LEBANON, Ohio - The man who headed the 2008 investigation into the drowning death of Sarah Widmer resigned late Friday afternoon.
In a letter addressed to Hamilton Township Police Chief Jon Wheeler, Lt. Jeff Braley submitted his resignation from the police force.
The resignation comes while Hamilton Township had an independent attorney conducting an investigation into if Braley lied on his job application. The resignation puts an end to the township's investigation.
Questions about Braley's job application started surfacing during Widmer's second trial for drowning his wife Sarah in the bathtub of their Hamilton Township home. Defense attorneys wanted to use the allegation in an effort to discredit Braley during trial. Judge Neal Bronson would not allow information about the personnel file to be brought up in front of the jurors, ruling it would have created a "trial within a trial."
"I ask you to accept this letter of resignation and that it be effective September 1, 2011," he stated in the letter. "Due to many current events it has become necessary to take this action. The pressure of the constant hounding by the media, as well as many rumors have taken such a toll on my family, my ministry, and most importantly my health that I can no longer continue down my current path without the effects on my health becoming devastating. "
Braley's application claims he has a Master's degree after spending two years each at Wright State and Florida universities and worked as a postal inspector and in engineering for General Electric. The schools have no record of him ever attending and records from the post office show he was a part-time clerk.
9 News was not able to reach Braley Friday for comment, but he previously admitted that information on his application is not true. However, he says he didn't lie. He said someone else tampered with the paperwork and his personnel file, adding the false information.
Jay Clark, one of Widmer's trial attorneys, says Braley's resignation is a good reason to again ask for a fourth trial. A previous request was denied.
"Innocent men don't resign," said Clark. "If there was not a problem here and because we were not allowed to cross examine him in the last trial...his resignation might open the door for a hearing to get a new trial."
Attorney Michele Berry is handling Widmer's appeal. She said in response to the resignation, "It's good that citizens won't have to suffer in the future as a result of his incompetence in investigations and tendency to rush to judgements. It's a shame that Ryan Widmer had to suffer," she said.
The Warren County prosecutor, David Fornshell, who took office after the third verdict, is confident the resignation will not result in another trial. He told 9 News, "This case did not rise or fall on Braley." Fornshell says Braley was not a key witness in the trial. He says the first responders and the coroner were the key witnesses who observed the suspicious aspects of the case. Braley was one of the last to arrive on the scene.
Fornshell says even if jurors disregard Braley's testimony, the other witnesses would provide sufficient evidence to convict Widmer again.
Law director Warren Ritchie sent a news release indicating the township had accepted the resignation effective September 1. In the release Richie said, "The Township has accepted his resignation and has placed Lt. Braley on an unpaid leave of absence until the effective date." Richie continued, "Although technically a member of the Township's Police Department until the effective date, Lt. Braley has surrendered his badge and no longer has police authority under the auspices of the Township's Police Department."
According to the release, Lt. Braley is entitled to the bi-weekly payment of his accumulated vacation, compensatory and accrued sick time.
Ryan Widmer is serving currently serving a 15 year prison sentence for the murder of his wife Sarah. He was convicted in the first trial but that conviction was later thrown out due to juror misconduct. The second trial ended in a hung jury. The third jury convicted Widmer of killing his wife of four months in their Hamilton Township home.