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Jill Widmer's house, where her body was found. (Photo by Scott Wegener / 9 On Your Side)
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Jill Widmer
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Jill Widmer, who vigorously defended her son, Ryan Widmer, through his three murder trials, was found dead at her residence on July 22, 2013.
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Coroner: Heart, liver disease possible factors in Jill Widmer's death

Attorney: Son's conviction 'ate her alive'

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MASON, Ohio - The kitchen floor in Ryan Widmer’s mother's house, where one of her sons discovered her body the day before, was littered with feces. The first-floor living room and bedroom were strewn with clothing and loose papers.

This was how Jill Widmer lived, her sister told 9 On Your Side’s Scott Wegener after inviting him into the house Tuesday.

The Warren County coroner said Tuesday that disease may have killed Jill Widmer, but judging from the unkempt house, another son’s 911 call and comments from people who knew her, a broken heart contributed.

“The family has been destroyed by this (Jill’s death),” said a man at the house who declined to give his name.

“Everything is upside-down now,” Jill Widmer’s sister said.

Ryan Widmer's attorney, Michelle Barry, said Widmer's 2011 conviction for killing his wife was more than his mother could take.

"Jill's decline in health was triggered by the tragedy in Ryan's case," Barry texted to 9 On Your Side. “The emotional toll of seeing her son wrongfully convicted and incarcerated ate her alive. She had no peace ever since he was charged."

Jill Widmer’s sister said the family may hold a small, private service because they don’t have any money. According to previous reports, they spent close to $500,000 defending Ryan Widmer through three notorious murder trials for the drowning of his wife Sarah in their bathtub in 2008.

For Ryan Widmer to attend his mother's funeral, family members must first make the request and then prison officials will have to decide whether to allow it.

In a 911 call Monday, a man identifying himself as Ayran Widmer, Ryan’s twin, said, “My mom's dead, looks like she's been dead a couple of days."

The caller said he found the body on the kitchen floor.

The 911 operator asked:  "Do you know if she's got any medical problems or anything like that?”

Caller: “She’s had a bunch. I mean, she's been in and out of the hospital for going on years now.”

Operator: “Like with her heart, anything like that?”

Caller: “I'm not sure exactly, there's been some, ah, like mental.”

According to the Warren County coroner, a preliminary autopsy report said Jill Widmer, 58, suffered from heart and liver disease. A toxicology report may take another month.

Foul play is not suspected, officials said.

Jill Widmer lived alone with two dogs in a two-story brick house on Slazenger Court, in an upscale Mason neighborhood. Authorities have not said how long she had been dead before her body was discovered. She was divorced from her husband, Gary.

Jill Widmer had steadfastly insisted her son Ryan could not have killed his wife. The first trial ended in a guilty verdict that was later thrown out because of juror misconduct. The second trial ended in a hung jury. The third time, in 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life.

Jill Widmer was not seen in court during the third trial, according to reports at the time. Her sister said she was in poor health.

Shortly before the third trial, Jill Widmer was charged with drunk driving. The arresting officer said she was too drunk to stand safely on one foot and complete the sobriety tests, and she had an open bottle of vodka in the console. But she spoke to the arresting officers about the stress she felt.

During a taped interview, she told officers, “I'm sure if it was any of your kids, you wouldn't be in any better shape than I am.”

After five years, Ryan Widmer's legal fight may be nearing its end. Barry is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their case.

The justices may make a decision on Sept. 30.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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