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Ohio AG mum on status of case

Jessica Cuffman • Dec 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Investigators remain mum about the status of a 2007 case involving a 37-year-old man who died in the custody of law enforcement in Sandusky County.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine agreed to revisit the case of Craig Burdine in August, at the request of Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt, who acted on inquiries from Burdine’s 80-year-old father, Jess Burdine, of Oak Harbor.

For six years, Jess has been seeking closure in what he says was a homicide.

Craig died after he was arrested in the early morning hours of Aug. 11, 2007, and taken to the county jail after being unwanted at a friend’s home and found in a frenzied state

A coroner originally ruled Craig’s death a case of excited delirium.

But after years of probing the investigation and failed litigation, Jess questions other issues: the low level of methamphetamine found in his son’s blood work; a jail deputy’s use of a Taser to control Craig while he was in custody; and fractured cartilage in Craig’s neck the coroner found, but didn’t see as a contributor to his death.

Jess looked to DeWine’s office for help after the federal lawsuit he had filed against Sandusky County and Fremont officials was dismissed earlier this year.

Using two other Sandusky County cases as a guide — the 2010 death of 26-year-old Brian Jones, who was fatally shot by deputies, and the botched investigation of the 2012 fatal shooting of 19-year-old Jacob Limberios — Jess decided to seek out DeWine as a special prosecutor in the case.

It’s been four months since DeWine’s office opened its investigation, but inquiries this week into what has or has not been done went unanswered.

Spokeswoman Jill Del Grecco confirmed the case is still open, but refused to offer other information about where investigators are in the case. In response to a request with specific questions, she said: “Because the investigation is ongoing, we cannot provide any specific details at this time”

Jess has little faith anything in the case will change.

In September, state prosecutor Matt Donahue and an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent visited his home to talk about the case, he said.

About two weeks later, the agent returned with an assistant to copy documents Jess had sorted into a 3-foot pile, out of the 700 pounds of paper he’d collected in the investigation and court case.

“When they left here, they said I had presented an extremely difficult case,” Jess said Thursday. “They said unless they can find proof that Craig’s death was a homicide, not just testimony..”

As his voice trailed off, his lack of faith was evident.

“We’re not real hopeful that they’re going to do something,” he said. “Everything was negative”

He hasn’t heard from DeWine’s office since October.

“We’re just patiently waiting for an answer. We’ve certainly given them many, many facts of proof” he said.

In November, DeWine’s office delivered their findings in the Limberios case, saying the 19-year-old shot himself in the head when he was with friends in a York Township home on March 2, 2012.

The Attorney General took over the case after months of battle between Sandusky County officials and the Limberios family, who questioned the actions deputies took during the brief investigation into the teen’s death and the coroner’s ruling that he committed suicide.

While the investigation has been completed, the Limberios family is still fighting to have the ruling on his death certificate changed from “suicide” to “accidental”

The Jones family, too, continues their fight for justice in the courts. Jones was killed by Sandusky County deputies when they responded to a domestic dispute at his family’s home.

Last month, a federal judge ruled the lawsuit they filed against Sandusky County — alleging their son’s wrongful death — will go to trial.

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