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DeWine one poor prosecutor

Matt Westerhold • Jun 15, 2014 at 4:02 AM

Jess Burdine and his family have waited nearly seven years.

Brenda Naus has waited for 15 years.

Another cold case

Christina Fegley, five years. 

Rape victim not consenting

The family of Bryan Jones has waited four years. 

Sleeping man killed

Richard Cordle, 25 years, which is more than half his life. 

Unsolved Bellevue hatchet murder

More than 1,600 people have signed a petition asking Gov. John Kasich to remove Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt and sheriff Kyle Overmyer from office, using a state law that gives the governor that power.

More than 20,000 people have signed on as followers of the Justice for Jake & Ella Facebook page, which has morphed into a movement uniting the families against what they contend is corruption in Sandusky County.


Craig Burdine died at the Sandusky County jail after being brought there severely injured and being dragged inside by Fremont police officers and jail guards. Burdine was barely conscious, or already unconscious, when he was taken inside.

He was still handcuffed and shackled when he allegedly scuffled with the officers, who then used a Taser repeatedly to subdue him. He died minutes after being dragged inside.

There is no surveillance video from the police cruisers and the jail that shows Burdine being combative, as the guards and officers contended. In every frame of video, Burdine appears non-responsive.

One of the jail guards, in a subsequent deposition, said Burdine was showing “passive restraint” when they wrestled with him and used the Taser repeatedly to subdue him.

That might be the most accurate official statement of all from the sheriff's office and the Fremont police: Craig Burdine was Tasered and died because he was being passive.

There was no criminal investigation after Craig Burdine died, even though the circumstances of his death clearly required one be conducted, including a deadly force review.

There was no criminal investigation, even though the Fremont police and the Sandusky County sheriff's office assured the family they would conduct a thorough investigation.

Detective Sean O'Connell later acknowledged — in 2010 — he did not conduct that full investigation as promised, but rather was simply reviewing the involvement of Fremont police officers and was not concerned with how Burdine died.

He reversed himself again, however, after DeWine agreed to conduct a criminal investigation in August, saying he already conducted a full investigation in the weeks after Craig Burdine died.

But he didn't.


It doesn't matter what O'Connell said in 2007 about a criminal investigation, or what he said in 2010 reversing himself, or what he said in 2013, reversing himself again about whether there was a criminal investigation.

O'Connell, the Fremont police and the Sandusky County sheriff's office never conducted a criminal investigation after Craig Burdine died at the Sandusky County Jail on Aug. 11, 2007.

The detective and Sheriff Overmyer have never explained that, or the conflicting information that's been provided, which the Burdine family says was designed to cover up what really happened.

O'Connell went through the motions, reviewing matching written statements prepared by the jail guards and the police officers immediately after Burdine died about their recollections of what had occurred.

Those statements stand as a primary part of the official story: Craig Burdine was being combative, they all wrote.

Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser's autopsy report, based in large part on the inaccurate information O'Connell and others provided her, is the other part of the official story: Craig Burdine's death was self-inflicted due to drug and alcohol intoxification and a condition called excited delirium.

But a manufacturer's warning regarding the use of Tasers specifically cautions against using the weapon on handcuffed subjects suffering from excited delirium. To do so, according to the Taser manufacturer, can result in instant death.

That's a detail Beisser and O'Connell did not address in filing reports that appear to ignore the real circumstances of what occurred.

And DeWine, his investigators, and his lead prosecutor, appear to be doing the same thing, ignoring specific information in order to reach a pre-ordained conclusion.

They telegraphed that intention from the first meeting with the Burdine family after agreeing to conduct a criminal investigation, telling them the statute of limitations might make it difficult to secure criminal indictments.

It's a statement that just isn't true.

DeWine appears to be showing the same kind of cover-up behavior — ignoring eyewitness and scientific evidence — throughout his investigation and the ongoing grand jury hearings in Sandusky County.

The stilted nature of the hearings — seven days of testimony over six weeks — bears witness to that, especially given that few, if any, of the officers and guards, and other eyewitnesses and key witnesses have been called to testify.

It's often said a prosecutor can use a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, if he wants.

In this case, DeWine appears to be using this grand jury to just make it all go away.


Get live coverage at sanduskyregister.com when the grand jury returns Monday.

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