911 dispatcher on Widmer call may have been asleep, report says

Information casts doubt on testimony that suggested the 911 call might have been staged.

LEBANON — The Warren County dispatcher who answered the crucial 911 call from Ryan Widmer reporting his wife’s drowning may have been sound asleep prior to the call, according to a report.

The report, released Wednesday, Oct. 14, by the county, details what happened the night of Aug. 11, 2008, when Widmer reached dispatcher Ron Kronenberger.

It was the 10:48 p.m. call jurors said they hung their hats on when they convicted Widmer of drowning Sarah Widmer in the bathtub of their home. Jurors said they felt Widmer had staged the call.

Nancy Machulskiy, operations services manager in the dispatch center, wrote in a report that Kronenberger mishandled the call.

“Kronenberger sounded as if he came out of a sound sleep and tried to handle a very serious-natured incident,” she wrote. “It seemed as though he was having a hard time comprehending what the caller was saying and kept repeating himself.”

She said that while the outcome wouldn’t have been any different, Kronenberger should have at least helped Widmer through CPR procedures when he said he wasn’t sure how to do it correctly.

According to the report, Kronenberger is a habitual sleeper on duty. Emergency Services Director Frank Young, in the same report, apparently told Kronenberger he handled the call poorly and the dispatcher apologized.

During the trial, Kronenberger made several statements about Widmer’s “performance” during the 911 call. He said it sounded as if Widmer was blowing into the cell phone instead of his wife’s mouth, trying to revive her.

It’s unclear why the report was not released until this week and what, if any, actions were taken against Kronenberger.

Young could not be reached for comment.

Warren County Commissioner Mike Kilburn said he learned of the report on Friday, Oct. 9, and the commissioners met this week to discuss the issue. They have directed county Administrator Dave Gully to hire a consultant to review of the management of the communications center.

“We don’t think it’s appropriate to have the prosecutor do it, for obvious reasons,” he said.

Widmer’s attorney said the report shows the many errors in the case.

“The Widmers needed help during this very critical time and Kronenberger failed,” defense attorney Jay Clark said. “While our plan from the beginning has always been to approach and try Ryan’s case very differently, information such as this brings to light just one of the many errors committed by the first-responders.”

County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel could not be reached for comment.

Widmer, who is free on bail, is awaiting his new trial set for March 15, 2010. He was granted a new trial when the judge ruled that there was juror misconduct in the first trial.

His wife, Sarah, was a 2002 graduate of Edgewood High School in Butler County.

Contact this reporter at (513) 696-4525 or dcallahan@coxohio.com.

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