue to attack my son and my family. >> and ryan's mother said if the couple had fought over anything, the family would have known. sarah always outspoken wasn't the type to suffer in silence. >> sarah told everybody -- she's a chatty person. she'd just been with her family for an entire weekend without ryan being there. if there were any problems, believe me, they all would have known and it i probably would have known it because sarah would have probably called and yelled a at me about something my son was doing to her that
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wasn't nice to her. >> none of that mattered now. they couldn't get over the guilty verdict. ryan became more than a client. >> i had around at my home, around my wife and kids. no question in my mind he was innocent. >> he did what lawyers do after losing a case. he wrote a motion to have the judge let ryan go free or order a new trial. a long shot. ryan was in prison and would likely stay there. >> it's been a roller coaster ride and i just can't let myself get my hopes up. >> he may be in prison for 15 years. >> he may be, and this appeal process, i mean, it can take forever. >> the day after defense attorney rickers filed his motion, his fax machine started humming. it was a letter from a jury. >> he was having problems living with himself. he said it was moral dilemma to allow it just go without bringing it to somebody's attention. >> the juror claimed there was
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forbidden monkey business during deliberations. monkey business over nothing less than the biggest issue in the trial. damp head, dry body. >> he says two or three of the female jurors had done home experiments where they had showered and then air dried. >> testing out this theory how quickly the body dries coming out of the tub or shower? >> that's correct. yes. >> at home? >> at home. >> if the faxing juror was correct, the panel directly violated the judge's instructions to consider only what they heard in court. the allegation was jury mrs. condumrs. -- misconduct, a serious matter. running the innocence project saw the juror letter as a way to persuade the judge to grant ryan a new trial. >> it's unusual for a new jury to come forward and reveal they'd violated the rules, and brought it into the deliberations. >> the judge began reviewing what went on during deliberations. in one of those sworn statements, a juror said of
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those taboo home experiments, the times to air dry influenced my decision. >> jurors are not supposed to go home and do experiments. >> in the end, the judge agreed. four months after ryan witmer's conviction, he ruled the husband would get yore trianother trial. the not guilty ve y verdict to . just premeditated murder. his mother scraped together the funds to supply bond. he was released after five months behind bars. >> it can deplete bank accounts and moses. how far are you prepared to go in this? >> to go towards until the day i die. if i have to live on the street in a cardboard box at the end of this, i'm going to do whatever it takes to get my son out of this. >> and ryan and his family would wind up the end of financial bankruptcy but the edge of
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emotional collapse. >> can't sleep. he sees her when he closes his eyes. >> he misses her. still wears the wedding ring. >> everything in ryan's life was spiraling downward. he's lost his job as a sports planner after the guilty verdict, and was left to do odd jobs for supporters. the house he and sarah bought together went into foreclosure. and now another jury would be asked to peer inside the mystery of a marriage and decide what exactly happened behind those closed doors on crested owl court. the prosecutors would have to convince another jury that ryan witmer had ill canned h ekilled wife. >> you got a guilty verdict and had to do it again. >> on the other hand we knew how a jury would react to our evidence. >> on the other side of the coin, the defense has seen your case. >> they certainly have. can counterpunch. >> we can't change it very much. >> ryan witmer trial, take two. a new jury make as dramatic return to the scene of the drowning.
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and later -- ryan witmer el tells his own st. >> i'm going to fight until it's made right. the healthcare you deserve. at humana, we believe if healthcare changes, if it becomes simpler... if frustration and paperwork decrease... if grandparents get to live at home instead of in a home... the gap begins to close. so let's simplify things. let's close the gap between people and care. ♪ funny, there was no mention of hail in the weather report... (vo) celebrate this memorial day with up to 40% off hotels at travelocity. (gnome) go and smell the roses. jim's hair is perfect. so's his serve, and his mandarin [speaking mandarin] xieúxieú, hou chiú but like up to 90% of americans, jim falls short in getting important nutrients from food alone. making jim more like us.
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also more than a year after a jury had found ryan witmer guilty of murder only to have the verdict thrown out it would start all over again. this time a new defense team would take over ryan's case. defense lawyers jake clarke and lindsay go lindsay gutierrez worryrd the verdict from the first trial to rang over the accused. >> still innocent until proven guilting when everyone knows he was proven guilty. >> across the room, the prosecution was the same.
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they would hammer in the fact a 24-year-old woman just does not die alone in the basketbathroom >> did you see any other evidence that sarah died by a drowning? >> no. >> the bathroom where her husband lifted her soaking body out of the tub, it was also not wet. >> towels, a rug, magazines, they all appeared to be dry. >> and the jury would again hear the 911 call that to prosecution ears sounded odd. >> i was downstairs, came up here and she was laying face down in the bathtub. >> the message was, my wife's dead and i wasn't around when it happened. >> unlike the first trial, the defense lawyers asked to take the jurors to the home where ryan lived to inspect for themselves the very bathroom where she died. the lawyers had made a pretrial visit. >> the first thing we said is, man, this was small. >> they wanted jurors to see for themself this was a cramped space in a modest builder's home.
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>> imagine ryan at 6'2" and sarah at 5'1", 5'2" and imagine them actually interacting here. >> such a small bathroom a defense expert argued if there was a violent struggle, both husband and wife would have shown more bruises and scratches. >> i would have expected to see more injury if a violent struggle had occurred. >> but prosecutors argued wouldn't and in explosion of anger could have overtaken his wife so quickly she would have had no time to fight back, and in closing arguments they told jurors that ryan witmer not only killed his wife but delayed calling 911 to buy time to cover up his crime. >> things looked so nice because ryan witmer had the opportunity to reset the scene. he had time to put things back into place. >> but ryan's defense lawyers were hopeful this jury would see the case the way they did. an innocent man on trial for a murder he did not commit.
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>> absolutely believe him. no doubt in my mind. >> the case was given to jury number two, and it seemed as though everyone in cincinnati was on the edge of their seat waiting for its decision. but three days into deliberations, nothing. the jurors asked to see the judge. >> there is maybe an impasse. >> he sent them back to deliberate more. >> it is desirable the case be decided. >> turning out to be the longest deliberation in the county and as the jurors left for a long holiday weekend, the specter of a mistrial hung in the air. dana and chris kissed once again, it waited with ryan. >> we have to make sure he knows we're here. that's what we do as friends, be faithful this is going to turn out the way it's meant to turn out. >> the jury returned to work on tuesday morning, but at 5:00 p.m. on that fourth day of deliberations they asked to see the judge again. >> the note reads, we have
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decided that we cannot agree, and that further deliberations will not serve a useful purpose. >> a hung jury. no verdict. by best count, deadlocked 7 guilty, one undecided, 4 not guilty. walking out of the courtroom, ryan witmer's frustration spilled out. >> i just want this to be over. i'm disappointed obviously. i should be found not guilty. >> at a press conference, ryan's parents vowed to stand by their son. they'd already spent more than a half million dollars on his defense, tapping out bank accounts and retirement plans. >> we know he's innocent and we're going to do whatever it takes. >> we'll move forward. >> ryan's dad gary was firmly behind his son, but in another odd twist, it had taken ryan's arrest to reunite the pair. out of his son's life 13 years the consequence of a bitter divorce. he hadn't even known there was a sarah until he learned his son had been charged with her murder. father was re-introduced to son
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while ryan was in jail. >> this is the first meeting. >> uh-huh. >> you've had, really, with your boy in aening although, long time. >> through a glass wall. >> he's on the other side of a glass and you're talking through one of those phone devices? >> uh-huh. >> that's kind of a hard thing to take right there. >> it was. it was hard, but it was so sweet to see him. >> a poignant reunion, father and son. and a father who completely believes in his son's innocence, and will do anything to help him. >> if there's any evidence to take, you have to take it. you have to take it. it's my son. >> your son didn't do it. sarah witmer died for reasons unknown. >> yes. >> give yourselves a round of applause. >> behind ryan the friends and family standing behind him a case that galvanized a virtual army. free ryan t-shirt and wrist bands. >> an anonymous donor donated $60,000.
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>> yes. >> so much taxpayer money spent on a third trial and ryan supporters beating very loud drums. a plea deal presented. >> we thought a subject worth bringing up. >> no way ryan would take a deal. >> offered a plea which they hadn't done in two trials. >> he turned it down. >> of course. why would i admit to something i would never have done that i did not do. >> ryan witmer was gambling that the next jury would acquit him, but his role of the dice was taking its toll. not just on him but on his family as well. ryan's mom made headlines when stopped for drunk driving. she pleaded not guilty to the driving under the influence charge, but police say they found two open bottles of vodka in her car. >> she fell down. hospitalized. terrible toll on her. i lived with it. many times, all the three of us were together and you could just -- feel her going deeper
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and deeper into this. >> but it seemed for every person that came out to support ryan witmer, there were those who believed just as strongly on the other side that he had deliberately drowned his wife. one of those people would soon change everything. ten days after the jury deadlock, a phone rang in the prosecutor's office. it was a woman with a hand grenade of a story. >> someone came forward saying this guy confessed to me. >> we want to find out more what she has to say and how she knows this. >> prosecutors investigated and came away convinced they had the long missing pieces to the puzzle. both a confession and a motive. and jay clarke, defense attorney, would now have to worry overtime about the state's new bombshell of a witness. >> did you know what they had? >> literally, no. >> because the new witness feared for her life, saying that ryan witmer threatened her, her identity would not be disclosed to the defense team until the beginning of the trial. and trial three would begin with virtually everyone holding their
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-- mr. whitner, is there anything you wish to say? >> the first trial ended a in mistrial, the second a hung jury. would this next jury reach a
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verdict? these three jurors from the last trial said prosecutors failed to convince them ryan witmer had killed his wife. >> there was nothing to prove to me he had anything to do with her death. >> and the nebs group of jurors would also not be able to reach a unanimous decision. >> we sat in jury deliberations for 30-plus hours and the likelihood of 12 jurors coming to the same conclusion was very unlikely. >> we really didn't think that another jury would not be deadlocked. >> they'd soon find out. ryan witmer's extraordinary third trial for the murder of his wife was about to start all over again. the prosecutors felt it was their duty to argue their case for sarah. >> we're committed to seeing that justice is done for the victim of this case, and that's what we've got to think about. >> it promised to be a judicial ground haog day. repeat testimony from the emts and arriving officers at the witmer home. the oddity of a drowning victim
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with a damp head and dry body. and that the witnesses volunteered too much and injuries to the neck and head that spoke to homicide and not resuscitation. >> the facts which came out in this case gave rise to the idea there had been an assault that occurred which progressed into an incident of domestic violence. >> and this time sarah's own mother described the couple's relationship is more tense than in the previous trials telling the court her arguments made her very uncomfortable. >> call each other names and get hateful with each other. i said you guys have to stop. i can't take it. >> but what was really new and stunning was something that had been haunting the defense since they first learned of it the previous summer. the prosecution's mystery witness who would thaef testify that ryan had confessed to the crime. the first time the defense would get a good look at this person who ryan allegedly confessed to
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and they were worried. >> strolls in wearing a suit with decently done hair, normal makeup. >> but how exactly did this woman living 500 miles away from ryan witmer come to be involved in the case in a starring prosecution role? it turned out she'd watched her coverage on "dateline" of the first trial. that "dateline" segment airs on september 18, 2009. after watching the show she sent ryan an e-mail through the freeryanwitmer website telling him how bad she felt about his plight. >> i felt sorry for ryan witmer and asked what i could do to help him. >> the two in frequent touch. >> a phone relationship? >> correct. >> ryan sent photos of his dogs and asked her to send him a picture of herself. initially she sent this one of a friend. she says things got a little racy on the phone. >> he told me that he was watching parn in his basement. >> and even talk of jennifer visiting ryan in highway for a
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three way. >> ryan asked me to ask my friend add i said i would. >> the reason jennifer was on the stand was to testify about one phone conversation in particular. one very different than their usual banter. it was october 26, 2009. jennifer said she's been asleep when ryan called. sounded to her as though he'd been drinking. >> he was crying, and he was saying, i did it. i did it. i killed sarah. i did it. i thought, what he meant was that he didn't do enough to save her life that night. he said, no, jen. listen to me. i did it. >> she said ryan told her it started with a fight between the two of them. >> sarah found out she had cheated on her when she went away with her mom. they were arguing about his pornography. >> what happened? >> getting ready for bath. the argument continued. she kept saying she can't do
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this anymore, being married. sarah told him the marriage was over. >> ryan, she testified, then told sarah -- >> that nobody leaves me. nobody ever leaves me and i mean nobody. >> that's which jennifer says ryan hit his wife. >> she fell backwards and his/her head and she said, jen, i blacked out. i blacked out, but why this story now? jennifer waited until almost two weeks after the jury deadlocks before coming forward even though ryan allegedly confessed to her eight months earlier. she promised ryan she would not reveal his secret, she promised. was unnerved when she gave him a threat. >> i promised i wouldn't tell anybody and he said, i hope not. i wouldn't want you to be where sarah's at. >> but also that she felt the jury like the first one would have convicted ryan. when they didn't, she contacted authorities after seeing pictures of sarah's mother. >> i saw the sadness and pain and hurt in her mom's face, and i'm a mom and i couldn't do that
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to them anymore. they needed to know the truth. >> it was a lot to absorb. ryan confessing, fighting with a wife who was leaving him, blacking out in the bathroom. would the jurors believe any or all of it? the defense had to make certain they didn't. but they were worried that they might. >> i think she had invented this story and started to live it and really wanted to believe it. >> you were convicted of -- >> so they aimed for the jug uler. could this woman were trusted? >> a jaded past. convictions, stealing, not something that an honest, credible person does. >> a one-time bartender at the strip club who managed dancers. she admitted to misdemeanor rahn-ins with the law. >> convicted of theft. >> yes, sir. >> and fraudulent? >> that's what my record states. >> also in a methadone treatment program for addiction to painkillers.
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>> oxycontin about five years? >> five years, yes. >> you've used false names to get drugs? >> yes, i did. >> the defense indicated because of her addiction to drugs her memory was not to be trusted. >> when the detectives talked to you you told them your memory's not very good. >> i don't recall saying that. >> do you remember telling they i don't remember verbatim the conversation between you and ryan? >> i do not remember the conversation verbatim. >> and confusion what hour the day went through and even what day it was placed. >> when investigators plet with you, you told them the call was in the middle of the night. >> i was asleep and felt that the call came in later than it did. >> and everything critical in terms of time, duration and any memory about the call was all different once she got to testify but only after she saw her phone records. >> after jennifer stepped down the prosecution called the woim's fiancee to dtry to undo anything.
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she confessed she had the call immediately after hanging up. >> came downstairs crying saying, like he did it. she was scared, actually. upset. >> if the jury believed jennifer's story, ryan witmer was sunk. so the defense called a witness to refute the iowa woman's story about an emotional call that night from ryan. and it was another woman who became interested in ryan witmer's case after seeing our first "dateline" report. melissa waller from seattle, like jennifer from iowa, struck up a phone and e-mail relationship with ryan in the fall of 2009. she says she was drawn to his case after the death of her sister-in-law. >> how often do you think you guys talked? >> it was a few time as week. you know, sometimes more. sometimes less. on a frequent basis. we talked about sarah a lot. he was having a really, really hard time accepting everything. >> she flew to ohio to visit a friend and to go with another supporter to a bowling fund-raiser organized for witmer's defense.
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she even made this video tribute to ryan and sarah that she posted on youtube. ♪ what would i do with one more day with you ♪ >> melissa's husband supported her friendship with ryan. >> it was a little out there, yeah, but i'm so comfortable with her and our relation ship that without a shadow of a doubt, i was 100% behind her. >> i did feel strongly about supporting him. there's just no chance that he had anything to do with it. >> but the importance of the seattle woman's story for the defense was that she, too, had had a lengthy phone call with ryan that finished just six minutes before he called jennifer in iowa. the call in which he allegedly confessed to killing his wife. melissa waller says ryan was perfectly composed when she spoke to him for almost two hours that night. >> how do you know he was not drunk, he was not upset? >> every phone conversation i've had he's never been intoxicated or emotionally distraught. i knew all the times i had
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talked to him he was never drunk or upset. >> melissa waller was convinced that jennifer had made up the whole story about the confession. >> i was shocked that somebody would go under oath on the stand and lie. >> but still, had the defense paid a price by putting yet another woman on the stand? >> is there a larger issue here? a risk for you about these women getting involved with ryan witmer? >> that's easy to get sucked into that but i think you have to understand what ryan was going through. he's never been able to really grieve for sarah, never able to mourn popproperly. you can don it when under the gun charged with murder. they contacted him. it was companionship. >> the prosecutor saying a sudden violent murder. >> anybody in a relationship knows sometimes things go off, they snap, for no good reason. i think something like that happened. at some point, ryan saw that his perfect marriage was falling apart, and that's what led us here. >> the defense arguing a medically undetermined death by
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natural causes. >> probably going to bother me for the rest of my life, what happened to sarah. we'll never know, though. >> sarah had drowned, but how? a third jury retired for deliberations. >> another stunner. a new sarah enters ryan's life. >> do you love ryan witmer? >> i love him. yeah. >> just who is she? later, ryan tells all. >> you guys kept it secret. didn't you? >> oh, yeah. because i knew they would try to make it into something negative. that's juicy and that's aged just right. and that's exactly what i have with these all-natural steaks from walmart. and here's a tip to serve 'em up right - steaks, like kids, need naptime. i'm totally serious. after grilling, give your steaks a 10-minute nap before slicing and every bite will taste like a dream. get out there and throw one on the grill today! try all-natural steaks from walmart today. they're 100% guaranteed or your money back.
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the jury had been out for a day. again, it seemed everyone in cincinnati was waiting for a verdict. while witmer still had a number of ardent supporters trial watchers say this time things were changing in the court of public opinion. >> you have a candlelight vigil now and probably could hold it in a phone booth. >> one strong voice that turned against ryan witmer. he was disgusted how he used the website. >> using website to pick up chicks.
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>> for you sounds like it fell apart on a character issue. >> it did. for me by the third trial the evidence and facts didn't change but the wallpaper of the case changed. >> day two and the jury in the courthouse was going round and round. >> my stomach cramping, i felt awful. >> i was nauseous. i hadn't felt that way for 20 years. >> the jurors were working their way through the evidence. first the 911 call can. >> my wife fell asleep in the bathtub and i think she's dead. >>ed more you listen to, the more and more it starts to sound like it was staged, and then there was sarah's body. officers testified it was too dry. >> 2.5 minutes later you would expect the body to be wet. >> i don't believe anything he said. >> the prints in the tub. >> normal circumstances you cannot leave those kind of pi finger 3 prints on the side the tub going down.
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>> and the defense and prow prosecution put ub good arguments. teetering on a razor's edge for me. >> and on the second day they had a verdict. a blast of calls went out. >> we immediately jumped in the car. ryan says i can't believe they're back this soon. this is too quick. i'm worried. >> when everyone was gathered in the courtroom, the judge asked are to the jury ballot. >> anxious? >> very. >> yes. >> yeah. >> ryan stood with his lawyers. his life hanging in the balance. >> i can actually hear ryan shaking. it's that silent in there and he's that nervous. >> the verdict. >> we the jury in the case find the defendant ryan k. witmer is guilty of murder. >> guilty. ryan dropped his head to the table. >> he was hysterical. crying, a mess. >> a bad, bad, bad dream. >> ryan composed himself enough
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to proclaim to the court his innocence. >> judge, i did not do this. i don't know why this has to keep going on. i mean, my life has been ruined. i loved sarah. i would never have hurt her. never. >> outside the court, ryan's father gary slumped to the ground. the son he was recently reunited with after years apart taken from him again. >> it was horrifying. a horrifying moemgt and i think it totally caught up with me at that point. the whole total shock and i just went weak. >> ryan witmer for the second time was given the mandatory sentence, 15 years to life. as court officers handcuffed him and led him away, few people were aware of a young woman on his side of the benches crying. this is also a sarah. sarah manhurst, still nor twist in a story that had so many. >> do you love ryan witmer? >> i love him, yeah. >> sarah wore an engagement ring and is the mother of ryan's son born in the summer after trial
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number two. >> what did you name the baby? >> his name's ryan. >> do you see ryan's face in the baby's? >> yeah. >> sarah, a could nadia via new york, like jennifer from iowa and melissa from seattle, also became aware of ryan of a you are 0 first "dateline" program on the case aired back in 2009. >> i thought that he was railroaded. i really did. >> she sent an e-mail to ryan saying how sorry she felt for him and he sent welcome back. soon they were talking on the phone. a little more than a month later sarah came to cincinnati to visit ryan's she stayed with him at his mother's house. >> i thought it was a little awkward. you know? because we had talk sewed much on the phone, but hadn't met and he just was telling me how much he loved sarah and he could never, ever love another woman as much as he loved her. i think i started crying because i felt so bad for him. >> sarah went back to new york and three weeks later returned to cincinnati and ryan's
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2k3we6guest at his thanksgiving dinner. that was the weekend they became intimate. >> like the first time we were together i got pregnant. >> how did ryan take the news? >> he was shocked. obviously very bad timing. >> they kept the pregnancy a secret, as ryan's second trial would take place the following may. >> i decided, yeah, i was going to have the baby, and he was okay with that. but it was just difficult, because i'm thinking, here i am pregnant, and you're facing another trial and my child could potentially grow up without a father, which you know, was -- that was in jail. >> with ryan sentenced to 15 years, sarah is raising their son alone. >> i'm still in shock. i can't believe this happened to him. >> if in your own mind you couldn't get to beyond a reasonable doubt if there's was
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a sliver of doubt maybe he had done this thing, would you have stayed? >> never. i would have everybody inner stayed with him. there's no way he could have done this, ever. >> but had he? in the course of three trials, played out before three juries, ryan witmer's guilt or innocence has been passionately debated. he is now telling his story. witmer speaks from prison when we return. >> did you kill your wife sarah? >> you think they fabricated this? >> oh, i know they did. >> this young husband is about to make a startling claim. i don't want him in the framily! >>the more people we have, the more we save. he already owes me money for like 4 pizzas. >>we all get separate bills. besides, if you don't like gordon why did you invite him this weekend? i didn't invite him. he just, like, shows up! >>it's pronounced gor-don. hey let's go, honey ! those tacos ain't going to eat themselves over there. >>tacos! you look great, by the way. start a sprint framily and everyone gets separate bills. the bills are separate?
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this is ryan witmer's story as he tells it. he remembers a loving relationship with his wife sarah that was right from the first date. >> we hit it off perfect. >> any friction? >> no whatsoever. >> everything was perfect? >> perfect. perfect. my biggest problem, her sleep. work a regular day and need to go to bed early, or taking a nap. something wasn't healthy about it. you're 24 years old. >> but they fell into everyday lives, building a house, walking the dog, building a deck on their house. until that night. sarah came home from work with a headache, he says. they had dinner, watched tv. >> she's, what? on the couch? >> laying on the couch, because she doesn't feel hot? >> her neck killing her. go get in the bath and go to bed. >> ryan says he stayed do downstairs watching the gameful
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until he, too, was ready for bed, upstairs to the master bedroom and bath. >> tell me what you see like a video recording it. >> i walk into the room, over to the night stand, put some things down, turned on the tv and walked in the bathroom. that's when i saw sarah and knew something wasn't right. she was just unconscious. >> how did you see her? >> he head was underneath the water. i don't even remember -- >> was she face down in the tub as you tell 911. >> all i remember is finding her -- yeah. i knew it wasn't good. she was laying in the water. i don't know what else to say other than it was right. the only reason i remember certain things is because of what i heard on the 911 tape. >> such a shocking thing. >> aye wasni wasn't thinking i remember what did i see what did i do? >> head, nose, below the water? >> yes. >> what did you do? >> i'm trying to get a reaction out of her and got nothing. >> that's when he says he called 911. >> my wife fell asleep in the
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bathtub and it i think she's dead. >> when you chose that word, i think she fell asleep. >> it's not about choosing a word. it's about what i said. her sleeping issue, whatever, i don't know. but -- >> they would say that that 911 call was suspicious, because this guy's giving too much information. telling us he's downstairs, away from all the stuff going on. she's upstairs. do you know why you told them? >> what else -- i was watching the football game. i don't know what they wanted me to tell them. >> i need an ambulance. get here quick? >> i don't know. that's what i said. >> the first arriving officer was at the house no more than six minutes after the first 911 called and tles than 3 minutes after after her body being lifted out of the tub. >> why is this woman's hair damp and body dry? >> well -- >> it doesn't make sense, ryan. >> how do i explain it? i left the house.
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cops were there by themselves and they came up with a story they wanted to come up with. >> you think they fabricated this? >> i know they did. >> you think they wanted to make a case here. >> i know they did. why would they arrest me a day after if they didn't want to make a case. >> why would they have it in for you, why would they lie? emts and police officers don't work for the same agency. >> they clearly do when they come. >> what about saying he killed sarah. >> listen to me. i did it. >> lehere's jennifer, he cullede one night, was sloppy and confessed to me. jennifer, i did it. i'm telling you, i did t. uh-huh. >> did that conversation happen? >> nope, it never happened. >> so jennifer cruz's story is made up? >> 100% made up. >> the same goes, ryan told us, for sarah's mother's testimony about hearing hateful arguments between the couple. >> they would just call each other names. >> she's a liar.
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>> sayre rapp mom's a liar? >> yeah. >> making the stuff up? >> we were everybody inner marine to each other. never. >> a one-time mother-in-law from an earlier life who he says is embellishing the reality of his marriage. now ryan witmer has a baby with a new sarah. >> she's awesome. so loving, caring. there are similarities i see in sarah my wife as i see with sarah now. >> you kept it secret. didn't you? >> oh, yeah. because i knew they would try to make it into something negative. >> and in the court of public opinion, the women from far away places, iowa, seattle, new york, who became involved in his case didn't go down well with everyone. a character issue. >> we talked to somebody who accused you of using the free ryan witmer website as a dating service, just your way of meeting women. >> that's not true. i don't know who would have said that, but that's not true. >> investigators wondered how good the marriage really was based and what they say they found on witmer's computer. >> did you have an unhealthy addiction to parn? >> no. >> you looked at porn? >> yes.
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>> but ryan says that doesn't mean anything, and certainly doesn't make him a murderer. >> did you kill your wife sarah? >> no, i did not. i couldn't hurt sarah emotionally let alone physically. >> she didn't get in your face and tell you she was leaving you? >> nope. >> didn't happen? >> did not happen. >> you were watching the ball game and went upstair, found her in a bad situation. >> yep. >> that's it. >> that's t. you're saying you were wrongly convicted? >> 100% wrongfully convicted. >> if 30 jurors or more found you guilty after they heard the story. >> yep. >> they're not getting it? >> they're not getting it at all. >> but these jurors from his third trial are confident they got it right. they say among other things, it came down to what they saw as sarah's too dry body. oddities in the 911 call. prints on the tub, and the unlikeliness of an out of the blue medical event striking sarah in the bath. >> i went into it believing he was innocent, but everything
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that was put together with the evidence came down with four or five facts that we could not deny. we believe that he intentionally drown her. >> and the guilt of ryan witmer will never be doubted by prosecutors. >> do you believe that he actually did this thing? >> absolutely. >> yes. she was murdered. >> and he killed her. >> and he was the only one who could have. >> ryan witmer petitioned the u.s. district court to overturn his conviction, after the u.s. supreme court declined to hear his case. >> i'm not taking that as what it is because i'm not letting this stand. i mean, i'm going to fight this until it's made right. >> the passage of time has not made the events inside the little house in crested owl court any clearer and time, of course, brings changes. it's been three years since we first met sarah, she and ryan are no longer a couple but she says she still believes strongly in his case, and more change. his mother jill passed away last year.
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nothing it seems stays quite the same, except the central mystery itself, anat will likely be argued for years still to come. get your gift wrapping right over here. all proceeds go to putting an ice skating rink in our senior center. now, let's drum up some business here. ♪ angels we have heard on high sweetly singing o' the plains ♪ ♪ glor-or-or-or-ia ♪ your gift wrap will pay for old people to ice skate ♪ [ cheers and applause ] ♪


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