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Cell phone snooping could lead to charges

Jessica Cuffman • May 15, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Investigators are trying to determine if someone planted monitoring software on the cell phone of a woman loosely connected to the Jacob Limberios case.

Keri Lakner, 41, of Bay View, called Erie County deputies Sunday when her cell phone went on the fritz.

“She was using the phone, she was looking at the phone, all of a sudden, the phone just started to go blank,” Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said. “All the information started to be deleted out of it.”

Lakner is the mother of Brittany Bowers, one of three witnesses who were inside a Sandusky County home in March 2012, the night Jacob Limberios, 19, died of a gunshot wound to the head.

She and the other two witnesses told deputies Jacob shot himself, and Sandusky County officials quickly ruled it an accidental suicide.  

Lakner is also the mother of Kayleigh Bowers, who is the mother of Jacob’s daughter.

The Limberios family spent months urging Sandusky County officials to further investigate Jacob’s death, and when their efforts failed, the family hired forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht to conduct an autopsy. Wecht determined Jacob’s death was the result of homicide, not suicide.     

Tensions have been high this past year between the Limberios family and Sandusky County officials. The county recently ordered the second exhumation of Jacob’s body, and the Lucas County coroner conducted an autopsy, the results of which are pending.          

Erie County authorities now suspect two men are responsible for planting some type of listening software on Lakner’s phone. According to a deputy’s report, Lakner’s phone may have been accessed and compromised sometime late last week at the Castalia home of Jacob’s parents, Mike and Shannon Limberios, although the report does not indicate who was involved. 

Deputies have already interviewed one of the suspects, who provided information about the suspected listening technology. About two to three days worth of conversations or phone calls would have been monitored in that timeframe.  

On Monday, Erie County deputies sent Lakner’s cell phone to a Toledo police lab, where analysts determined software was installed on the phone to secretly listen to phone conversations or to turn the phone into a listening device that could pick up nearby conversations.   

If monitoring technology was installed on Lakner’s phone without her knowledge, the suspects could face state charges related to wiretapping or unauthorized use of property, both of which are felonies, Sigsworth said.

Deputies are still analyzing the findings from the Toledo police analysis, although ultimately it will be up to the Erie County prosecutor to decide on charges.   

In other developments, the Limberios family’s attorney, Dan McGookey, and Sandusky County officials have reached an agreement on what has been a sticking point for weeks.  The Lucas County coroner’s office wanted access to a tissue sample Wecht had obtained from Jacob’s body during the autopsy, but McGookey did not want to turn over his only piece of evidence. 

McGookey has since agreed to send photos of the sample to the Lucas County coroner’s office.  

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