Friday, January 21, 2022

Buzzard sentenced for the murder of a Columbus man

By William Kincaid

Photo by Paige Sutter/The Daily Standard

Sarah Buzzard, 30, reads a written statement Thursday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court before being sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years.

CELINA — A Marion, Indiana woman was sentenced Thursday afternoon to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years for one count of aggravated murder, an unclassified felony.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffery Ingraham handed down the sentence to 30-year-old Sarah Buzzard, who was negotiated as part of a plea deal that spared her the death penalty for allegedly killed Ryan Zimmerman, 21, of Columbus. Buzzard had pleaded guilty on December 23.

Buzzard was credited with 149 days in the county jail and any additional days she served there until she was transferred to jail.

In the event that Buzzard is released from prison, she will be paroled under parole board supervision for five years to life. If she violated probation, she could face the remainder of her life sentence, Ingraham said.

Zimmerman’s partial skeletal remains were found by a woman walking her dog on January 23, 2016, east of US 127 at the mouth of Coldwater Creek, prompting a multi-year investigation by the sheriff’s office. of Mercer County.

“There is no sentence the court could pass today that can ever undo the harm Miss Buzzard did in her senseless murder of Ryan Zimmerman,” county attorney Matthew Fox said Thursday.

Fox said he hopes the conclusion of the case and the sentence will provide some form of closure for Zimmerman’s family and friends.

Buzzard issued a statement before sentencing, saying she was deeply sorry for the consequences of her actions and that she regretted not having the mental and emotional strength to do what was right and just and that rather, she had allowed herself to be inextricably entangled in the “violence” of his wife Naira Whitaker. and murderous plan.”

Whitaker in July 2015 moved in with Buzzard and Buzzard’s husband into their Columbus apartment and was engaging in an intimate relationship with Sarah Buzzard, according to the stipulation of facts in Buzzard’s guilty plea she had signed. Buzzard and her husband later divorced before Buzzard and Whitaker were married, according to the document. Whitaker reportedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot Aug. 25, 2021, when investigators attempted to arrest her in connection with the Zimmerman murder.

On Thursday, Buzzard called herself a good person hoping for a second chance. She said she accepts responsibility for the role she played in Zimmerman’s death. Buzzard claimed she was not a monster or a threat to society, not an evil force that deserves to be locked away forever. She called herself a flawed human who made a terrible mistake by getting involved in a serious situation.

Fox addressed the change in details from Buzzard’s initial account to statements provided at a pre-sentence inquest and statements made in court Thursday. During an Aug. 25, 2021, interview in Marion, Indiana, from which the stipulation of facts was drawn, Buzzard had taken full responsibility for Zimmerman’s murder, Fox said. She had confessed to strangling Zimmerman to death in the Columbus apartment in the presence of Whitaker, Fox said.

Fox said Buzzard told law enforcement that Whitaker helped her dismember Zimmerman’s body, clean up the scene, destroy evidence of a homicide, and dispose of Zimmerman’s body parts.

Buzzard had also told law enforcement that Zimmerman’s murder was an accident and caused her to ruin her life, Fox said. She claimed Zimmerman was the source of much argument and discontent in the home she shared with her then-husband, Fox noted.

She had indicated she was angry the day she killed Zimmerman, knocking him to the ground and strangling him after he came out of the bathroom, Fox said.

In the pre-sentence hearing, however, Buzzard changed course, saying Whitaker had had enough and that Whitaker planned to kill Zimmerman, Fox said. Buzzard reportedly said she didn’t take the plan seriously until Whitaker began gathering items to assassinate Zimmerman and cover up the crime, Fox said.

Following this revised account of events, Fox said Buzzard did nothing to save Zimmerman. Buzzard cited her love for Whitaker as the reason she didn’t act otherwise, Fox said.

Rather than warn Zimmerman or try to get him out of the residence to save him from being killed by Whitaker, Buzzard followed the plan and conspired to murder Zimmerman, dismember his body, and dump the parts in dumpsters. trash cans throughout the state and along the lake. in Mercer County, Fox said.

But for the purposes of Buzzard’s guilty plea, legal guilt was established in court last month and nothing Buzzard said in the pre-sentence inquest or in court on Thursday changes or negates that guilt, argued. Fox.

“Either she murdered Ryan herself or she is an accomplice to his murder and both are sufficient for this court to enter a sentence on an aggravated murder plea,” Fox said.

Photo by Paige Sutter/The Daily Standard

Warren Zimmerman, the victim’s father, gives a statement in the courtroom on Thursday.

Warren Zimmerman, the father of Ryan Zimmerman, addressed the court on Thursday, fighting back tears as he revealed “the pain, grief, anger and despair” he feels after losing his son.

Losing her son in such a barbaric and inhuman way is unconscionable, Warren Zimmerman said, adding that actions should have consequences and that Buzzard shouldn’t have a life outside of prison for what she did in prison. his son.

Warren Zimmerman also noted that his other son, Ray, has a special bond with Ryan. Ryan was good with his brother, teaching him a lot, playing video games and watching movies with him, the father said. Ray often stops in the middle of something to say he misses his brother, he continued.

On Thursday, the court also heard from Ryan’s sister, Amanda Moran via live video. She and Ryan were ten years apart. Ryan was smart, sweet and spoke way beyond his years, much like his own son, she said. Ryan was just trying to find himself and his place in the world, just starting to live for himself — and no one deserves to have that taken away from them, she said.

She expressed her regret knowing that her husband and children will never get to know the beautiful and sweet person she called her baby brother.

Photo by Paige Sutter/The Daily Standard

Linh Nhudieu, mother of Sarah Buzzard, stands behind her daughter outside the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas.

Fox argued that Buzzard deserved a harsher sentence than that provided for in the plea deal. However, due to these denials he conducted, a harsher sentence is not available to the court, Fox said.

Many cases are resolved through such negotiations where both sides compress their positions, Fox said, noting that the process has significant value for the justice system, the community, victims of crime, loved ones and representatives. legal. This can bring faster resolutions to cases and finality.

Ingraham, before handing down his sentence, pointed out that he was required by law to consider various factors, including that the victim had suffered serious physical harm in the form of death, that Buzzard’s relationship with the victim facilitated the offense and that it committed the offense as part of organized criminal activity.

Ingraham also noted that Buzzard had no previous delinquency judgments or criminal convictions in the past and therefore had been a law-abiding citizen for a significant number of years.


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