A 30-year-old Ohio woman may spend the rest of her life behind bars for brutally murdering a Kentucky man in 2016, then dismembering and discarding his body in a state park. Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey R. Ingraham handed down a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 30 years to Sarah E. Buzzard for killing Ryan R. Zimmerman, Fort Wayne CBS affiliate WANT-TV reported.
Buzzard was arrested in August 2021, nearly six years after slaying Zimmerman, and charged with 18 criminal counts, including two counts of murder, four counts of evidence tampering, felony abuse of a corpse, and felony assault. Last week, she reportedly reached a deal with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office that saw her plead guilty to one count of aggravated murder in exchange for the other charges against her being dropped.
Buzzard addressed the court prior to the sentence being passed, per Lima NBC/Fox affiliate WLIO.
“Not a day goes by that I do not wish for a chance to take it all back,” Buzzard reportedly said. “I accept responsibility in the role I played in Ryan’s death, and I will live everyday for the rest of my life attempting to redeem myself through positive actions and deeds.”
Zimmerman’s sister, Manda Moore, read a victim impact statement in which she reportedly said that her kids “will never know their uncle Ryan.”
“They will never be able to talk with him, and see the similarities that I see that they have with him. They will never get to play those games with him, and they would have loved them so much,” she reportedly said.
According to the report, a person walking their dog along Coldwater Creek in West Bank State Park in January 2016 discovered what they believed to be human bones and contacted the police. The remains, much of which were not recovered, reportedly came mostly from a human torso. Investigators were reportedly unable to identify the victim until a forensic anthropologist in June 2020 was able to positively ID the remains as belonging to 21-year-old Zimmerman.
Investigators were then able to track Zimmerman back to Kentucky, where his parents reportedly informed police that he had moved to Columbus before disappearing. Per WANE, it was learned that Zimmerman had met Buzzard’s ex-husband on social media and moved in with the couple just weeks prior to his death.
After obtaining and executing several search warrants on social media companies, investigators were reportedly able to pinpoint the location in Columbus where Zimmerman was killed and dismembered using a saw. His body was then transported in a vehicle owned by Buzzard to Mercer County, where it was dumped in the state park.
Detectives with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office last summer executed a search warrant on Buzzard’s home, which she shared with her then-wife 33-year-old Naria Jenna Whitaker. When Whitaker was confronted by five members of the sheriff’s office regarding Zimmerman’s death, she “withdrew a handgun from her bag and shot herself,” according to a report from Mercer County radio news station WBAT. She was reportedly pronounced dead on the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Buzzard was taken into custody that day.
During an interview with sheriff’s detectives, Buzzard confessed that she strangled and dismembered Zimmerman, according to WBAT. She reportedly said that Whitaker assisted her in the slaying. Her ex-husband was reportedly not a suspect in the murder case.
[image via Mercer County Sheriff’s Office]
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