Redfern to introduce ‘Jake’s Law’ bill

Reforms would strengthen coroner system, require autopsies.
Tom Jackson
Sep 17, 2013
An effort by the “Justice for Jake & Ella” group to get new legislation to require autopsies in all suspicious death cases and more training for elected coroners gained a big ally in Columbus.

Watch the latest Between the Lines with Justice for Jake HERE

State Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, said Monday he plans to introduce legislation this fall that follows the outline of “Jake’s Law,” a proposal by Brady Gasser, a friend of 19-year-old Jacob Limberios, who was killed March 2, 2012.

Sandusky County Coroner John Wukie initially refused to order an autopsy after Jacob Limberios was killed and ruled the death an accidental suicide without ever going to the home where he was killed or interviewing witnesses.

Redfern agreed to pursue the legislation after meeting and corresponding with Gasser. Redfern said he believes the investigation of Limberios’ death was mishandled and that he wants the legislation to address that tragedy and similar ones.

“‘Accidental suicide’ does not exist in state law and is not a definition of death,” Redfern said. “That ambiguity creates further trauma and concern among the family members.”

Limberios, 19, died of a gunshot wound to the head. His family obtained a private autopsy six months after he was killed when questions surrounding his death went unanswered. Dr. Cyril Wecht conducted that autopsy and determined Jacob was the victim of a homicide. Sandusky County officials conducted several investigations over 15 months before a judge removed them from further participation — citing conflicts of interest — and assigned it to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Redfern said he plans to introduce a bill to strengthen the education and qualifications for county coroners. While current law requires that a coroner be a physician, further requirements would be a good idea, Redfern said.

“A few years ago, a former Ottawa County coroner was a radiologist,” Redfern said.

Redfern said he also favors requiring an autopsy in all suicide investigations.

That would be an expensive state mandate, said David Corey, executive director of the Ohio State Coroners Association. An autopsy carried out for a county coroner runs about $1,200, while private autopsies cost about $3,000, he said.

Corey said state law currently only mandates an autopsy after the death of an apparently-healthy child under two. He said additional mandates likely would be opposed by county commissioners who would have to pay the bills.

Redfern, a former Ottawa County commissioner, said he understands budget constraints but is unmoved by Corey’s argument.

“I’m convinced that needs to happen,” Redfern said.

Corey said he’ll work with Redfern and said his group already offers training in suicide investigations.

Redfern said, however, that he’ll try to work with Corey’s group, because that will make passage of a bill easier. Redfern said he’s spoken to state Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and will reach out to lawmakers who represent Sandusky County.

Gasser, who could not be reached for comment Monday after the Register left him a message on his phone and sent him an email, appeared Friday on “Between the Lines,” the public affairs talk show at sanduskyregister.com.

 

   Gasser said on the program the last time he talked to Limberios was at 9:27 p.m. March 2, 2012. Gasser, attending college in West Virginia at the time, had returned home and was eager to get together with his pal.

 

   “Hung up the phone at 9:29 p.m. and the 9-1-1 call was made at 9:33 p.m.,” Gasser said.

Comments

Sam

Great idea on the surface, does Redfern have a funding mechanism to pay for all these autopsies or is this just another unfunded state mandate on local governments. Maybe all state legislatures should be required to take mandated training on funding their bills. When was the time a Redfern sponsored bill became law?

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

In July, House Bill 29, bill for boaters' rights, was cosponsored by Redfern.

Sam

Damschroeder sponsored HB29, Redfern was one of 13 who co-sponsored it. You would think since he represents the area on the lake he would heave sponsored it, probably to busy running the state Democratic party

Señor Clown

Doesn't a coroner receive a salary, or operate with a budget? How much compensation is a coroner given to perform the job they campaigned to acquire? Enough to add some actual work to the list of expectations, or no? I, and likely many others, don't know the details of how the office operates.

Browndog271

Just another law to for show. Dem's like saying they did something, maybe he can get the pen Obama uses tio sign, LOL

Detrain

Browndog this is not a dem or rep things this is something that is needed in every state. What if it was your son put yourself in their shoes

bmgasser

A democrat actually responded to my request from help. Damschroder and Gardner never responded to the identical message I sent them months ago. So you're attacking a democrat for responding to his constituents? You're making it sound like you prefer the right because they're unresponsive?

Regardless, this is a completely nonpartisan issue and I expect it to pass accordingly.

Julie R.

Along with more training, I do so think they need to start investigating some of them.

skydog44870

The coroner’s system in the State of Ohio is long overdue for an overhaul. But what everyone must understand is that the coroners are not investigators, they are medical doctors with little too no crime scene training or experience. Nearly all of them rely solely on what the investigators at the scene tell them and if you have inexperienced and/or incompetent investigators at the scene as is the case of Sandusky County then the problem will continue. It seems to me the Sheriff and his investigators are getting off the hook, AGAIN…………..

Julie R.

"It seems the Sheriff and his investigators are getting off the hook, AGAIN.........."

Their day will come sooner or later. It's just a matter of time.

Darwin's choice

Never let a crisis go to waste Redfern! Jump right on board the train now! How long did the family beg for help?

bmgasser

Chris actually responded to my request for his help almost immediately after I clicked the send button. He responded by calling me on his personal cell phone and has been in close contact ever since.