Jury Convicts Man In 3rd Ohio Tub Drowning Trial

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LEBANON, Ohio (AP) - A man found guilty of murder in his third trial over his wife's bathtub drowning buried his face in his hands as he heard the verdict Tuesday and continued to maintain his innocence, telling the judge he loved his wife and "would never have hurt her."

A Warren County jury deliberated about 12 hours over two days before convicting Ryan Widmer, who was in tears as the verdict was read. Judge Neal Bronson sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison.

"Judge, I did not do this," Widmer said, breathing heavily. "I don't know why this has to keep going on. I mean, my life has been ruined."

It was the second time Widmer was found guilty. The verdict from his first trial was thrown out over juror misconduct, and his second trial ended in a hung jury.

Defense attorneys didn't immediately comment on appeal plans or return an after-hours call seeking comment.

The couple had been married for about six months when she died. Ryan Widmer told a 911 dispatcher that his wife had fallen asleep in the bathtub.

Prosecutors in this trial for the first time had asked jurors to consider the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. The judge had instructed jurors that a murder conviction meant they believed Widmer purposely killed his 24-year-old wife, Sarah, in 2008. Involuntary manslaughter would mean they agreed that he assaulted his wife and caused her death but didn't mean to kill her.

Prosecutors had argued that bruises on his wife's neck supported their contention that Widmer killed his wife at their former Hamilton Township home by grabbing her and forcing her head underwater.

The defense attributed the bruising to rescue workers' efforts to revive her and said she may have suffered a medical problem before drowning.

Defense attorney Jay Clark said investigators made mistakes, took shortcuts and made assumptions, and he suggested that the death of an elderly woman in a bathtub under similar circumstances wouldn't have resulted in charges.

The trial featured a new prosecution witness, who testified that Ryan Widmer confessed to her in a phone call. Jennifer Crew, 36, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, testified that Widmer told her on Oct. 26, 2009, that he killed his wife after she said she was going to leave him. Crew said Widmer was crying and so upset he could barely talk.

Crew said she had never met Widmer in person but sent him e-mail and text messages because she thought he was innocent after she saw a "Dateline NBC" episode about the case that aired after Widmer's first trial.

The defense said the confession never happened, that Crew got information about the case from news media coverage, and then they called their own new witness. The woman, Melissa Waller, 29, who lives near Seattle, testified that she talked to Widmer three times on that night, Oct. 26, and that he never seemed drunk or so emotionally upset that he could hardly talk. Phone records showed her last conversation with Widmer that night ended six minutes before he talked with Crew.

Emergency responders, medical experts, friends and family also took the stand, and much of that testimony was repetitive of the first two trials.

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