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Indiana Woman Sentenced For 2015 Murder, Dismemberment Of Husband's Lover In Ohio

Sarah Buzzard received a life sentence for the murder and dismemberment of Ryan Zimmerman, with whom she was involved in a complicated 4-way romantic relationship. 

By Megan Carpentier
Sarah Buzzard Sentenced In Brutal Murder of Ryan Zimmerman

An Indiana woman will spend most — if not all — of the rest of her life in prison after killing and dismembering a man in Ohio that she reportedly believed had ruined her marriage.

Sarah Buzzard, 30, received a life sentence on Jan. 20 for the aggravated murder of Ryan Zimmerman, 21, according to Dayton CBS affiliate WHIO, as part of a plea deal that allowed her to avoid a death sentence. A grand jury had indicted her in September on two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping, assault, abduction, tampering with evidence, grand theft auto, possessing criminal tools and two counts of abuse of a corpse, the Lima News reported.

She will be eligible for parole after 30 years.

On the afternoon of Jan. 5, 2016, a person walking on the west side of Grand Lake St. Mary's State Park in Mercer County, Ohio found skeletal remains and called police, the Mercer County Outlook reported. The body had been dismembered at the neck, and the arms and at the legs; police were never able to recover the head, the arms below the elbows, or the legs below the knees.

In June 2020, the partial remains were identified, with the help of DNA evidence, as belonging to Zimmerman. His father had reported him missing on Nov. 17, 2015 after the city of Columbus notified the family that his car had been impounded, but they couldn't reach their son. Zimmerman who had told his family he was moving to Columbus in August 2015 to live with friends, last spoke to his family on Sept. 25, 2015. His car was impounded two days later.

Jail records indicate that Buzzard was arrested on Aug. 25, 2021. Police attempted to arrest her wife, Naria Jenna Whitaker, 33, later that the same day at the couple's home in Marion, Indiana, but Whitaker died by suicide, shooting herself shortly after police arrived, the Outlook reported.

Police said Buzzard confessed to strangling and then dismembering Zimmerman and using her car, a 2007 Toyota Corolla, to transport his remains, reported Fort Wayne CBS affiliate WANE. She then sold the car, but police tracked it down prior to her arrest and were able to recover evidence from it.

During her guilty plea in Dec. 2021, prosecutors explained Buzzard's alleged motive for the crime, as reported by the Celina Daily Standard.

According to prosecuting attorney Matthew Fox, Zimmerman had been using social media as a means to begin "exploring his sexuality and sexual preference," and in the spring of 2015, began corresponding with Buzzard's husband (who had responded to a sexually-themed Craigslist ad that Zimmerman had placed). He then began speaking to Buzzard as well. 

At some point, the husband invited Zimmerman to move to Columbus to live with him and Buzzard and have an "intimate relationship" with the husband. Zimmerman moved in on Aug. 6, 2015.

Whitaker — the woman who police believe participated in the murder of Zimmerman — had already been living with Buzzard and her husband since July 2015 and had an "intimate relationship" with Buzzard. 

On Sept. 25, 2015, Buzzard's husband checked into a hotel in downtown Columbus with a fifth party visiting from Athens — about 84 miles southeast of Columbus — and didn't check out until Sept. 27. Buzzard allegedly killed Zimmerman while her husband was at the hotel with the unidentified person.

Zimmerman was not seen after that weekend. Police and prosecutors say Buzzards now-ex-husband is not suspected in his murder.

Buzzard and her husband filed for divorce in Nov. 2015 and, two months later, their marriage was officially over. She married Whitaker less than two weeks later. 

After her arrest, prosecutors said, she confessed to being angry at Zimmerman for ruining her marriage and said she and her then-husband had repeated arguments about him. When her husband was away, she knocked Zimmerman down after he exited their home's bathroom and then held him in a chokehold until well after he lost consciousness. Whitaker, she told them, helped her dismember Zimmerman, clean up the scene and dispose of his body parts.

She allegedly told police that she and Whitaker drove Zimmerman's body parts to multiple locations besides the park where his torso was found, including several different gas station dumpsters.

During her plea agreement this month, Buzzard read a statement, acknowledging she was a "flawed person."

"Not a day goes by that I do not wish for a chance to take it all back,” she said, according to the Mercer County Outlook. “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.”

Fox, the prosecutor, took issue with part of her statement.

"She claims, as I said a moment ago, she is a flawed person," he told the court, the Lima NBC affiliate WLIO reported. "Well, aren't we all flawed? But yet, she's the only in the room, committing an aggravated murder."