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'Compassionate' double speak

Matt Westerhold • Dec 30, 2013 at 6:07 AM

Sandusky County coroner John Wukie is stuck between a hair trigger and a rock. The gun that killed Jacob Limberios on March 2, 2012, has the hair trigger; Wukie’s ruling on the cause of death is the rock.

“Reason for death: Suicide. Gunshot wound to head. Deceased shot self in head, may not have realized the gun was loaded.”

Wukie and his attorney, Dean Henry, especially, seem to have been playing semantics ever since Wukie wrote that weird description on Jake’s death certificate. 

The coroner’s erroneous wording has denied Jacob’s 5-year-old daughter Ella a small life insurance claim. It’s also cost his parents more than $100,000 in their “search for the truth.” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine agrees with the Limberios family: Wukie did not give them that in his death certificate.

He also is denying Ella the benefit of knowing her father did not commit suicide by refusing to change it. 

He’s digging in his heels despite mounting evidence and despite the opinion shared by almost everyone: This was not a suicide. For his part, attorney Henry is not defending the indefensible cause of death ruling in his court motion against a correction to the death certificate; he’s fighting a correction strictly on procedural grounds. 

Wukie disclosed during an Oct. 10 softball interview with a state BCI agent investigating Jake’s death that he voluntarily distorted his own ruling, and then complains newspapers distorted the meaning of it. 

“The one piece I’ve seen in newspapers stated frequently is that I ruled this an accidental suicide and that’s clearly not true,” Wukie tells the BCI agent. “I never ruled it an accidental suicide.”

But words have meaning. The agent conducting the interview appears to have understood that meaning the same way reporters and newspaper editors understood it. He tells Wukie the accidental suicide description might be the result “of that compassionate part” Wukie put on the death certificate, referring to the “(he) may not have realized the gun was loaded” phrase. 

“I put that in there purely for compassion for the mother, to give her some question about intention,” Wukie tells the BCI agent. 

Clearly, the phrase suggests Jake’s death could have been an accident. It seems equally clear from the interview that Wukie also distorted his own suicide ruling on the public record, out of “compassion,” he says, to give Jake’s mother “some question about intention.”

What a sweet guy. He appears to have distorted his own words and then accuses others of distortion. 

But Shannon Limberios never knew of Wukie’s compassion, nor his sweetness. She didn’t even know he decided to rule Jake’s death a suicide until she received a copy of the death certificate in the mail from Wukie just weeks after she buried Jake. 

And his compassion did not extend past those distorted words about suicide on the death certificate. The family asked Wukie to order an autopsy, but he refused and never did return multiple calls from Shannon Limberios after March 2012.

And those distorted words used by Wukie don’t match what deputies suspected right from the start. 

“Everybody there was extremely shocked about what occurred,” Sandusky County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Meggitt told a reporter hours after Jake was killed. “He wasn’t distraught. There’s not one person there that thought he did that intentionally.”

Wukie’s distorted words also don’t match the findings of the Ohio Attorney General’s four-month investigation. Wukie never conducted any investigation.

“Everything just totally points to an accident,” DeWine told the Register. “We have no evidence he killed himself at all.”

But Wukie appears to think he’s smarter than Meggitt and DeWine and smarter than former New York medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden, and forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who combined have performed more than 20,000 autopsies. Wukie, who has never performed an autopsy and attended college just four years, thinks he’s right and they’re wrong. 

Wukie even appears ready to challenge editors at Merriam-Webster and their dictionary definition of “suicide,” or, at least, have those editors adjust the definition for geographical preferences. 

“In this region of the state, the feeling is that if someone puts a gun to their head and pulls the trigger and it goes bang and they die, we call those suicides,” Wukie told the BCI investigator, suggesting other regions might require intent for a suicide ruling, but not in his county.  

The hell with intent; the hell with a hair trigger; and hell with failed lie detector tests.

Wukie knows better, and, he’s compassionate.

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