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Everybody knows your name

Melissa Topey • Jun 3, 2014 at 11:48 AM


Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine could use the "Cheers" show theme song to describe witnesses he's called before a grand jury looking into the 2007 jailhouse death of Craig Burdine.

"You want to  be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name." 

DeWine's staggering grand jury hearings re-started, and concluded for the week on Monday, with a trio of familiar faces: Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer, Detective Sean O'Connell and Chief Deputy Bruce Hirt.

The grand jury spent the last two hours of its day with DeWine's lead prosecutor, Matt Donahue, and an agent from DeWine's Bureau of Criminal Identification.

None of witnesses who testified Monday were at the jail Aug. 11, 2007, when Craig Burdine, handcuffed and shackled, died just moments after being Tasered at least three times.

In six days of testimony since the grand jury's start May 6, Donahue appears to have called few, if any, of the police officers, guards, supervisors or other personnel at the jail who could provide eyewitness accounts of what occurred.

Jess Burdine, Craig Burdine's 80-year-old father, was on the witness stand two days in May, and he told the Register Donahue misled the grand jury.

Donahue also brought Craig Burdine's brother, Eric, and his sister, Laurie Burdine, in front of the grand jury.

Watch the interview with Jess Burdine and Eric Burdine

None of the Burdine family members were at the jail the night Craig Burdine died.

Laurie Burdine said Donahue was using his phone at one point during her testimony last week, and he didn't notice when she stopped speaking while responding to a grand juror's question until after she paused and asked him if he was texting someone.

It's not clear why Donahue has thus far avoided first-person accounts from eyewitnesses who were at the jail when Craig Burdine died, or why he's avoided providing grand jurors scientific viewpoints about the cause of death using testimony from the Lucas County deputy coroner who conducted the autopsy, or Dr. Michael Baden, the renowned forensic pathologist who reviewed the information and determined the cause of death was homicide.

See autopsy photos and photos of alleged injuries officers sustained

Overmyer, O'Connell and Hirt all declined to discuss what they told grand jurors.

Hirt said he was called to testify because he was chief deputy when Craig Burdine died while in custody, but he otherwise declined comment. 

O'Connell, who told the family the day Craig Burdine died that a thorough investigation would be conducted, brought an accordion file folder containing documents with him to the courthouse Monday.

DeWine's investigators determined almost immediately in August after agreeing to investigate that there had never been a prior criminal investigation despite the assurances O'Connell gave the Burdine family. It's not clear why O'Connell would have documents in his personal possession from the Fremont Police Department nearly seven years after the incident. 

O'Connell was in the grand jury hearing room for about 90 minutes on Monday

Craig Burdine was already severely injured from an earlier assault on Sycamore Street when he was arrested. The Fremont police officer in charge initially called for an ambulance but canceled the call after recognizing Burdine, who allegedly kicked at an officer. Video shows a non-combative Craig Burdine was hauled from a police cruiser into the jail by at least three officers. He died just minutes after being dragged inside. 

The grand jury will reconvene next Monday.

Meanwhile, DeWine has remained mum on the grand jury and a host of other questions involving other cases his office has taken on in Sandusky County. 

DeWine has refused to say whether he is seeking criminal indictments, and he's refused to make any other comment about why some key witnesses weren't contacted during his nearly seven-month investigation. 

The Sandusky County sheriff, the Fremont police, O'Connell and the prosecutor's office have never provided the Burdine family with answers to their many questions and stopped returning their calls almost immediately after Craig Burdine died.They also have declined to respond to inquiries from the Register. 

DeWine agreed in August to conduct a full criminal investigation, but his office also has not been responsive to inquiries from the family, which has come to doubt DeWine's intentions, and whether he is presenting all of the evidence to the grand jury.

Click here to read related articles

"Cheers" show theme song

Note: This article has been modified to remove an inaccurate statement that jurors left the hearing May 27 while some witnesses were brought into the courtroom.

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