FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For more than five years, the Zimmerman family waited for the call. Hoped for it. Then Wednesday it came. An arrest in Ryan Zimmerman’s death.
“It’s just one of those moments when you don’t know how to feel. You think when you get that phone call you’re going to feel happy or relief, but I didn’t,” Randy Zimmerman, Ryan’s older brother, said. “I felt sad and a little angry. I just thought about him and how much I miss him. It brought back everything.”
Ryan, who was born and grew up in Mississippi, disappeared in November 2015 after moving to Columbus, Ohio from Kentucky. The 21-year-old’s dismembered remains were found in 2016 in Mercer County, Ohio. But, they weren’t identified as his until June of 2020. Thursday, the Mercer County Sheriff said a woman was arrested in his death. Ryan was living with her and her then husband in Columbus when he disappeared.
Randy told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that Ryan was “one of a kind” and the sweetest person, who loved his family more than anything. He said his baby brother just wanted to be loved and accepted. Even after his death, he deserves just that.
“Someone obviously took advantage of his heart, but through all of this I want to celebrate him,” Randy said. “He searched out to people he didn’t even know. He was just searching for someone to fill a void inside of him. I want people to think about that. Maybe teach your kids to be sweet.”
Ryan was into science and video games. His older brother said he was bullied in high school, adding it’s unbelievable to think of the things that someone did to him because he was truly the sweetest person.
The last time he spoke to his brother, Randy described the conversation as “vague” and Ryan said he just wanted to get away for a little while.
“I didn’t think much of it at the time. I guess… you know it just makes me think that he was probably struggling at that moment,” Randy said.
Ryan was the third born out of four siblings. Randy said Ryan was really close with their youngest brother Raymond, who has special needs.
“Ryan absolutely adored Raymond. He understood him being special needs. He loved baby-sitting him. He loved to teach Ray how to play video games,” Randy remembered. “When Ryan first went missing, I think the hardest part was, Raymond has Down syndrome, so he just kept asking ‘When is Ryan coming home?'”
Randy added that he is finding strength knowing that his brother is “in the arms of Jesus” and that he is no longer being judged or in pain.
He also said he wants people to use his brother’s story to remember to show kindness.
“You never know how close they are, or how much they are on the brink of making a crazy move that they’ll maybe regret,” Randy said.
Before moving to Columbus, Ohio, Ryan spent around two years in Kentucky. He spent most of his life in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.