State and county officials have stuck with the original ruling — accidental suicide — but now a second pathologist who reviewed autopsy information says they are wrong.
The determination: It was a homicide.
“It is my professional opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the manner of death in this case should be homicide,” Kevin Whaley wrote in a letter to Limberios family attorney Dan McGookey last week.
Whaley, an assistant medical examiner for the state of Virginia, said Jacob likely did not shoot himself on March 2, 2012, inside a York Township home.
He suffered a single fatal gunshot wound to the head. Early on, his family began questioning Sandusky County officials’ determination that it was an “accidental suicide.”
The family eventually hired forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who performed on autopsy on Jacob’s body and determined it was not suicide, but homicide.
Whaley reached out to the Justice for Jake group weeks ago, when a national news agency contacted him about the case. He offered to review Wecht’s autopsy report, as well as the autopsy report prepared by Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser.
Beisser also performed an autopsy on Jacob’s body, as part of the county’s eventual investigation into the case.
Wecht and Beisser disagree on two central points: the bullet’s direction of travel through Jacob’s skull, and whether the death was suicide or homicide.
Witnesses at the home the night of the shooting told investigators Jacob shot himself.
Wecht, however, said Jacob could not have shot himself, as there was no evidence of stippling, or gunpowder burns, found around the entrance wound on his head.
Beisser said she also didn’t find gun powder residue, but she concluded her findings were “not inconsistent” with Sandusky County coroner John Wukie’s original ruling, that Limberios accidentally committed suicide.
Whaley agreed with Beisser’s conclusion that the bullet traveled right to left through Jacob’s skull, not left to right, as Wecht concluded.
Whaley’s two-page report, McGookey said, provides clarity to lingering questions.
“It’s a very commonsense finding,” McGookey said. “The value in the report is that it wipes whatever doubt there may have been about any gunpowder residue being washed or wiped away through the embalming process or other autopsies.
Stated Whaley in his letter: “A muzzle imprint and deposition of gunpowder particles as a consequence of contact and intermediate range, respectively, would be observable despite funeral preparation and postmortem changes.”
“Without gunpowder residue, especially with a .357 Magnum — a very powerful handgun — it’s impossible that Jake could have shot himself,” McGookey said. “It’s just that simple.”
The probe into Jacob’s death has since been turned over to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.