Sandusky County clerk of courts Tracy Overmyer likely violated state law when she oversaw the formation of a grand jury to hear evidence in the death of 19-year-old Jacob Limberios, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine acknowledged Wednesday.
DeWine called it “procedural” mistakes in a court motion asking the judge to approve the findings despite the violations of the Ohio Revised Code.
“The purpose of this motion is twofold, to formally inform the court in writing and to seek the court’s judgement on the matter,” the motion states.
DeWine asked visiting judge Dale Crawford to approve the findings of the grand jury despite the apparent unlawful secrecy that occurred during the selection process. Crawford was appointed last year by the Ohio Supreme Court to oversee the process after numerous previous irregularities in the investigation forced local judges to step aside.
“The state would request the court to review (the record) and reaffirm the integrity of the special grand jury,” DeWine’s motion filed Wednesday with Clerk of Courts Overmyer states.
The law requires a “fair and open” process be documented during grand jury selection, but Tracy Overmyer apparently failed to do that. The Register filed a public records request Feb. 18 asking her to provide the required procedural documents, which are designed to assure that a grand jury not be stacked with biased jurors.
She initially responded to the public records request that judge Crawford had sealed them under a secret gag order. Clerk Overmyer also stated the secret gag order was a secret as it also has been sealed by Crawford.
Crawford has maintained the secret gag order and refused to release the names of grand jurors. The AG’s office investigated one allegation that a grand juror had a business relationship with both the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor’s office. It has also been suggested that another member of the grand jury is a probation officer.
As late as last week, Tracy Overmyer was still suggesting she was attempting to locate the required documents after she was told the fair and open requirements in the grand jury process in state law could not be subject to a gag order.
The latest discovery of apparent violations follow a series of mistakes, missteps and other alleged violations that go back to the very start of the investigation and involve Tracy Overmyer’s relatives.
Sheriff Kyle Overmyer, the clerk’s brother, and sheriff’s Capt. Mike Meggitt, her husband, responded to the York Township home where Limberios was killed on March 2, 2012. They determined in less than three hours that Jake accidentally shot himself in the head, but evidence was destroyed during that initial phase of the investigation.
Blood-spattered clothing and shoes worn by witnesses who were inside the home and other evidence was destroyed, and Sandusky County coroner John Wukie refused to go there or order an autopsy before ruling Jake’s death an accidental suicide.
All three witnesses eventually failed lie detector tests.
Two of them had passed earlier polygraph examinations ordered by the sheriff’s office, however, but those tests were later determined to be improperly administered rendering the results that found them to be truthful as being unreliable.
Polygraph examinations cannot be 100 percent reliable and are not admissible in court, but they are often used to make a determination or seek an outcome in criminal investigations.
DeWine said last week during a segment of “Between the Lines,” the Register’s public affairs talk program, that it was not his job to assure the grand jury was properly selected.
He said didn’t believe any grand jury would have returned any indictments, however, based on the “exhaustive” investigation conducted by the AG’s office after it was appointed by Crawford to take over due to the appearance of conflicts in the way local officials had handled it previously.
“We can bring 20 grand juries in, and we would have no indication they would have come up with any different result,” DeWine said during the program last week.
It’s not clear why the AG’s office sought a grand jury at all if they didn’t believe the evidence showed criminal wrongdoing.
It’s also unclear whether a special grand jury formed at DeWine’s request in 2012 to investigate alleged wrongdoing by Sandusky County sheriff’s deputies was similarly tainted.
Clerk Overmyer has not responded to a public records request for the “fair and open” selection documents required by the Ohio Revised Code related to that grand jury, which investigated the sexual exploitation of a jail inmate.
The inmate, a woman diagnosed mental illness jailed on a minor charge, was denied her medication. She was left naked in an observational jail cell for hours and encouraged by jail guards to perform lewd acts for their sexual gratification.
That grand jury also found no wrongdoing and failed to return any indictments, suggesting it was not unlawful for jail guards to sexually exploit jail inmates.
One guard allegedly told a second guard that mentally ill inmates were easy to abuse “because nobody believes them.”
The jail guards were later fired after the Register first reported the story in January 2012, but each guard was paid $5,000 in an agreement arranged by county prosecutor Tom Stierwalt’s office. The payments required the guards to accept the terminations and not make disparaging remarks about the sheriff Kyle Overmyer.
One of the jail guards who was fired, Frank Kaiser, is the son of an employee who works for Stierwalt, retired sheriff’s deputy Bill Kaiser. Bill Kaiser is an investigator for Stierwalt. His son also was accused in 2007 of being involved in the jailhouse death of Craig Burdine.
The Register has reported the difficulties numerous families have experienced with Sandusky County officials. Click on the links below to read more.
Read the Ohio Revised Code statutes governing grand jury selection: