MERCER COUNTY, Ohio (WANE) — The Marion woman arrested in the killing and dismemberment of a Columbus, Ohio, man has been sentenced.

Sarah E. Buzzard was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years in the slaying of Ryan Zimmerman, whose remains were found in West Bank State Park off U.S. 127 in Mercer County, Ohio, in January 2016, sawed apart.

Buzzard pleaded guilty to one count of Aggravated Murder last week in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.


The case began to unfold in January 2016, a person walking a dog found what turned out to be human remains in West Bank State Park off U.S. 127.

In June of 2020, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office announced a forensic anthropologist using DNA positively identified those remains as the 21-year old Zimmerman. Some of his remains have never been found.

Based on forensic evidence, investigators determined Zimmerman was originally from Corbin, Kentucky. They spoke with his parents and learned Zimmerman had moved to Columbus in the months before his death. He had moved in with Sarah Buzzard and her ex-husband, who he had met on social media.

Investigators served numerous search warrants on various tech companies, specifically social media firms.

Based on information gained from those warrants, detectives were able to hone in on where Zimmerman was killed and they contacted the Columbus, Ohio Police Department for assistance in the case. Detectives then established that possible suspects lived in Marion, Indiana, and were able to find out exactly where the killing and dismemberment took place.

Next, investigators found the car that had been used to transport Zimmerman’s remains from Columbus to Mercer County where they were dumped. It had been sold and detectives made contact with the new owner who willingly cooperated with them.

Investigators eventually gathered enough evidence to issue arrest warrants, and went to take Buzzard into custody. When detectives served the search warrant on Buzzard’s wife, Naria Jenna Whitaker pulled a handgun from her purse and shot herself dead in front of five police officers.

Buzzard was jailed on 18 charges including two counts of Murder, four counts of Tampering with Evidence, and misdemeanor and felony Abuse of a Corpse.

Her guilty plea agreement dismissed all other charges.