Father to DeWine: Don't cover up a homicide

There are many things he knows for sure about his son's death on Aug. 11, 2007 — and there's just one thing he wants Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to do about it.
Register
Apr 16, 2014

If the Ohio Attorney General's Office does not seek criminal indictments "then they too are guilty of covering up a homicide," Jess Burdine, 81, wrote in a 12-page, hand-written letter he sent to Matt Donahue, the assistant AG in charge of DeWine's special prosecutions unit. "All the facts and evidence clearly proves and defines Craig's death as a homicide."

Donahue has not replied to Jess Burdine's letter, which included dozens of documents from depositions, witness statements and other information the family has gathered during the six years they fought the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office and the Fremont Police Department, neither of which ever conducted a criminal investigation of Craig Burdine's death. 

In fact, the AG's office and its Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents have had little contact with Jess Burdine, or his family, since launching the only criminal probe ever conducted, in August, six years after Craig Burdine died.

During an initial visit last summer, Matt Donahue, the prosecutor in the AG's office heading up the investigation, and Kevin Cooper, a BCI special agent told the family it might be difficult to press criminal charges due to the time that's elapsed since Craig Burdine died, citing a potential problem with the statute of limitations.

But there is no time clock for homicide or other related charges, Jess Burdine said, and statutory limits on other potential charges can be suspended when government employees are suspected of having caused a delay in the discovery of a potential crime.

Ohio Attorney General spokesman Dan Tierney also suggested earlier in the investigation that determining whether any criminal wrongdoing occurred was made more difficult because a civil lawsuit filed by the family was dismissed. The burden of proof in criminal court proceedings is a higher standard than the burden of proof for civil court, Tierney said.

It's not clear, however, how the civil case reached an accurate conclusion since there was never any criminal investigation preceding it.  

Sheriff's Capt. Sean O'Connell contends he conducted a full investigation of the circumstances and cleared the officers, the jail guards and the deputies of any wrongdoing. But O'Connell, who was a Fremont police detective at the time, never interviewed the officers or others involved during his review.

And despite his claim he did a full investigation, he testified in 2010 he did not seek to determine what caused Craig Burdine's death, and was only looking at the circumstances that led up to it.

“What happened out there in the jail between the jailers and Mr. Burdine that's between them. Let them do their investigation,” O'Connell stated in a deposition explaining he was only reviewing the circumstances, not the cause of Burdine's death.

Read O'Connell's deposition

Jess Burdine said he hopes DeWine and his investigators don't take the same approach. 

"I would hate to think they'd make themselves part of this and not pursue charges," Jess Burdine said Tuesday. "What is this country coming to if the Ohio Attorney General is going to cover up a homicide?"

DeWine has had little to say in the eight months since he launched the criminal investigation. On March 13 he told the Register the investigation likely would finish up within two weeks. 

But Tierney said on Tuesday that "due to circumstances beyond our control regarding experts and investigative leads, it is taking longer to conclude than initially estimated."

Watch the interview with DeWine

Tierney declined to detail whether the jail guards, deputies, Fremont police officers or the detectives and commanders who later reviewed the incident have been interviewed by Donahue, Cooper or any investigators involved in the criminal probe.

"We cannot comment on witness interviews," he said. 

He also declined to talk about any further contact that might have occurred between the investigators and the Burdine family. 

"We also cannot comment on response provided to the Burdine family regarding correspondence with investigators. We can confirm receiving the letter you referenced; however it is part of the investigatory file. The letter and its concerns will be reviewed and subject to further investigative follow-up, as all tips are, in an ongoing investigation."

Jess Burdine and his family remain hopeful despite the delays. 

"This isn't about us going after the police," said Craig Burdine's brother, Eric Burdine. "This is about finding a way to forgive. I want them to come up with an answer so we can forgive." 

His brother was "a good man," Eric Burdine said. "What they did to him was disgusting and it was wrong."

Sandusky County officials contend Burdine died from "excited delirium," a condition often used to explain sudden deaths that occur while people are in police custody, but rarely used by coroners to describe other deaths that don't involve police. 

Read the petition

The family contends Craig Burdine died after a jail guard put a choke hold on him shortly after he was dragged inside the jail by his arms and legs. 

Lori Burdine, Craig's sister, said the family has provided numerous "smoking guns" that show jail personnel caused her brother's death, including witness testimony and the time of death recorded by a heart monitor, among other information. 

Jess Burdine said he wants DeWine and his investigators do the right thing. 

"I hope they have the courage to bring charges," he said. 

— MIKE LIKES SANDUSKY COUNTY

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's office in 2012 investigated the alleged sexploitation by Sandusky County Jail guards of a mentally ill female inmate. The woman was kept naked in an observational jail cell and encouraged to maturbate and make lewd comments to the guards for their personal sexual gratification.

The AG's special prosecutor presented evidence to a grand jury, which found the sexploitation included no criminal wrongdoing.

A grand jury called by the AG in October to hear evidence in its investigation into the death of Jacob Limberios in March 2012 also found no criminal wrongdoing. 

In addition to the Burdine probe, DeWine also is currently conducting an investigation into allegations that computers used by former Fremont Mayor Terry Overmyer and city computers of other officials involved with the Fremont Reservoir project were "wiped clean," about the time each left office, removing public records related to the cost overruns that reached a whopping $36 million. 

The final price tag for the reservoir  — which had an original cost estimate of under $9 million — was about $45 million .

DeWine's office was first notified of the criminal complaint in early 2013. 

The Register also has reported the difficulties numerous other families have experienced with Sandusky County officials and has discussed those concerns with Attorney General DeWine in detail, asking questions families have raised. Click on the links below to read more. 

 

Comments

Ctwhalers

I hope DeWine does something soon this family deserves it just like limberios cordle and the rest of the familys that keep coming up.

Babo

The Ohio Revised Code specifically tolls the statute of limitations on a crime if the alleged crime involves misconduct in office. In other words as long as the persons alleged to have committed the crimes remain in office there is no time limitation on filing charges. Once they leave office the time limit would be two years after leaving office for a misdemeanor and 6 years for a felony.

Thus, in the Burdine case misdemeanor charges could be filed on a jail employee up until two years after they left the office and felony charges up to six years after they left office. See subsection C (1)(a) and (2) http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2901.13.

Also, the article correctly notes that any action that prevents discovery of the crime such as lying to an investigator would also toll the statute of limitations and would be a basis for other criminal charges when discovered.

Thus, the AG's office is blowing smoke when it claims there are statute of limitations problems. The only problem could be a 2 year statute of limitations on misdemeanors on any officers who left or were fired from the Sheriff's office.

Finally has Mr. Burdine given any thought to contacting the federal prosecutors in Washington DC who indicted and prosecuted former Lucas County Sheriff Telb and some of his deputies for a jail death?

Cobbwebb12345

Try to get help from one of the college/university teams of law students who have saved innocent people from a death sentence.

It is difficult to believe that some legal entity has not stepped forward, and, especially some high ranking elected "candidate" who is up for re-election in November. What about the law firm in Cleveland?

Another suggestion is to contact the director of the Ohio Newspaper Association. This group of about a dozen members of the ONA board of trustees represent every daily newspaper in the State of Ohio.
When Taft was running for re-election, he did this.

Oh, by the way, I am writing this to The Register. So, to the editorial board, set up a meeting with the ONA director. You CAN do this. Wrap up a condensed version of this fiasco for the director. Mr. managing editor, The Register is on its way to "national recognition" and, perhaps, has even already achieving that.

All of these elected, appointed and hired "public servants" are immune, protected by the laws from any type of punishment. Think of the pain and suffering these families are "still" enduring. And these smug people who are supported by our tax dollars, might as well be out burning our American flag.

Julie R.

"And these smug people who are supported by our tax dollars might as well be out burning our American flag."

No truer words were ever spoken.

witch hunter

Computers "Wiped Clean",I wonder if this is a service that is part of the contract offered by Tracy Overmyer's joint venture/Pet project company?

witch hunter

I think we will hear something similar to the Limberious case that was used in two public news releases, Only after the Sandusky Register made multiple public records requests for information. This was the longest running Grand jury in the history of this County,55 witnesses,286 exhibits, with a Grand jury convened for a 10 day period of time! # I run my unit how i run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 cubans who are trained to kill me, so don't think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous.

DGMutley

It certainly looks like a homicide to me. How can anyone view it any differently?