“We’re planning on taking this matter to a grand jury, probably the first week of November,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told the Register.
DeWine said “multiple witnesses” would be brought in to testify during the grand jury proceedings.
“We’re talking to anybody who has any potential relevant information about the case,” DeWine said. “We anticipate not only giving a report to a grand jury of what we have found, we anticipate summoning people into a grand jury so that the grand jury will have the benefit of live testimony.”
Two witnesses — Brittany Bowers and Will Lewis — were in the York Township home in March 2012 when Jacob was killed. They both were flown to California last month by the “Dr. Phil” program, where they taped a segment of the nationally syndicated talk show and spoke extensively about what they remembered about that night.
A third witness in the home, Evan Neidler, was not asked to appear on the program, Neidler’s attorney, Mark Stuckey, said when contacted on Thursday.
All three witnesses told Sandusky County deputies the night he was killed that Jacob shot himself. They continued to state this during subsequent local investigations in the 15 months that followed, until a judge removed Sandusky County from the investigation in late May 2013, citing conflicts of interest in the way officials were conducting the probe.
Bowers and Neidler have since been interviewed by investigators from the Ohio Attorney General’s office, the entity the judge appointed to take over the investigation in June 2013.
Dan McGookey, an attorney representing the Limberios family, said it appears the AG’s investigators have not interviewed Lewis, however, because they indicated to him that Lewis had affirmed his Fifth Amendment Constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Another Sandusky attorney, Troy Wisehart, told the Register in July that he represented Lewis, and he had advised Lewis to plead the Fifth Amendment. There was never any interview request from the AG’s investigators, nor any court proceedings where investigators requested this, Wisehart said.
When contacted Thursday, Wisehart said he no longer represents Lewis.
Bowers and Neidler did not return phone calls from the Register seeking comment. Lewis initially took the call but then abruptly hung up. He also did not reply to a message left later on his cell phone voicemail.
McGookey contends Lewis surrendered his right against self-incrimination when he agreed to talk with Dr. Phil about the events of March 2, 2012.
“You can’t refuse to testify and then appear on a national talk show and talk extensively about what you refuse to talk with investigators about,” McGookey said.
Two other witnesses have since come forward, according to McGookey, and provided information that Bowers told each of them that Jake did not shoot himself. It’s unclear if the AG’s investigators interviewed those two witnesses.
Mike and Shannon Limberios, Jacob’s parents, also were guests on the “Dr. Phil” program with Bowers and Lewis. Mike Limberios said Dr. Phil asked Bowers and Lewis to take lie detector tests, and they agreed.
“We just want to know what happened,” Mike said Thursday. “Sandusky County sheriff’s deputies never pressed Brittany or Will for answers. And they never did interview Evan again. All they did was write down the story they were telling. They never asked anything about all the inconsistencies in their stories. Hopefully the hard questions will be asked and answered for the grand jury.”
Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer acknowledged in April that blood evidence was destroyed the night Jacob was killed, suggesting that one of the witnesses threw out blood-spattered clothing and blood-spattered shoes in the presence of a deputy.
Within hours of Jacob’s death, deputies determined he had committed suicide, but it might have been accidental. They did not call Sandusky County coroner John Wukie to the scene, and they did not retrieve the bullet that killed Jacob. The bullet had become lodged in the ceiling after it entered and then exited Jacob’s head.
DeWine declined to discuss whether evidence was destroyed or whether that would constitute a crime.
Wukie never went to the home or examined Jacob’s body or other physical evidence, and he refused to order an autopsy until May 2013, after the family had already commissioned a private autopsy that concluded Jacob was — beyond any reasonable doubt — the victim of a homicide.
Tiffin attorney Dean Henry, who at the time was acting as both a special prosecutor for the criminal investigation and the defense attorney for Wukie and the county in a lawsuit brought by the family seeking a competent cause of death ruling, ordered the second exhumation and autopsy.
Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser, who conducted the second autopsy, stated her findings were “not inconsistent” with Wukie’s ruling. She did not address the fact Wukie had no information to justify his ruling, given that he was not part of the investigation.
An air date for the “Dr. Phil” program has yet to be scheduled. The Register plans to show the program at sanduskyregister.com when it broadcasts.
DeWine said residents of Sandusky County who serve on the grand jury will make a final determination after all the information and evidence is presented.
“Judge us by what comes out in the end,” DeWine said. “Look to see whether you think we’ve brought enough people into a grand jury.”