|Defense Witness: Melissa Waller|
|Written by Mike Mayleben|
|Friday, 06 May 2011 18:28|
Direct Exam: Jay Clark
She stated that she's from Issaquah, Washington, about 20 minutes from Seattle. She's 29 yrs. old and has been married for 5 ½ years with no children yet. She joked that their dogs are their children. She is an Administrative Assistant for a teacher's union and is married to a Firefighter/EMT. She attended Seattle University and got a degree in communications.
She began by stating that she watched Dateline regularly and saw the Sept. 18, 2009 episode about the Widmer case. She DVR'd the episode and watched it the next day. The DVR had cut off the ending, so she decided to "Google" Ryan's name to find out what happened and came across the 'freeryanwidmer' website. After she watched the episode by herself, she called her parents to discuss it with them and then had her husband watch it with her.
Clark asked if she had personal reasons for relating to it, and she replied yes; her sister-in-law also died unexpectedly, shortly after marrying her brother. He tried to save her and it was emotionally devastating to him. The episode touched her because it reminded her of the experience with her sister-in-law.
When she went to the 'freeryanwidmer' website, she made a small donation through PayPal because she saw that the family was in need. She received a generic "thank you" e-mail from Ryan. She then responded with an e-mail, telling him that she was "sorry" for his situation. She said they began exchanging emails after that.
Waller made a tribute video for him about the love he and Sarah shared. She got photos for the video from the 'freeryanwidmer' website and from Ryan himself; she posted it on YouTube on Oct. 2, 2009. Clark then showed her a CD which she identified as the one she made. She read the title, "Tribute to Sarah from Ryan's eulogy". The tribute video showed the words to the eulogy that Ryan wrote for Sarah’s funeral but when she was asked to read them, Arnold objected/sustained.
She wanted to make sure it was okay to post the tribute on YouTube, so she sent Ryan an email, telling him that she posted it, but added she would remove it immediately if he objected to it. She gave him her phone number so he could text her and let her know if it was okay. They started texting each other, but then started talking on the phone in the next few weeks. She thought she was the first to call.
Waller said they talked a lot about how much he missed Sarah, about her dad dying of cancer, and also generic conversations about her dogs and his. She also talked to him about the music on the tribute video and got the impression that country music, which was on the video, wasn't his favorite. He told her the song "Here without You" by 3 Doors Down reminded him of Sarah. Clark handed her a piece of paper with the lyrics to the song and told her to read the lyrics out loud; Arnold objected/sustained. Clark then tried to ask about the Motley Crue song and Arnold objected/sustained, four times for the same question asked differently.
She said she talked to Ryan a few times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Her husband knew that she talked to him and was okay with it. Clark handed her some papers which he identified as Ryan's cell phone records and pointed out a call on Oct. 26, 2009. [The same day Jennifer Crew testified he called her and confessed.] Pointing to a number on the paper, he asked if that was her cell phone number and she replied, "Yes". Clark then placed the cell phone record on the screen, which showed one line highlighted in green and asked her to indicate on the screen where her phone number was on the records. She pointed out three calls above the green line, which showed a phone call to Iowa.
Waller said that wasn't the first time she and Ryan talked on the phone. She said she still talks to Ryan today; they are friends. She has been to Cincinnati before, in November 2009. She stayed with Kim Liles for four days, attended a bowling fundraiser and met Ryan.
She said she understood that Ryan had contact with supporters from all over the country. Clark tried to ask if she ever used a false name to buy prescription drugs, used a false social security number, been convicted of theft or fraud but Arnold kept objecting/sustained. He finally was able to ask if she'd ever been convicted of a crime and she replied, "No".
Clark then tried to ask if she had ever been diagnosed as bi-polar or if she had ever been addicted to drugs and Arnold again objected/sustained. At this point, the judge warned Clark that he would be suspended if he tried to continue this line of questioning. Arnold told Clark to take down the phone records, which he did, but said he wasn't done yet. Clark asked Waller if she was nervous coming here, and she replied yes; she had never been inside a court room before.
Asked if she has ever spoken to someone who was drunk or too emotionally distraught to speak, she replied that she has. Clark then put the phone records back on the screen and pointed out that the first of three calls was at 8:57 p.m., Cincinnati time, and lasted one minute. The next call was at 9:05 p.m. and lasted 110 minutes. Waller said during that call, Ryan was not emotionally distraught or drunk. She said he never got so emotional that he could barely speak, in response to Clark's question. The last call was at 10:55 p.m. and once again, Waller said he was not emotionally distraught or drunk. Clark asked again if he ever got so emotional that he could barely speak and she replied, "No". The three phone calls totaled 116 minutes. She said throughout every conversation she’s had with Ryan, he's never appeared to be intoxicated or emotionally distraught. Clark asked if she was positive that he was not upset or drunk on this day. Arnold objected again/sustained and the judge told Clark that if he had no other questions to sit down. "I have no other questions", replied Clark as he sat down.
Cross Exam: John Arnold
He began by asking if she took down items from Facebook in the last few days and she replied yes, because of the media attention. Arnold asked if she removed the items when her name was disclosed to the prosecution, but Clark objected/sustained. Arnold then asked if she removed them when her name became public and she replied, not all of them. She confirmed to Arnold that her sister-in-law died suddenly from Lupus.
She acknowledged she was e-mailed by Ryan through his yahoo.com address, not through a FreeRyanWidmer.com e-mail address. She also agreed that e-mails progressed to phone calls and text messages, but not instant messages. She thought it was a couple of weeks before the text messages progressed to phone calls.
During their conversations, Ryan never talked about Sarah's family, other than her father and that he died of cancer. He didn't talk about Sarah's father's hobbies or anything. He also didn't tell her Sarah's nickname as a child. The night of Oct. 26, he didn't tell her about Chris Kist helping to move furniture or if Chris was at Jill's house or not, during their phone call.
Waller said she's aware there were friends and family members who participated in the Dateline episode and the ‘freeryanwidmer’ website. They were also at the fundraiser. She made two small donations through the website, and one through the fundraiser. "You supported him?" Arnold asked and Clark objected, saying, "She never said she ‘supported him’, she said she donated to him."
She sent him a picture of herself towards the beginning of when they started e-mailing each other but disagreed when Arnold asked if Ryan encouraged her to provide moral or financial support to him.
She watched the Dateline episode twice, she said. She doesn't know if there was an NFL game on Oct. 26 but was aware that there was a football game on TV the day Sarah died.
She admitted she doesn't know what Ryan would sound like if intoxicated or upset because he's never been that way when she talked to him. She acknowledged that she has met other supporters but never met a supporter from New York named Sarah Manherz. Nothing further.
Re-Direct: Jay Clark
Waller said she didn't see the phone records until today.
She agreed that she's dealt with people who are drunk, and they don't all sound the same.
She said she sent a photo of herself to Ryan within the first week of emailing and it was of herself, not a friend or someone else. Nothing further.