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.




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Aimee Smith



Kari Damron


Uncle Charles
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Chloe Lakner

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Reporter Emil Whitis is working on another story on this topic, particularly the public outcry about the alleged mishandling of the investigation. If anyone wants to talk to him for the story, call 419-609-5852 by 6 p.m. Tuesday. (That's his deadline).



Shine On You Crazy Diamond


Sad happened but do not play with gun..
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I was wondering who are the witnesses that were there that night? Usually the witnesses's names are published. Why are their names not appearing anywhere? If their hands are clean, then they should have no problem with putting their names out there. Are they in the witness protection program?
Just wondering. And I already did once, but I'll say it again,

I DO!!!!

Remember all the things we wanted
Now all our memories, they're haunted
We were always meant to say goodbye



Who is the coroner related to or friends with who was a witness to the shooting? Smells of quick decision to coverup a crime.


commonsense1969, all of us have also wondered about any possible kinship or friendship at any rate between the Sandusky County officials involved and the witnesses. The second hardest thing we had to do was make a decision to exhume Jake. No one wanted to disturb his peace, but due to the failure of Sandusky County coroner to order an autopsy it was unfortunately necessary. When that decision was made we had asked Margaretta Township trustees 3 weeks in advance of the set date to please have all necessary permits completed. My friend had to be exhumed and transported to Cyril Wecht in Pittsburgh and then taken back to his resting place in Castalia that same night. This was well planned out by all parties to make sure it was going to go as smoothly and painlessly as possible. It was set up for Monday September, 24th and at the very last minute, a township employee came forward with a township document that had to go through the probate court. Their lawyer, Dan Mcgookey, jumped the hurdle and did a great job of getting this fixed right away. This probably cost the Limberios' a significant amount of money and an even more significant amount of anxiety for all of us. Luckily, Cyril was available the next day and it was performed the next day. Maybe one of the trustees can speak to this document that was produced seemingly as a last minute barrier. Or maybe we should wonder if the employee knew any witnesses, the coroner, or one of the sheriffs; or what county the employee lives in?


If this was a suicide as the coroner says, why the quick decision?

Chris vanscoy

Dear Mr. Wukie, still haven't heard from you but maybe at least you will read this. I want to know on what basis you labeled his death a suicide. I have in my possession right now, the CD with all of the witnesses verbal statements that night. "It wasn't a suicide, he wasn't trying to kill himself, it was an accident," is an exact quote from one of the witnesses. I know you didn't examine his body in the first place, which is required by law in "accidental" or "suicidal" cases (ORC 313.131) Did you not listen to their audio statements or did Sandusky County Sheriff fail to give you these statements? I want suicide removed from his death certificate and a Verdecti death certificate issued as the state law says it should be, until a proper and extensive investigation takes place. This is my best friend, how can you so blindly determine the cause of his death a suicide without even going to the site or examining his body. We are all owed an explanation, most importantly his little daughter is owed an explanation. For everyone who truly believes this was a suicide, I just wish you could hear the witness statements. The only thing I can give right now is a website that will collaborate the truths about what I am saying. Wish you would have called Wukie.

Sincerely to all,
Chris VanScoy


Chris--again- why are the witnesses names being protected?


They are not in the witness protection program. We all decided that we would not share the witnesses names because we are not going after them; we are going after officials that did not do their jobs. I will say that the Register's claims that they were his "friends" is a stretch.


I would like to correct the Ohio Revised Code that my friend Chris accidently mistyped. He would have corrected himself, but is currently having technical difficulties.

ORC 313.12 would give the Coroner legal possession of Jacob’s body and according to OSCA guidelines:

In other cases where the possibility of legal proceedings may arise as a result of a homicide, accident, suicide, etc., an autopsy will be performed

ORC 313.131 has nothing to do with this case and is NOT the reason why no autopsy was performed. Mr. Wukie was the reason the no autopsy was performed! He failed to do his job and now must answer for his inactions!

Sal Dali

This young man's death sounds questionable to me. He was talking on the phone, making eye contact with the other people there and shot himself in the head with the opposite hand he uses. REALLY NOW? He must have been awful busy while conspiring to shoot himself. His death deserves a closer look, it was bumbled. The bullet wasn't recovered, fingerprints weren't taken from the gun? Why would be a good place to begin. A school child watching reality police investigation shows could have done a better job investigating this death.


Sal Dali, I will touch on these things in more depth tomorrow; including all pieces of evidence and what Jacob was doing, where he was standing, etc. For now I can state as a FACT: he was NOT on the phone. I was the last one to speak to him on the phone that night and I did not hear any shots; we said goodbye. His phone was found in his front right pocket.
Brady Gasser


I DO!! I understand Jacob's family's concern. I know personally that his friends told the truth. This should have been ruled accidental, not suicide. I understand the family's concern. Sandusky County needs to own up to their mistakes...bottom line.


Prayers are with you all in this journey. Most certainly to the family and friends for staying strong.

I am a girl mid 20's from Huron. I actually just happened to stumble upon this article surprised I haven't heard about it before this. I remember briefly seeing the article when the accident had occurred but realizing now after reading all of your comments that something is clearly wrong here.

My thoughts are; anyone with half a brain will support you all in this 100%. I am just surprised more attention isn't being brought to the matter. I looked to see if we can join a group or cause on facebook and I noticed there is nothing. I realize that sounds terribly 21st century of me but I know few people read these comments if they have been on the actual site at all considering most people receive the paper copy. Social media is one effective way to get word out fast.

I do not know the family or the victim but after reading this article and the following comments it is very hard not to feel strongly about the situation and I feel anybody that reads this will feel the same. I don't know how we can help but justice needs to be served and this issue needs to circulate for everyone to see.

God bless you all, I am so sorry for all of the hurt you are facing. Stay strong.

Just a stranger reading facts,
Lauren Michel




I'd personally like to thank everyone who has posted an "I Do!" I appreciate all of the support as we venture to pressure officials to investigate this case. I hope to show my daughter who is three at this time all of these supportive comments one day after her fathers mysterious death is solved. It is truly touching that as a community you all are kindly taking time to post your opinions about this horrific investigation.@ RUKidding I appreciate your kind support @duners i appreciate you stumbling upon this article and blog and noticing that there is something wrong! This article has been shared on facebook by many of our friends and family. I find it funny that the death that occurred on follet street erie county called in at no cost to them to ohio bureau of criminal investigations, why couldn't sandusky county call the ohio bureau of criminal investigations almost 8 months ago? It would have been at no cost to Sandusky county. Again I personally appreciate all of the support shown by this community. Hoping and praying for answers soon.

Kayleigh Bowers


I DO!!
I want to wish the family and friends of this young man all the luck you need to get to the bottom of this. It's bad enough losing someone to a horrible accident/tragedy, but to have some stuffed shirt, uncaring jerk in an office not even look into it and rule it suicide? I'm sorry for the loss of a good and caring young man. May he rest peacefully knowing that at least his friends and family are working to clear this up.

Rachel Patten


Kottage Kat

Kat at the Kottage


I think that the State Attorney General needs to be contacted by the family and request an investigation into the actions of the Coroner. This is at the very least dereliction of duties, but smells very much like more of a coverup. I would not hesitate to go to the higher authorities.


Commonsense1969, I cannot remember who it is exactly but a state official from Columbus has taken over everything in this case. I'm going to touch on all of the evidence, I believe that this will help you understand why we think this was a quick decision and a coverup.

They key pieces of evidence from this case are the bullet, the jacket he was wearing (gun powder residue), Jacob (wound), and the gun (prints).

FACT: The bullet was never retrieved by the sheriffs.

FACTS: When Jake's belongings were given back to his father, he was told to BE CAREFUL because it had not been cleaned. He WAS wearing the jacket at the time he was shot. When his father and then myself inspected the jacket it was spotless.
These facts make us wonder, was the jacket cleaned by Sandusky County to rid it of gun shot residue?

FACTS: When Jacob's parents met with Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt, they were met with hostility and others were escorted out of the office. After he calmed down and they began discussing the situation, he advised them that they should not exhume Jacob's body. Of course they did not really want to exhume their son, but when they admitted that to Stierwalt he showed astounding relief.
These facts also make us wonder, were they afraid that an autopsy would prove that Wukie and co. were wrong?

FACTS: Captsin Meggitt, who was responsible for the first "investigation", told Jake's family that the reason fingerprints were not lifted from the weapon was because it was too messy to do so. When Jake's father inquired about getting the gun back along with all of Jake's other possessions, they said he did not gave a right to the firearm, and then talked about destroying the weapon. When Jake's father asked Bill Kaiser about getting the gun back he stated that they could not release a SUICIDE WEAPON.
This explains why Wukie contradictingly ruled it a suicide.

Make your own opinion about all of this but it seems to me that Sandusky County is attempting to SABOTAGE all of the evidence.