The Limberios family dropped its lawsuit against Sandusky County coroner John Wukie on Friday, a month after Wukie refused to change the ruling on their son’s death certificate from suicide to accidental to reflect the findings of a state investigation.
But they’re not surrendering, family attorney Dan McGookey said.
”Enough’s enough,” McGookey said. “The lawsuit was a productive thing, but this search for the truth is definitely not over.”
Jacob Limberios, 19, was killed by a single gunshot to the head on March 2, 2012.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine determined in November after a five-month state investigation that Limberios’ death was an accident. But Wukie, who never conducted an investigation, is sticking with his March 2012 ruling: “Suicide. Gunshot wound to head. Deceased shot self in head, may not have realized the gun was loaded”
Wukie’s statement on the death certificate has been described in Register news articles as an “accidental suicide” ruling.
It’s not clear how, or whether, Wukie determined Limberios intentionally shot himself. He said he relied on Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer’s assessment, but deputies at the scene — as DeWine did later
— stated there was no evidence it was a suicide.
The initial investigation by Overmyer was botched, however, after blood evidence and other evidence was destroyed. The bullet that killed Limberios was left lodged in a ceiling at the home and the results of lie detector tests given to two of the three witnesses during the initial investigation were discredited.
Overmyer refused to answer the family’s questions about the investigation’s missteps and Wukie refused to order an autopsy or return their phone calls. He also refused to re-open the investigation until after the family filed the lawsuit in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, and then later ordered a second exhumation and autopsy after the family already had obtained a private autopsy.
The county hired Tiffin attorney Dean Henry to defend Wukie in the lawsuit and then later appointed him to conduct the criminal investigation, fighting the family’s efforts for an independent investigation at every step. Henry was later fired as criminal prosecutor by a visiting judge who cited the obvious conflicts he had serving in the dual roles.
DeWine was appointed to finish the investigation.
Henry did not respond to an email inquiry late Friday. He has generally declined comment to the Register, contending its coverage has been biased and unfair to local public officials.
The lawsuit served its purpose, McGookey said. It forced the state investigation and that investigation showed clearly that Jake’s death was an accident, he said.
“Did we dismiss the case? Yes. But if we had never filed that case, the attorney general never would have been involved,” he said.
From that investigation, additional information was uncovered about the night Jacob died, including knowledge of a gun defect that showed Jacob’s .357 Magnum misfired sometimes during testing.
While his parents aren’t satisfied with the findings of DeWine’s investigation, it was a step in the right direction, McGookey said.
“Mike and Shannon Limberios and their family have not given up their search for the truth,” he said. “We feel that all of the facts have still not come out, and I want the public to know that the attorney general unequivocally said, several times over in his 20-page statement, that this was a terrible, tragic accident.”