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Redfern to introduce ‘Jake’s Law’ bill

Tom Jackson • Sep 17, 2013 at 12:10 PM

An effort by the “Justice for Jake & Ella” group to get new legislation to require autopsies in all suspicious death cases and more training for elected coroners gained a big ally in Columbus.

Watch the latest Between the Lines with Justice for Jake HERE

State Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, said Monday he plans to introduce legislation this fall that follows the outline of “Jake’s Law,” a proposal by Brady Gasser, a friend of 19-year-old Jacob Limberios, who was killed March 2, 2012.

Sandusky County Coroner John Wukie initially refused to order an autopsy after Jacob Limberios was killed and ruled the death an accidental suicide without ever going to the home where he was killed or interviewing witnesses.

Redfern agreed to pursue the legislation after meeting and corresponding with Gasser. Redfern said he believes the investigation of Limberios’ death was mishandled and that he wants the legislation to address that tragedy and similar ones.

“‘Accidental suicide’ does not exist in state law and is not a definition of death,” Redfern said. “That ambiguity creates further trauma and concern among the family members.”

Limberios, 19, died of a gunshot wound to the head. His family obtained a private autopsy six months after he was killed when questions surrounding his death went unanswered. Dr. Cyril Wecht conducted that autopsy and determined Jacob was the victim of a homicide. Sandusky County officials conducted several investigations over 15 months before a judge removed them from further participation — citing conflicts of interest — and assigned it to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Redfern said he plans to introduce a bill to strengthen the education and qualifications for county coroners. While current law requires that a coroner be a physician, further requirements would be a good idea, Redfern said.

“A few years ago, a former Ottawa County coroner was a radiologist,” Redfern said.

Redfern said he also favors requiring an autopsy in all suicide investigations.

That would be an expensive state mandate, said David Corey, executive director of the Ohio State Coroners Association. An autopsy carried out for a county coroner runs about $1,200, while private autopsies cost about $3,000, he said.

Corey said state law currently only mandates an autopsy after the death of an apparently-healthy child under two. He said additional mandates likely would be opposed by county commissioners who would have to pay the bills.

Redfern, a former Ottawa County commissioner, said he understands budget constraints but is unmoved by Corey’s argument.

“I’m convinced that needs to happen,” Redfern said.

Corey said he’ll work with Redfern and said his group already offers training in suicide investigations.

Redfern said, however, that he’ll try to work with Corey’s group, because that will make passage of a bill easier. Redfern said he’s spoken to state Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and will reach out to lawmakers who represent Sandusky County.

Gasser, who could not be reached for comment Monday after the Register left him a message on his phone and sent him an email, appeared Friday on “Between the Lines,” the public affairs talk show at sanduskyregister.com.

   Gasser said on the program the last time he talked to Limberios was at 9:27 p.m. March 2, 2012. Gasser, attending college in West Virginia at the time, had returned home and was eager to get together with his pal.

   “Hung up the phone at 9:29 p.m. and the 9-1-1 call was made at 9:33 p.m.,” Gasser said.

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