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Ohio AG's team shows up lame

Matt Westerhold • Oct 7, 2013 at 5:06 AM

State prosecutors Matt Donahue and Marianne Hemmeter are bobbing and weaving in a way that might make Sandusky County officials proud to be part of the team. 

The duo from Ohio AG Mike DeWine's office is charged with making a final determination what happened March 2, 2012, the night Jacob Limberios was killed. 

But do Donahue and Hemmeter really want to know? 

"They told us they were winding up their investigation and didn't intend to interview Will Lewis," attorney Dan McGookey said. "How can you finish an investigation without talking to a primary witness? That makes no sense." 

McGookey said the AG's office is avoiding the difficult questions and it appears it might be determined to button up the investigation as neatly as possible without addressing difficult questions that should be answered. 

Donahue suggested Lewis, who saw Jacob get killed inside the York Township home, had exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness or talk to investigators. They couldn't talk to Lewis, according to Donahue, because he refused to talk.

Except Lewis is talking — to Dr. Phil — and he and Brittany Bowers, who also was with Jacob when he was killed, both took fresh lie detector tests on the "Dr. Phil" program after they were flown to California to be guests on an upcoming installment of nationally syndicated talk program.

It's pretty lame that Donahue and BCI investigators can't talk to witnesses, but witnesses can talk to Dr. Phil. 

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Donahue also can't document that Lewis reserved his right not to testify. His suggestion he did suggests Donahue and BCI were looking for a way to avoid it. There's no documentation that any of the witnesses have been interviewed — or more importantly, interrogated — at all.

An investigation, by nature, demands hard questions. In this case, with the AG and BCI, and with Sandusky County officials before them, nobody other than the family seems willing to ask any difficult questions or push for any plausible answers. 

The investigators seem content to allow evidence to be destroyed; let witnesses simply tell a story without questioning them; provide "testing" to support those stories; ignore any inconsistencies; and walk away saying "No harm, no foul. Yay for the home team."    

Lie detector tests the Ohio AG's office provided in June 2012, through the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, have been challenged as being bogus and providing false information to Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt's investigator, retired deputy Bill Kaiser, during his investigation.

Donahue and Hemmeter might be investigating BCI, and what occurred with its polygraph unit, but they refuse to confirm that. 

Ohio AG spokesman Dan Tierney refused to answer questions about the allegedly false test results BCI provided, suggesting it was part of the ongoing investigation. But Tierney refused to say whether the AG's office was concerned whether the BCI polygraph unit might be compromised and whether any corrective action would be taken if that's determined to have happened.  

Donahue and Hemmeter also have refused to say what, if any, blood evidence was destroyed after Sandusky County sheriff Kyle Overmyer and deputies started the investigation immediately after Jacob was killed. The Limberios family contends shoes and other blood-spattered clothing and physical evidence was discarded. 

Supporters of the Limberios family have documented those concerns, and others, at "Justice for Jake & Ella," a Facebook page they created that has garnered more than 10,000 fans who follow the updates posted at the site. Transcripts, taped interviews with witnesses and other documentation is posted at the page.

Ella is Jacob's 4-year-old daughter. 

Overmyer acknowledged earlier this year that some evidence was destroyed by a witness in the presence of a deputy. But he and other local and state officials have refused to provide detail or respond to inquiries about specifically what physical evidence was retained and what evidence was destroyed or discarded. 

Tierney also refused to respond to that inquiry, or say whether and how the destruction of evidence might hamper the current investigation and how that might be remedied.

If any Sandusky County law enforcement official was feeling some heat from the multiple missteps and bad practices that occurred while they were in charge, Donahue and Hemmeter seem determined to bring them comfort. Local officials do indeed, it seems, have friends in Columbus.  

Donahue and Hemmeter are mimicking the very same, slovenly, bureaucratic practices that protracted this investigation beyond any reasonable timeframe from the start. Local officials and now state officials have bungled nearly every basic step in criminal investigation from the very start to this day, creating new standards of incompetence. 

Or old, and regular standards that have always been there but have been hidden from view. 

Click here to read about other families in difficult circumstances in the Register series, "Stabbed, beaten, burnt and zapped."

That might be the case; close partnerships between the BCI and local law enforcement forged by time and a brotherhood. It's fitting the story to the story without accounting for evidence, or addressing flaws that make the story police want to tell implausible.  

The family has raised specific concerns and provided Donahue and Hemmeter with specific, documented, information to warrant that anxiety. The family's questions and requests to the Ohio AG have been reasonable, polite and persistent. 

The response, or more correctly stated, the non-response to legitimate inquiries the family received — first from Sandusky County officials and now from DeWine and company in Columbus — has not been reasonable. It's being irresponsible.

Ignoring the family's legitimate questions doesn't make those questions go away, or diminish their legitimacy.

Ignoring the questions, instead, simply diminishes the stature of the Ohio Attorney General's office, and the validity of its investigation.

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