A judge has decided to let the Sandusky County coroner exhume the long-buried body of shooting victim Jacob Limberios.
Visiting Judge Charles Wittenberg entertained nearly two hours of debate between warring sides Tuesday before making his ruling.
Dan McGookey, the attorney for Jacob’s family, faced off against attorney Dean Henry, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case and who is also representing coroner John Wukie.
“I’m not sitting here without having some feelings about this case,” Wittenberg said. He then lifted the temporary protection order he imposed earlier this month, which had halted the planned exhumation, and he also denied McGookey’s request for a permanent order to keep authorities from exhuming the body.
Wittenberg said Ohio law does not allow him to keep Wukie from ordering a second autopsy to further the criminal investigation into the March 2, 2012, shooting death.
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Jacob’s parents, Shannon and Mike Limberios, already had the body exhumed for an autopsy in September 2012, after Sandusky County officials refused to reopen the investigation into Jacob’s death. Jacob died from a single gunshot to the head, which Wukie quickly ruled an accidental suicide, although he had never actually visited the crime scene.
Only after McGookey filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Limberios family did Sandusky County officials reopen the investigation. It became a criminal matter in December when Dr. Cyril Wecht — a forensic pathologist hired by the Limberios family — sent Henry a letter that said Jacob’s death was a homicide. Wecht also called Wukie’s ruling an “oxymoron,” as a suicide cannot by nature be accidental.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Henry said Jacob’s body will be exhumed and examined as soon as possible.
“As soon as I get the judge’s order, I’ll be communicating with everybody,” he said.
The autopsy will be key to the criminal investigation, which Sandusky County detectives continue to push forward, Henry said, declining to elaborate.
Jacob’s parents said they do not understand the need for their son to be dug up a second time.
“We’re not done,” McGookey said after Tuesday’s hearing. “We’re going to adjust to this and then respond.”
He may file motions in Erie County courts, or with the Ohio Supreme Court.
“This is just another blow with the last 13 months,” McGookey said. “It’s just an unbelievably horrible situation. The Limberios family has been victimized every day.”