Wukie gets support

Intent not a huge factor in suicide rulings for many forensic pathologists, according to Des Moines chief medical examiner
Register
Jan 31, 2014

A medical examiner and pathologist in Iowa concurs with Sandusky County coroner John Wukie's suicide ruling in the death of Jacob Limberios.

"I would agree with the finding of suicide," Gregory Schmunk, the Polk County, Iowa, chief medical examiner told the Register. "Many forensic pathologists, including myself, do not strongly consider the intent of taking one’s own life, but rather the intent of the action. There appears to be no significant and credible debate that he intended to put the gun to his head. It is also clear from his statements that he knew it was loaded, as he apparently warned his friends."

Statements made by witnesses were not consistent, and there were three polygraph tests with results that suggested the witnesses were being deceptive. Polygraph tests are never 100 percent accurate and cannot be admitted as court evidence.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine called for the death certificate to be corrected after his office determined Jake accidentaly shot himself. Dr. Michael Baden also has said the death certificate should be changed.

The Register reached out to more than 20 state coroners and to the Ohio Coroners Association for a reaction to Wukie's decision. David Conley, the executive director of the association, said the group does not take positions on individual cases. He also declined to comment on Schmunk's analysis, or that of Baden or Dewine's conclusions.

"In the case of a straightforward suicidal gunshot wound of the head, the volitional acts include deciding to load a gun, putting it to the head and pulling the trigger. The 'intent' or purpose of the volitional act is to end one’s life," Schmunk wrote, in response to an inquiry from the Register. "In some cases, the intent to end one’s life is less clear, although the volitional element of the act (such as placing a loaded gun to the head and pulling the trigger in Russian Roulette) is quite clear. The issue, then, is whether 'intent' to die (the purpose of the volitional act) is inclusive of employing a recognized, potentially lethal weapon and accepting a definite and known risk of death during the action under consideration." 

State Rep. Chris Redfern has consulted the Ohio Coroners Association and worked with Brady Gasser, a friend of Jacob Limberios and a co-founder of the Justice for Jake and Ella Facebook group, developing legislation that would provide guidelines for when a coroner is required to be on the scene and when an autopsy should be ordered. Conley said he'd reviewed some information with Redfern but he's not seen a final proposal.

Wukie did not go to the home where Jake was killed, did not examine the body nor order an autopsy. He has not said why he was unable to go to the home where Jake was killed.

"A scene examination by the coroner was warranted in this case," Schmunk said. "As was at least an external examination and preferably an autopsy by a person qualified in interpretation of wounds."

Comments

Random Thoughts

Mr. Westerhold.  Thank you for following up on your promise to contact Dr. Schmunk.  You doing this shows your critics a desire on your part to be accurate and fair to both sides of the argument by reporting the difference of opinion among experts in the field.  I do think, however, that you should point out in your article that Dr. Schmunk is also the President of the National Association of Medical Examiners, so your readers are not confused as to why you contacted an ME all the way out in Iowa.  

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Random Thoughts.  We expected to get some sort of response from the Ohio coroners we reached out to, as well as the coroners association. Dr. Schmunk replied almost immediately with his responses to our detailed questions once he was identified to us as a potential source. There might be a difference of opinion or something between the two associations. The Register intends to get more information and report about the "Jake's Law" legislative proposal from state Rep. Chris Redfern that would create detailed requirements for coroners in death investigations if it is approved by Ohio lawmakers.

Commenter

Interesting that even though he agrees with Wukie's ruling, he also said it warranted a visit to the crime scene AND an autopsy. (Which would have probably avoided this whole saga)

CONCERNED MOM

They need to be worried More that he was murdered not accidently shooting himself, something not adding up in all these facts I'm no expert at all but if you read and hear what everyone is saying and how changes in facts keep changing, something is not right in Denver, in this case Bellevue.