More than 1,200 people have signed an online petition asking Gov. John Kasich to invoke a state law that allows him to remove the Sandusky County sheriff and prosecutor from office.
Sheriff Kyle Overmyer and Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt have both violated their oaths of office, according to critics, making decisions about criminal investigations that don't serve the public.
Stierwalt recently decided to pursue a single charge against an Ohio Patrol officer accused of showing porn to a 12-year-old boy and masturbating with him. That decision came after a firestorm of criticism that started in January after Stierwalt decided then to drop the investigation and not pursue charges.
Patrol Sgt. Ricky Vitte Jr. is expected to attend his first hearing on charges of disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile today in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court.
The petition to remove Stierwalt and Sheriff Overmyer is supported by the Justice for Jake & Ella group, and three other families that contend Sandusky County law enforcement leaders have systematically denied justice to them and other families through their actions, and non-actions.
Jess Burdine and the Burdine family have been fighting local officials for more than six years after Burdine's son, Craig Burdine, died at the Sandusky County Jail on Aug. 11, 2007. The sheriff's office and the Fremont police both refused to conduct a criminal investigation after Craig Burdine's death, and information the Burdine family has gathered in the years since refutes the official story officials told about what occurred leading up to the death.
A Sandusky County grand jury is expected to begin hearing evidence gathered during a state investigation by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine over the last seven months. The Burdine family fears they're in for another whitewash of the facts, however, and are concerned about the process involved with a local grand jury given the family relationships of officials. Sheriff Overmyer's sister, Tracy Overmyer, is the county clerk of courts and a grand jury formed last year in another case involving the Limberios family was improperly seated.
The Justice for Jake & Ella group has expanded to include the Burdines, the family of Isabel Cordle, who was killed in January 1988, and a woman who contends Fremont police refused to pursue criminal charges against a man who raped her.
The group plans to attend the grand jury sessions this week and monitor the activity from outside the closed-door jury process, noting which witnesses are called to tesify in the Burdine case and which witnesses are not called. The Burdine family is concerned DeWine will not present all the evidence and the grand jury will not return indictments in the same way two previous grand juries responded to cases brought by DeWine.
The peitition is a "call to arms," according to the families, who want Gov. Kasich to take immediate action. Signers of the petition have expressed similar dissatification with local officals.
"Justice must be weighed on a equal non bias scale. Accountability is lost in Sandusky County, and Columbus, Ohio," Charles Meyer of Fremont wrote Sunday when he signed on to support the petition drive.