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Forensic expert: Limberios death was homicide

Emil Whitis • Feb 12, 2013 at 12:50 PM

It's also a direct contradiction to Sandusky County coroner John Wukie's confusing opinion that Jacob accidentally committed suicide.  

During an autopsy of the body, Wecht found no gunpowder burns on or inside Jacob's head.

"Examination of the exposed scalp surrounding the entrance wound revealed no evidence of stippling or gun powder residue," Wecht stated in a Dec. 12 report, which the Register obtained this past week. "This shot would have been fired beyond a distance of 24 inches."

Wecht also noted the bullet passed through Jacob's head at a downward angle. It's all the more confounding, given that investigators had recovered the fatal bullet from the ceiling inside the home where Jacob died.

Stated Wecht's report: "I find it extremely difficult to envision a scenario in which Jacob Limberios could have shot himself either accidentally or with suicidal intent. Accordingly, it is my professional opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the manner of death in this case should be considered a homicide."

Wecht's letter effectively throws the Jacob Limberios case into a new dimension – or at least a place where Sandusky County officials would likely rather not go.   

Just hours after Jacob was shot and killed inside a County Road 294 home, Wukie issued a coroner's report listing the cause of death as "suicide. Gunshot wound to head. Deceased shot self in head, may not have realized gun was loaded."

Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer and a few deputies had been at the scene that night, too, but they all left without collecting the bullet from the ceiling. About eight months later, sheriff's Detective Sean O'Connell recovered the bullet.

Three people were inside the house with Jacob that night, and they all told deputies Jacob shot himself.  

Jacob's body was found lying on the living room, a .357 handgun nearby.

His family pleaded with Sandusky County officials to conduct an autopsy, but they refused, saying it was closed.

In late September the family paid to exhume their son's body and send it to Pittsburgh, where Wecht could conduct a full autopsy.

The findings are nothing short of astonishing.

"It's just one of many terrible ironies in this case," said Dan McGookey, the Sandusky attorney hired by Jacob's parents, Mike and Shannon Limberios. "Nine months ago we were begging for an autopsy. Now that we got an answer they didn't want, they want to exhume the body for a second time."

Wukie's state-appointed attorney, Dean Henry, now wants a second opinion — he said he's just doing what any attorney would do, seeking their own expert for an independent opinion.

"They bought and paid for their expert … (and) they got the results they paid for," Henry said.

He said he's merely seeking the same opportunity.

On Thursday, Mike Limberios withdrew his support for a second autopsy until the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation completes its forensic testing of the gun.

"I've already got my answer," Mike said. "I know what didn't happen — my son didn't shoot himself that night at that house."

Henry said he has, for now, put the brakes on his plan for a second exhumation.  

"I understand the family is frustrated," Henry said. "But frustration isn't going to get us where we need to be.

"There's more than one way to do this," Henry said. "I was trying to do it in a way that was courteous and respectful. I'm going to discuss the matter with (Wukie)."

About three months ago, Sandusky County deputies sent the .357 Magnum to BCI for ballistics and finger-print testing. In about 90 days since, BCI hasn't returned any results, McGookey said.

A recent publication printed by the Ohio Attorney General's Office said the average processing time for a gun is about 16 days.

McGookey said he withheld Wecht's homicide ruling from the Register as a sign of goodwill to Sandusky County officials and investigators. He was hoping investigators would get things done, so he wouldn't have to add extra pressure from the media.

But that goodwill ended this past week when McGookey emailed the Register copy of Wecht's report.

McGookey and others had said all along that Wukie's report on Jacob's death made no sense.   

Wecht, in fact, called it an "oxymoron" — there's no way to die of suicide unintentionally.  

Even Henry agreed there's a problem: "Yes, I see a contradiction," he said.

McGookey plans to subpoena the three witnesses, Wukie and Sheriff Kyle Overmyer for depositions in February.

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