Forensic pathologist: Autopsy should have been performed in apparent suicide

Sandusky County coroner John Wukie continues to dodge phone calls regarding a death he ruled a suicide almost 10 months ago.
Emil Whitis
Oct 13, 2012

Sandusky County coroner John Wukie continues to dodge phone calls regarding a death he ruled a suicide almost 10 months ago.

“I handed him your message yesterday,” his secretary told a Register reporter Thursday. “I don’t know what he did with it.”

Meanwhile, world-renowned forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht tore apart Wukie and Sandusky County deputies’ handling of Jacob Limberios’ death.

Wecht, who recently examined Limberios’ body, said authorities failed to follow even the most elementary rules of death investigation.

On March 2, deputies raced to the 100 block of County Road 294 in York Township after getting a report of a man who’d been shot. Inside the home they found several spent shell casings, several empty beer bottles, three young adults and one dead Castalia man lying on the living room floor in a pool of blood.

A .357 Magnum revolver was at his feet.

The dead man, identified as Limberios, 19, sustained a single gunshot wound to the left side of his head.

The three witnesses, Limberios’ friends, said they’d each fired the gun earlier in the night in the backyard. The group later went inside the house, where Limberios picked up the gun and put it to his head while talking on his phone, the friends told deputies. Then he pulled the trigger, they said.

Deputies arrived at the scene about 15 minutes later. They took pictures and talked to witnesses. Less than three hours later, Wukie determined Limberios had shot himself on purpose.

Wukie’s report reads: “Reason for death: Suicide. Gunshot wound to head. Deceased shot self in head, may not have realized the gun was loaded.”

Wecht called Wukie’s ruling “astonishing.”  

“That’s a contradiction ... it’s an oxymoron,” Wecht said. “It shows absolute ignorance to forensic science and arrogance in not seeking to correct it.”

Wecht said it is impossible to rule a death a suicide if you can’t prove the dead person intended to kill himself.

But for Wukie and Sandusky County deputies, it was case closed.

Sometime after midnight March 3, Limberios’ body was released to Ransom Funeral Home employees. It was embalmed later that same day.

The final deputy left the crime scene at about 3 a.m.  

But the investigators also left behind the bullet that killed Limberios. The bullet had lodged somewhere in the ceiling after exiting Limberios’ head, according to attorney Daniel McGookey, who the Limberios family hired to look into the investigation.  

Just days after the shooting, the Limberios family began to plead with Sandusky County officials to conduct an autopsy.

No one would listen to the family, and no one would return their calls, McGookey said.  

Wecht said the investigation was deplorable.  

“Jesus Christ, even in the most remote county in America, this is a case that would require an autopsy — it’s a no-brainer, not even a close call,” Wecht said. “It’s a case that requires extensive investigation by homicide detectives. It requires the collection of all evidence, including that bullet that’s still lodged in the roof.”

The known facts surrounding the case demand a serious investigation, Wecht said.

And at the very bottom of it all is the fact that there were four people shooting a gun, and one ended up dead.

“If this case doesn’t catch your interest as a coroner, I don’t know what would,” Wecht said. “What did you run for coroner for? Why not be a garbage collector? Why not be a postal worker?

“This is truly is deplorable.”

Wecht directed his indignation at Sandusky County deputies, too.

He said at the very least, the hands of the witnesses and the victim should have been swabbed for gunpowder residue.

The victim’s jacket should have been checked for residue as well, and the bullet should have been removed from the roof and checked to make sure it matched the gun, Wecht said.

“What 10th-grade kid in America wouldn’t say, ‘Let’s see if (the bullet lodged in the ceiling) matches up with the gun?’” Wecht said. “Even a 6-year old boy would say, ‘Let’s see if there were fingerprints left on the gun.’”

“These are basic things,” he said. “There’s nothing special about what I’m saying.”  

After months of pleading, the Limberios family turned to McGookey to help them find answers.

But McGookey didn’t fare much better in getting county officials to help.  

On Feb. 25, after getting the OK from Margaretta Township trustees and obtaining a court order, workers exhumed Limberios’ body and sent it to Wecht for an autopsy.

Wecht determined the bullet entered Limberios’ head behind the left ear. It appeared the handgun was held either lightly against the head, or up to half an inch away from the head when it was fired.  

Strangely, Limberios was right-handed, and the entry wound was on the left, Wecht said, although that proves nothing.

“At this point, with the information I have, it is not possible for me to make a ruling,” Wecht said. “Whether he shot himself or somebody else did, an autopsy should have been ordered.”   

Wukie has not returned multiple messages left at his workplace and home, including three messages Friday, a message Wednesday and another message Thursday.

Overmyer did not return messages left at his office last week.  
 

Cyril Wecht
Dr. Cyril Wecht holds a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from the University of Maryland.  He has edited the book on forensic science, titled “Forensic Sciences.” and he was the expert who analyzed the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, along with the death of Elvis Presley, the O.J. Simpson case and the JonBenet Ramsey cases. Wecht has personally performed more than 17,000 autopsies, as well as supervising, reviewing or consulting on more than 30,000 post-death examinations. His work has appeared on numerous national television shows and in publications.

 

Comments

candleburner

I don't understand what the issue is here. I mean I get that no one wants to have a "suicide" as the cause of death for him but I've read the entire article on this case and they interviewed people that were there that day and this guy may not have known that there was a bullet in the gun but no one else other than him pulled the trigger on the gun and killed him. So he shot himself - plain and simple. I don't know what else it would be classified as self-imposed death, which is in itself suicide. They're looking at the fact that he used his left-hand to hold the gun as an issue in this case but again there were other people in the room and they talked to all of them and again everyone confirmed that he was the one that pulled the trigger. I just don't understand what the family is looking for here.

EdO's

candleburner, were you there? How do you know what happened? How do any of us? The coroner totally mishandled this situation. The police work is deplorable. I would do the same thing if I were in the family's position.

RUKidding

I can understand. If I understand correctly the guy left behind a small child and I'm sure that no matter what that child is told all of his or her life they don't want him or her to ever once think that they were left behind on purpose because of what the death certificate says. I originally had in my comment a statement about how he wasn't handling the gun responsibly if he wasn't treating it as a loaded weapon, then as I was reading some of the other comments I saw another person's post regarding many details that we as the public aren't privy to. I think if the story is as they say it is then the death certificate should be changed to some kind of wording that involves accidental but still state self-inflicted gun shot wound. However if it is true that everything was completely mishandled and people's stories don't match up, then by all means, this family deserves whatever needs to be done to get them all matters of justice possible.

EdO's

Neither you nor I can speak to the "facts". That is what a proper investigation is for.

bmgasser

That would cover all bases? HE was mishandling the gun? Are you omniscient? Its a she by the way. What gives you the right to make derragatory statements about Jacobs? Have you ever seen him handle a firearm before? He knew the gun was still loaded and warned the witness that ended up with blood on their shoes to be careful while they were handling it. What 10th grader doesn't know how to keep their ignorance to themselves. Are you kidding me?

bmgasser

RUKidding, I was responding to your original post earlier and I appreciate that you back peddled a little after more information. I can assure you, everything WAS mishandled by sandusky county and everything I have posted as well as two others is completely true.

Mum-of-One

You are assuming the witness statements were all accurate. They should have looked for that little thing called "evidence" to back it all up. Who put the bullet in the gun and why did he think it was empty?

Anne2488

Just from what I read here, I would say at the very least, it should be ruled accidental death, either by the victim or another person there at the time, or if there was something else going on there that is being covered up by the other 3, murder. Generally, but there are exceptions, people handle guns in their dominate hand, so that little inconsistency, should have Indicated a little more than just what happened, oh ok. I don't presume to have any idea which it would be as I know none of the parties. However, there should have been a full investigation at the time. Suicide is a deliberate planned action. This young man did not purposely kill himself from all accounts, so it should not have been ruled a suicide. I hope they can sort this out and find the truth about what occurred that night once and for all.

donutshopguy

Dr. Cyril Wecht is the same pathologist that had the problems with JFK's autopsy in 1963. The guys got to be at least 80 years old. He still must crave the limelight. York Township limelight must be a little less bright than Dallas and LA.

007

I knew Jake personally along with his family, girlfriend, and daughter. The problem stems from Insurance,although Jake was only 19, he had the mindset of a 30 yr old when it came to guns. The key factor here is was it a single action gun or double action. Single action means the revolver MUST be cocked to fire, double action means the weapon can be fired from pulling the trigger back, not needing to cock the hammer. Since it was deemed suicide, thus the insurance company will not pay death benifits, and since Sandusky county mis handled the whole ordeal like a group of second graders then there many questions that need to be answered. As stated in my initial posting, Jake knew guns and how they functioned, I am inclined to believe that there should be some more research on the parties that were there. They exumed the body looking for GSR or gun shot residue.

bmgasser

you had to pull the hammer back. i just saw a video of him shooting it on his phone. you can hear it.

Centauri

I would like to see the shooting death of Robert Chapman of Sandusky investigated. I am told that Bob was a police informant and his shooting death was also ruled a suicide.

The death of Limberios sounds similar to the shooting death of Bob. Why would a right handed person shoot themselves in the left side of the head? Could it be that one of the other three were horsing around thinking the gun was empty and shot Limberois? Why was there no swabbing for powder residue? That should have been basic in a shooting investigation.

bmgasser

Candleburner, I was the last person Jake talked to on the phone that night and we have been best friends since the first grade. I have been with his family, girlfriend, and daughter as much as I possibly could during these last 7 months; and have seen/heard all of the little evidence collected by Sandusky County authorities. None of the other people at the home were his friends as the Register likes to suggest. One of the witnesses places himself in a different position than where the other two place him in the room. This person states that he was handling the gun while Jake was on the phone. He then states in his audio that Jake put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He never explains how the gun transferred into Jakes possession. This person had blood all over their shoes and had to throw them away. If you want to make any more ignorant and hurtful assumptions about what happened please contact me and I'll also inform his family that have been fighting for justice and what us due to his beautiful daughter. Brady Gasser 4192023692

eightballcuet1

Sounds like SAndusky County officials totally dropped the ball on this.

ladydye_5

Article states "On March 2, deputies raced to the 100 block of County Road 294 in York Township after getting a report of a man who’d been shot." Later in the article it then states "On Feb. 25, after getting the OK from Margaretta Township trustees and obtaining a court order, workers exhumed Limberios’ body and sent it to Wecht for an autopsy." So if the accident happened in MARCH....how was he exhumed in FEBRUARY?

eightballcuet1

Interesting, I didn't see that. Must either be a misprint or incorrect dates were supplied to the SR

bmgasser

No he died march 2nd 2012 at 9:30 pm and was exhumed last month.

Chris vanscoy

Thank you Brady. I also have been a great friend of Jake since the 4th grade and I not only look at Jake's family as great people, but also they have been like a family of mine for as long as I can remember. Along with Brady, I was the other one Jake was contacting that night who was supposed to be at that house. I talked to Jake fifteen minutes before I received a call learning of his death. If I know one thing about his death, IT WAS NOT A SUICIDE. Candleburner, you read the article, great. Your ignorance is based on the very little information you know at this point printed in this article. You know what the problem is? The problem is that the information I KNOW, not you; is contradicting to the fact the he was the one who pulled the trigger. First off, it started when all witnesses first state that they had no idea Jake had brought the gun; they said they first noticed that he had the gun when they arrived at the house. This means that when they picked him up, they failed to realize that he had a gun in his holster on his waist. Suddenly, the next time I hear the story they state that they knew he had the gun, the only reason he brought it was that one of them was interested in buying it. Next is the lie where they all place themselves on the same couch. Later one of the witnesses decides to place the other witness in a different spot at the time of the crime, which just so happens to be right where Jake was standing. I was directly told by one of the witnesses that Jake was making eye contact with them at the time the trigger was pulled. If this was true and the witness was sitting where she placed herself on the couch, the bullet would have went the exact opposite direction to where the bullet hole was found and out the window. I was with Brady when Jake made his last phone call to him. Witnesses all state that he was on the phone when the trigger was pulled. Why was the phone found in his right pocket. My question is--if you did nothing wrong why would you have to lie about these things? I guess you knew all these things right? I've been at the Limberios household constantly the past seven months. I've listened to Sandusky County Sheriff Meggitt try to explain my best friends' death to his family and I at the kitchen table. When asked about the possibility that it was NOT Jake that pulled that trigger, his best explanation to us was that "they looked him in they eyes" when asked questions so they must be telling the truth. That is not acceptable to me or Jake's family. We've heard it all. The "Kennedy Theory" or "magical bullet" theory was presented to us by a so-called "detective", I take offense that that was the best explanation a detective could tell us. So now I ask...why waste your time making ignorant, uneducated comments concerning tragedies that you in fact no nothing about? I tip my hat to Sandusky County coroner; NICE WORK, GLAD YOU DID YOUR JOB.

Chris vanscoy

Jesus Christ, even in the most remote county in America it is a no brainer; not even a close call. This case demands an extensive investigation by homicide investigators. There is nothing special about what I am saying OR asking for. I am not seeking any special treatment, but only what is due. Cyril Wecht is the only person that has stood up for my son. I could care less for Sandusky County and want nothing from them; but they do need to answer for themselves.

Passionately and Exhaustively, BM

nosey rosey

Bad things happen when people play with guns.

mstacy

For those of you that think you are an expert about this case just because you have read a couple of articles, stop deluding yourselves and making assumptions without understanding all the facts. I don’t know if Sandusky County is inept or just too lazy to perform a proper investigation, but take it from a person that knows and has been with the family throughout this ordeal their inactions concerning the case are truly astonishing. Basic police procedures were not even followed! I would not even classify them as professionals. Professionals due their jobs and when it strays in to areas they are not equipped to handle consult others who have expertise. This case has been mishandled from day one and now friends and family members of Jake have still a lot of unanswered questions. Rather than sit on the sidelines and hope someone actually does their job, we have taken the initiative to find out what truly happened that night. These articles only share a glimpse from the tip of the iceberg with much more still under the surface. My hope for writing this is to not stop people from making assumptions around a case truly marked by incompetence, but to make people ask one question. “How much do I truly know?”

Sincerely,
Marcus Paul Stacy

candleburner

First of all to Brady and Chris I would like to apologize for what you felt were ignorant comments. I never meant to come across that way. I was simply stating my opinion based on the article I first read about a week or so ago in the paper. Now I'll be the first to admit that more times that not the paper gets things wrong but I will also be the first one to apologize when I do make a mistake. I NEVER meant to hurt anyone and to EdO - no I wasn't there, but apparently you weren't either. Guys I am truly sorry for the loss of your friend. I do know what it's like to lose a friend to a true suicide and the pain that the family feels so I can see why they would want to get this figured out. Now before you jump I'm not saying that it what happened I'm merely saying that I understand why everyone is looking for the truuth about what happened. I would like you to look at it for just a moment from my perspective though if you don't mind. From an outsider's glance, just reading what the newspaper printed (and again all I had was right or wrong just the Register's version of it and only just what was printed about a week ago). I read that the family was looking to change cause of death after talking to those that were there and getting the same story. I understand being close to a situation and reacting passionately to something when you feel that someone has crossed a line but maybe - just maybe - next time someone might be like me. Just asking a question based on what they've read. Again I'm sorry for your loss and I'm sorry that I upset you.

donutshopguy

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal information.

bmgasser

Candleburner, I thankfully and sincerely accept your apologies. I am very saddened that you had to experience losing a friend to a true suicide. I just want to reiterate that this was most certainly not a suicide to anyone else reading. I applaud your courage to publicly apologize instead of being stubborn as most do on these blogs. We are well aware that the paper does the best that they can and appreciate their willingness to try to redeem themselves even though current articles still have holes in them. Our frustration is not meant to be directed at the paper or innocent bloggers. As we sit with the Limberios' tonight our purpose is to put the mistakes and inconsistencies of the authorities and witnesses in the public eye while also putting out the incomplete truth in hopes of finding the complete truth. Again We as a family sincerely accept your apology and offer you and anyone else ourselves as a true source in answering any specific questions about the case.

deertracker

It really does not sound like suicide to me. Sounds like Sandusky County just does not want to use the resources to investigate this properly. If it is ruled a suicide, case closed and the ins co. is off the hook. Even if the guy shot himself......which is hard to do they way it has been described......it does not mean it was a suicide. Fishy circumstances here. Sometimes, IMO people put way too much faith in the wrong people that are suppose to know what they are doing. The family should stay on this!

tk

I do not in any way blame the family of this young man for trying to find out the truth. To many things just don't add up. In my opinion they have been treated shamefully by Sandusky County Officials.

grandpa4life

This all too common occurrence in law enforcement . The attitude of law enforcement is there are a means, method and body. Must be a suicide, cut and dry. Most are not open to other possible explanations. The county coroners are less than sympathetic to the feelings and needs of the family and friends of the deceased. I have personally experienced this attitude. With the suicide of my child last year. I am current military and previous Law enforcement

Chris vanscoy

I would like to thank all bloggers for their couth concerning this matter. I would also like it to be known that this case has been proceeded to the next stage and all materials involving this case have been sent to the Deputy Director of Law Enforcement at the Ohio AG's office. The support of everyone has been greatly appreciated by the family and friends of Jacob, but it is in our best wishes that we take this matter further so that the neglection of any victim's family never happens again, no matter how remote the county. This upcoming Tuesday will be Jake's 20th birthday; also it will be his first birthday celebrated without him. I urge the continuation of your explicit support to honor my best friend, his family and friends. If you stand with us in exploiting the err of Sandusky County authorities, please share your frustration and concern by posting "I Do!" This Family's screams have gone unanswered, but they cannot ignore the screams of an entire community! To Sandusky County coroner, if you dislike what I say on this matter my name is Chris VanScoy 419-503-5738; I'm the guy who does his job, you must be the other guy.

bmgasser

I DO!
Brady Gasser
"We died and were reborn, and then mysteriously saved!" -Bob Dylan

Luke Eddy

I DO!
Luke Eddy
"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles".

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