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Sandusky County won't turn Limberios investigation over to state

Emil Whitis • Feb 12, 2013 at 12:48 PM

On Friday, Sandusky County Sheriff's Detective Sean O'Connell told the Register and Limberios family attorney Dan McGookey that he'd ask the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to take over an 11-month-old investigation into the March 2 shooting death of Jacob Limberios.

When O'Connell hung up the phone, however, Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer vetoed the agreement. 

"I said (to O'Connell), 'You better wait until you talk to (Sandusky County coroner John) Wukie,'" Overmyer said. "It's up to Dr. Wukie — he's the one that ordered (the third investigation)."

O'Connell did not return multiple phone calls Monday seeking comment. 

Deputies closed their initial investigation within hours of Wukie ruling Jacob's death an accidental suicide. 

At about 9:30 p.m. March 2, deputies found Jacob, 19, lying dead in a County Road 294 home. He had a single gunshot wound to the head. 

Deputies found a .357 revolver near the body, although the sheriff's office didn't actually retrieve the fatal bullet from the home until eight months later. 

Three witnesses — two men and a woman — were in the home when Jacob died. They all told deputies Jacob shot himself, and he may not have known the gun was loaded. 

Wukie ruled it a suicide and released Jacob's body to a funeral home the next day. 

Jacob's family still had questions in the weeks that followed, but deputies told them the investigation was closed. 

Not until McGookey and Jacob's parents, Mike and Shannon Limberios, stormed Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt's office did Stierwalt order his investigator, William Kaiser, to take another look at the case. 

Kaiser got two of the three witnesses to take polygraph tests. In July he said the polygraph results showed the two were telling the truth. 

Kasier's final report also said there was no evidence that Jacob meant to shoot himself. 

In September —after months of pleading with authorities to conduct an autopsy — the family took matters into their own hands. They paid to have Jacob's body exhumed and sent to Pittsburgh for an examination by renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht. 

In December, Wecht dropped a bombshell. He said it was a homicide and, in his opinion, someone shot Jacob. 

By then, under mounting pressure from a lawsuit filed by the Limberios family, Wukie reopened the investigation a third time and placed O'Connell in charge.

In November, O'Connell sifted through the witness statements and photos of the scene. From the attic of the home, he recovered the bullet that killed Jacob. 

He also reinterviewed the three witnesses, and he later told the Register he found "major inconsistencies" in their statements. 

Then, on Friday, O'Connell agreed to ask BCI to take over the case, given that he was essentially investigating the work product of his higher-ups in Sandusky County — Overmyer, Wukie and Stierwalt. 

But on Monday — just three days after agreeing to ask BCI to step in — O'Connell back-pedaled and sent a lengthy email to McGookey. 

"I truly think that it's in the best interest of my agency and those that I work for that I NOT ask the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) to take over my investigation," O'Connell said. "I am comfortable and confident that … this investigation will conclude with what really happened on March 2, 2012." 

Overmyer said O'Connell is hard at work and giving the case "110 percent."

Overmyer also confirmed that he ordered O'Connell not to let BCI take the case.  

"We just want this thing to be thorough," Overmyer said. "I truly feel for the family."

Depositions in the case are scheduled for next week. Subpoenas have been issued to O'Connell, Wukie, Overmyer, Kaiser, Stierwalt, deputy Zach Zender, the three witnesses, and Steve Stechschulte, the BCI employee who conducted the polygraph tests.

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