'Compassionate' double speak

Matt Westerhold
Dec 30, 2013

Sandusky County coroner John Wukie is stuck between a hair trigger and a rock. The gun that killed Jacob Limberios on March 2, 2012, has the hair trigger; Wukie’s ruling on the cause of death is the rock.

“Reason for death: Suicide. Gunshot wound to head. Deceased shot self in head, may not have realized the gun was loaded.”

Wukie and his attorney, Dean Henry, especially, seem to have been playing semantics ever since Wukie wrote that weird description on Jake’s death certificate. 

The coroner’s erroneous wording has denied Jacob’s 5-year-old daughter Ella a small life insurance claim. It’s also cost his parents more than $100,000 in their “search for the truth.” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine agrees with the Limberios family: Wukie did not give them that in his death certificate.

He also is denying Ella the benefit of knowing her father did not commit suicide by refusing to change it. 

He’s digging in his heels despite mounting evidence and despite the opinion shared by almost everyone: This was not a suicide. For his part, attorney Henry is not defending the indefensible cause of death ruling in his court motion against a correction to the death certificate; he’s fighting a correction strictly on procedural grounds. 

Wukie disclosed during an Oct. 10 softball interview with a state BCI agent investigating Jake’s death that he voluntarily distorted his own ruling, and then complains newspapers distorted the meaning of it. 

“The one piece I’ve seen in newspapers stated frequently is that I ruled this an accidental suicide and that’s clearly not true,” Wukie tells the BCI agent. “I never ruled it an accidental suicide.”

But words have meaning. The agent conducting the interview appears to have understood that meaning the same way reporters and newspaper editors understood it. He tells Wukie the accidental suicide description might be the result “of that compassionate part” Wukie put on the death certificate, referring to the “(he) may not have realized the gun was loaded” phrase. 

“I put that in there purely for compassion for the mother, to give her some question about intention,” Wukie tells the BCI agent. 

Clearly, the phrase suggests Jake’s death could have been an accident. It seems equally clear from the interview that Wukie also distorted his own suicide ruling on the public record, out of “compassion,” he says, to give Jake’s mother “some question about intention.”

What a sweet guy. He appears to have distorted his own words and then accuses others of distortion. 

But Shannon Limberios never knew of Wukie’s compassion, nor his sweetness. She didn’t even know he decided to rule Jake’s death a suicide until she received a copy of the death certificate in the mail from Wukie just weeks after she buried Jake. 

And his compassion did not extend past those distorted words about suicide on the death certificate. The family asked Wukie to order an autopsy, but he refused and never did return multiple calls from Shannon Limberios after March 2012.

And those distorted words used by Wukie don’t match what deputies suspected right from the start. 

“Everybody there was extremely shocked about what occurred,” Sandusky County Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Meggitt told a reporter hours after Jake was killed. “He wasn’t distraught. There’s not one person there that thought he did that intentionally.”

Wukie’s distorted words also don’t match the findings of the Ohio Attorney General’s four-month investigation. Wukie never conducted any investigation.

“Everything just totally points to an accident,” DeWine told the Register. “We have no evidence he killed himself at all.”

But Wukie appears to think he’s smarter than Meggitt and DeWine and smarter than former New York medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden, and forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who combined have performed more than 20,000 autopsies. Wukie, who has never performed an autopsy and attended college just four years, thinks he’s right and they’re wrong. 

Wukie even appears ready to challenge editors at Merriam-Webster and their dictionary definition of “suicide,” or, at least, have those editors adjust the definition for geographical preferences. 

“In this region of the state, the feeling is that if someone puts a gun to their head and pulls the trigger and it goes bang and they die, we call those suicides,” Wukie told the BCI investigator, suggesting other regions might require intent for a suicide ruling, but not in his county.  

The hell with intent; the hell with a hair trigger; and hell with failed lie detector tests.

Wukie knows better, and, he’s compassionate.

Comments

mikesee

Sometimes you can't buy what you want.

Stop It

Most times ya just need more than your ability to pay when it comes to medical and lawyers.

Sam

What would a day without yet another rehash of this same article. Mr. Westerhold on other recent blogs has stated his newspaper has a responsibly to report new information, even if we accept that the objectivity of the newspaper is in question with their continued agenda and bias.
Hair trigger or not if you handle any gun recklessly the result will be a tragedy, why would anyone be playing with a loaded gun and what was his intent, we may never know. None of us can know what he was thinking when he had the gun. Even if a court changes the final cause of death, the end result is a tragedy for his family and friends with some complete answers never being known with complete certainly.

mikesee

Yep.

deertracker

Fact of the matter is we don't know what actually happened and can't believe what has been told to the public.

Commenter

You are right. I'm sure what there are details that haven been disclosed.

Babo

"But Wukie appears to think he’s smarter than Meggitt and DeWine and smarter than former New York medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden, and forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who combined have performed more than 20,000 autopsies. Wukie, who has never performed an autopsy and attended college just four years, thinks he’s right and they’re wrong."

Mr. Westerhold: Do you desire to be sued?

You can't know what is in Dr. Wukie's mind but he probably is smarter in the academic sense than Mr. Meggitt and Mr. DeWine, neither of whom hold doctoral degrees in medicine. Dr. Wecht, admittedly made serious errors in his autopsy; erroneously concluding the death was a homicide based on his mistaken determination of the bullet path. Dr. Baden agreed with the coroner upon whom Dr. Wukie relied. He concluded it was a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head.

Just four years of college to be a physician? I don't think so. He had to have earned a four year bachelors degree, most likely in a far more rigorous discipline than journalism, (which means he's probably a lot smarter than you) just to apply to medical school. Also, his medical schooling required at least four more years.

Then there's this nugget concerning Special Prosecutor Dean Henry:

"For his part, attorney Henry is not defending the indefensible cause of death ruling in his court motion against a correction to the death certificate; he’s fighting a correction strictly on procedural grounds"

There's a difference of opinion by experts (not unqualified journalists)on the death ruling so it is certainly not "indefensible". Also, isn't Henry defending the case based on procedural grounds because the attorney for the Limberios family filed the wrong type of action to obtain a change in cause of death? If that is the case who is really to blame for all the delays and who is really not doing their job appropriately?

It's been said one can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I don't see how this column is helpful to encouraging Dr. Wukie to reconsider his ruling.

mikesee

Excellant post.

Stop It

See above.

Stop It
Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:30am

Commenter

excellent post!

Nor'easter

This whole argument is about $$$$$, not how he died.

tk

If it had been about money his family wouldn't have spent a fortune trying to find out the truth.

Ithink

Bingo!!

Nor'easter

If this is ruled an accident, the family stood to receive $100,000 in life insurance proceeds. If suicide, $0.00

Slimberios

Not sure where you got that information Nor'easter....because that is SO NOT TRUE! The most ELLA would have gotten was $20,000! I'm so sick of people saying we have persued this for money!

Ithink

Praying for you Mike and Shannon. Those who matter know what the truth is, please ignore these uneducated naysayers. They have nothing better to do but complain about the repetitiveness of this story, yet they continue to involve themselves. Amazing.

Ctwhalers

Well done again matt. Keep it up. Why would anyone want to sue matt or the register for reporting the truth. The other side should be sued for the lies and not doing there job. So matt might say something over and over but he is trying to get you people to see the truth.

Kottage Kat

JUSTICE 4 JAKE
Thank you Matt

Krissy3

When someone dies from an overdose it is considered an accident, unless there is evidence of intent. Why should this be any different? Is holding a gun more dangerous than injecting heroin?

Babo

You raise an interesting point. In my opinion, the actions of a person (especially one under treatment by a psychiatrist) holding a loaded gun to the head is much more dangerous than injecting heroin. One injects heroin for the purpose of getting high, not to kill oneself. On the other hand I can think of no purpose to hold a loaded gun to the head other than to kill or maim.

There's an important factor that Dr. Wukie is likely privy to but that has not been disclosed to the public. Why was Jacob under treatment by a psychiatrist and what meds were he prescribed?

Maybe the family is missing the real lawsuit in this tragedy: They may have an opportunity to sue the drug manufacturer.

Commenter

Good point as well

Ithink

You seem to forget, as did the witnesses until the Grand Jury report from DeWine was read aloud, that Jacob was SUPPOSEDLY 'scratching his head' (as suddenly remembered by the witnesses who 'couldn't remember what happened'). How does one know if anyone injects themselves with heroin ONLY for the purpose of getting high, and not with the INTENT to kill themselves? Would your opinion change if the heroin user was also under the care of a psychiatrist? You seem to be splitting hairs here.

Babo

"When someone dies from an overdose it is considered an accident, unless there is evidence of intent" Krissy3 in her post pointed out the difference. In injecting heroin, the main purpose is to get high. Thus, evidence of intent to kill oneself through a deliberate overdose is ordinarily required. (An interesting side story is Heroin overdoses can and are used to commit homicides because it is so easy to cover them up as accidents).

In other words, it is generally presumed a heroin overdose is an accident absent evidence of intent. So yes, if a heroin user was under treatment by a psychiatrist for depression or some other mental illness, it is more likely an ME would find suicide rather than an accident.

On the other hand, there is no purpose to pointing a gun to one's own head other than to kill oneself or if recklessly showing off as in Russian Roulette. Thus, suicidal intent can and will be presumed with self inflicted gun shots to the head. If one combines the behavior with a history of mental health issues and meds; then it is even more likely that there was some level of intent maybe transitory but there nevertheless.

Listen, I'm not the enemy. I'm trying to explain to supporters of the Limberios family, that there is a legal and medical basis for Dr. Wukie's ruling and you need to be prepared for it. Further, the fact that Jacob's mental health issues and medications prescribed have not been made public can cause one to conclude these factors are not helpful to the family's case.

By insulting Dr. Wukie, your chances of him reconsidering his ruling voluntarily decrease. Had the initial approach been a reasonable and respectful request for an inquest instead of filing a lawsuit to force a change in his ruling that was based on an ill conceived conspiracy theory of alleged homicide and cover-up; there may have been a changed ruling.

Now the lawyers are dug in, (you can count on appeals) and the $20,000 life insurance policy will be spent on legal fees, if the family ever prevails. So, lay off Dr. Wukie, apologize, and ask him to consider an inquest and a change in ruling after the inquest. You need to separate him from SCSO and make the case about LE misconduct rather than him.

Ithink

Thank God you're not on the Limberios' side ("I'm not the enemy"), as Jake's supporters need no help 'explaining' things you know nothing about. Those who know Jake and his medical history and 'mental health issues' know the truth. The disgust we have toward Dr Wukie and his unprofessional actions stem from when he REFUSED to speak to Jake's family after repeated requests were made for him to explain his ruling that was made on the cause of death. Lawyers never entered the picture until the family's hand was forced. If my child was dead and the CORONER REFUSED to discuss the case with me, you bet your a** I would do whatever it took to get his attention. He is not worthy of an apology from the family. That thought is disgusting. Why don't people who know NOTHING about Jake OR the case itself, and the ones who are 'sick of hearing about it' simply turn the page, skip the story, and certainly do not post your worthless opinions.

Jmschmidt812

If you're tired of reading those comments, why don't you do everyone a favor and you stop commenting. And as far as I'm concerned your opinions of Dr. Wukie are just as worthless. He gave his explanations, there was a investigation by the AG's office that so many of the supporters wanted, none of it went the way the supporters wanted and it's still conspiracy, and cover ups. The young man died as a result of poor choices and a reckless disregard for his own safety and the safety of others. The coroner is under no obligation to change his ruling. The SR went on the offensive and started attacking Dr. Wukie, so normal response is to defend ones self. Personally I think the SR made the situation worse by it's constant attack on the reputation and character of Dr. Wukie.

Babo

To Ithink:

Good luck with your rude and hostile approach to convincing a well educated professional to change his ruling from suicide to as another pointed out "fatal stupidity". For example, would you insult the judge who found you guilty in the hopes he would change his mind?

Just offering suggestions on how to improve public relations and public perception of your cause. Whether your team realizes it or not, you've lost public support. Generally, people are not particularly sympathetic to a young man who mishandles a gun and endangers others.

Julie R.

I didn't know this young man but I don't believe for one second that he committed suicide. I don't even believe he was holding the gun when it went off.

deertracker

Agreed! Seems like some are making up theories and calling them facts and others just seem to be lacking common sense! Guys like Wukie refuse to admit they were wrong. It is the same as a prosecutor that know through DNA testing he convicted the wrong guy but still insists the guy is guilty. There is some obvious ego trippin' here!

Ithink

Thank you for posting a comment that makes sense. It seems that the only people who comment on this tragedy are the ones who complain about the story remaining in the headlines.

Ben Crazy

Is this case ever gonna end? WTF?

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