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2011 assault could lead to manslaughter

Courtney Astolfi • Jan 14, 2014 at 11:00 AM

A local man could face manslaughter charges in connection with a years-old assault in which the victim died this past summer.

Jesse Likes, 24, of Sandusky, was originally convicted of assault, but in light of the victim’s death — and a coroner’s recent opinion that the cause was homicide — prosecutors plan to present the case to a grand jury for manslaughter charges.

“We haven’t found an official determination for what charges are applicable and what charges we’ll present before the grand jury — some sort of manslaughter,” Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said.

The victim, Austin Carr, of Huron, died at age 22 at a Toledo hospital on July 20, 2013 — more than two years after the attack.    Lucas County deputy coroner Maneesha Pandey had completed the autopsy last summer, shortly after Carr’s death, but she didn’t rule it a homicide until December. The cause of death was listed as anoxic encephalopathy, due to a seizure disorder caused by complications of blunt force trauma to the head, according to the autopsy report.

The attack happened March 15, 2011, at a Warren Street home where Carr was visiting Likes’ ex-girlfriend, Eva Davis, according to a Sandusky police report.

Shortly before midnight, when Davis and Carr went outside the home to smoke, Likes emerged from behind a tree. He and Carr initially shook hands, but the conversation soon turned back to Davis, according to the report.

When Likes asked Carr if he was sleeping with Davis, Carr said he was not.

Still, Likes pounced — he punched Carr, knocked him to the ground and continued striking him, the report said. A third man, Joseph Ayers, was also at the scene, but he never entered the fray.

As a patrolling police cruiser passed the home, Likes retreated to his vehicle and Carr hopped into his own vehicle. Carr drove to the corner of Hancock and Lane streets, where he dialed 911 and was soon taken to Firelands Regional Medical Center for X-rays.

Likes, Davis and Ayers all told police that Carr swung first. Likes, in fact, claimed he never swung at all.

Given the conflicting stories, officers passed the case to the prosecutor’s office to pursue charges. In January 2012, an Erie County grand jury indicted Likes on one count of aggravated assault, a fourth-degree felony.

In a deal with prosecutors in August 2012, however, Likes pleaded guilty to a simple assault charge. Erie County Common Pleas Court records online indicate he was sentenced to probation.

Following Carr’s death, his family told the coroner he experienced seizures ever since the assault.

After learning of the coroner’s homicide ruling, Sandusky police Detective Gary Wichman began pursuing the case anew. He talked to Baxter and asked him if a manslaughter charge would be considered double-jeopardy, but Baxter said the restriction would not apply — Likes had pleaded guilty to assault, and Carr was still alive at the time.

“The elements were not all there for the purposes of a homicide case” Baxter said.

In short, Carr’s death was not an “element” in the assault case.

Baxter has not decided what exact charges his office will pursue against Likes. He and Wichman plan to present the case to an Erie County grand jury next month.

Wichman said he tried to interview Likes on Monday but was unable to reach him. The detective also talked to Davis, who told him she does not remember Carr or the assault.

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