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Witness up against it

Register • Oct 2, 2013 at 5:43 AM

A man flown to California to talk with “Dr. Phil” about the March 2012 killing of Jacob Limberios — a killing he witnessed — should not get to dodge the Ohio Attorney General’s investigators.

That’s what the Limberios family’s attorney told Ohio assistant attorney general Marianne Hemmeter, but she and other state prosecutors seemed willing Tuesday to pass on interviewing witness Will Lewis. 

“I must insist you cause Will to be brought into police custody for purposes of undergoing a thorough and proper interrogation,” attorney Dan McGookey told Hemmeter in an email Saturday. “Should Will refuse to answer questions by invoking the Fifth Amendment (right), we must insist you immediately take the matter to Judge (Dale) Crawford, seeking a court order requiring him to answer the questions.”

Click here to read past articles, watch news video and see photo galleries.

Visiting Judge Dale Crawford is presiding in a court case brought by the Limberios family members, who are seeking a cause of death ruling.  

“Should he still refuse to do so, we insist that you seek contempt charges against him, with all appropriate orders compelling him to speak up,” McGookey wrote. 

The Ohio AG’s office provided a lukewarm response, failing to say if investigators intended to ever interview Lewis. 

“If you could, please provide any case law that you have regarding your proposed course of action, I would be interested to take a look at it,” state prosecutor Matt Donahue wrote McGookey. 

Donahue refused to reply to a Register inquiry, suggesting the newspaper contact someone else at the AG’s office not involved in the investigation.  

Both Hemmeter and Donahue also refused to comment on whether other witnesses would be interviewed, or whether questions raised by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s earlier involvement in the investigation — while it was still under local control — would be addressed. 

Lewis, Brittany Bowers and Evan Neidler were all inside the Sandusky County home the night Jacob died of a single gunshot wound to the head. All three have insisted Jacob shot himself. 

Will and Brittany took lie detector tests in June 2012, administered by a BCI employee, but they also agreed to take tests again on the “Dr. Phil” show, when they were in California last month for a taping of the program. The latest lie detector tests were conducted by Jack Trimarco. 

McGookey said the BCI tests conducted last year were not done appropriately, the methodology used was dated and the results are not reliable. He’s confident the results from the tests on the “Dr. Phil” program will also reflect this. 

“The BCI tests already have been reviewed by six different experts in the field and deemed to be unreliable,” McGookey said. “The Ohio Attorney General, and BCI, have a big problem with how that can happen.”

Dr. Phil’s expert, Trimarco, served as an FBI special agent and was program manager for the polygraph unit at the Los Angeles FBI field office until his retirement. Phil McGraw, a forensic psychologist and host of the “Dr. Phil” program, refers to Trimarco as the “top polygraph operator on the globe.”

“Will Lewis has never invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify,” McGookey said. “If he can go on the ‘Dr. Phil’ show to talk about Jake’s killing, then he can talk with the AG’s investigators and they should interrogate him.”

Troy Wisehart, a Sandusky attorney who represented Lewis, did not return a call from the Register’ on Tuesday. In an earlier interview, Wisehart said he advised Lewis not to talk to the AG’s investigators. 

“Will wants his story out there,” Wisehart said previously, before Lewis appeared on “Dr. Phil” to talk about Jacob’s death. “He doesn’t want to (plead the Fifth Amendment), but as his attorney I’ve advised him to.”

At the time, Wisehart said there had not been any occasion for Lewis to reserve his right not to talk with investigators. 

A witness cannot refuse to testify and then turn around and talk freely to TV show hosts or others, McGookey said.  

McGookey also wants Hemmeter and Donahue to interview witnesses who came forward earlier this year with information on Jacob’s death.  

The AG’s investigators refused to comment about challenges to the BCI polygraph tests, or whether they’re trying to determine who might have destroyed blood evidence at the start of the investigation, which was conducted by Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer and his deputies. 

An air date has not been scheduled for the “Dr. Phil” segment about the Limberios family. Program producers did seek and receive permission to use the Register’s news coverage on the death, as well as photos and other information for the program. 

Click here to read more about Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser and other articles in the Register series, "Stabbed, beaten, burnt and zapped."

The Register plans to show the Limberios segment of “Dr. Phil” live at sanduskyregister.com when the show is broadcast. 

Phil McGraw and his show’s producers have also been invited to be guests on “Between the Lines Live,” the Register’s public affairs talk program at sanduskyregister.com.

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