Mike DeWine meet Jess Burdine

Matt Westerhold
Feb 3, 2014

 

He's 80, a working man; a family man; an agreeable man.

He's also a man who believes Sandusky County jail guards killed his son.

Jess Burdine fought for 6½ years for justice, presenting evidence and information that went un-refuted but still beaten back and ignored, callously and arrogantly by local officials and the courts.

Watch the interview with Jess Burdine by clicking HERE or in the player below

He and his wife paid more than $300,000 in legal fees and court costs — all of their retirement savings — to get a day in court for the men they believe responsible for killing Craig.

The effort failed, and with no options left, Jess Burdine again pressed for a criminal investigation. Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt agreed to hand over the documentation Burdine and his attorney provided to the Ohio Attorney General in August.

“No criminal investigation took place until we started one five months ago,” Dan Tierney, a spokesman for DeWine, said last week, explaining the challenges in investigating an incident that happened so long ago.

It's a “cold case,” Tierney said.

How does a jailhouse death get cold? Why would local officials decline to conduct a criminal investigation after a violent death in the jail? The answers might seem obvious, and onerous, to some, perhaps many.

The answers are obvious to Jess Burdine.

In reports written immediately after Craig Burdine died on Aug. 11, 2007, jail guards involved said he became violent and had to be subdued. But surveillance video from the sally port at the jail show Burdine is incapacitated and non-responsive already, upon arrival.

The video is damaged, but near the end officers can be seen carrying him into the jail by his legs and arms, with Burdine facing up and his back parallel to the ground as they cart him quickly past the frame.

He would be dead just minutes later.

The surveillance camera appears to have malfunctioned, failing to record audio for more than 10 minutes after the deputy's cruiser arrives. A guard attempts to talk to an unresponsive Burdine but then the audio fades out and stops.

It's a gap in the tape — at the precise moment of importance — that would make Nixon blush.

Detective Sean O'Connell, who was with the Fremont Police Department at the time, never returned any of Jess Burdine's calls after an initial meeting with him the next day, when Jess Burdine was told his son was dead.

O'Connell was present at the autopsy by Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser, however, and Beisser's conclusions mirrored the narrative jail officials and police provided her.

Beisser noted the massive injuries, lacerations, open wounds, bruises to his body but did not cite those, or the Tasering to his body that occurred, as factors, or even contributing factors in Burdine's death. She determined he died a sudden death brought on by excited delirium caused by drug and alcohol abuse. It is a casue of death used often when a death occurs involving police custody.
 
But famed forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden testified Beisser's conclusions are clearly wrong and Burdine died as a result of the injuries he sustained. He asphyxiated — suffocated — due to the shattered cartilage in his neck, according to Baden.
 
DeWine has relied on Baden in the past, and this will be DeWine's third go at bat in Sandusky County since being elected four years ago.
 
In 2012 he found no criminal wrongdoing when the same jail guard who subdued Burdine in the shower room at the jail was accused of sexually exploiting a mentally ill inmate who was denied her medications. The 21-year-old woman was kept naked in an observational jail cell and encouraged to masturbate in front of the guards.
 
Last year, DeWine assembled another grand jury but it too found no criminal wrongdoing in the botched investigation into the death of Jacob Limberios, despite the destruction of evidence, the failure to collect evidence or order an autopsy, the mishandling of witnesses and the failed lie detector tests.
 
Eventually excuses pile up too high, and officials in Sandusky County have a lot of explaining to do on a myriad of past and recent decisions as their mistakes crisscross and intersect, highlighting a corrupt and failed bureaucracy.
 
In the weeks ahead, DeWine must choose to stand with that, or against that.
 
He must choose to stand with Jess Burdine, or against him.
 

Comments

Jakes Dad

I stand with you Jess!

Julie R.

So do I.

I voted for DeWine because he said he was going to put a stop to corruption, so I say let's get moving on it, Mr. DeWine!

DGMutley

Craig should be alive today. No excuse for the jailhouse brutality. Sandusky county has to be taken to task.

Babo

I wish the Burdine family all the best, but question whether AG DeWine will objectively investigate this case. His office has already misrepresented the law to Mr. Burdine as there is no statute of limitations on prosecution of government officers as long as they remain in office. If they have left office, the Statute of limitations is 2 years after leaving for misdemeanors and six years for felonies.

Thus there is still plenty of time to bring misdemeanor and felony charges against jail personal and importantly the Lucas County coroner's office.

That said, would not it be wise to consider requesting federal authorities get involved? After all it was the federal government who exposed the Lucas County Coroner's botched autopsy in the Lucas County jail case. Like this case, Beissner initially adopted the narrative of LE and didn't perform a thorough and scientifically independent autopsy.

Also, while I respect but disagree with Mr. Burdine's opinion concerning former Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton; I think he didn't appreciate the potential to expand the federal investigation in Ottawa County to Sandusky and other counties law enforcement agencies.

Robert Bratton is exhibiting the typical arrogance of some area LE who think they are above the law as reported by the SR's sister publication Ottawa County Register. I wish the SR would publish the front page story from Sunday 2-2-14 on this website because in the article Bratton and a Genoa politician claimed that Bratton may be able to return to employment for government despite the fact that he admitted stealing public funds. They (Bratton and the councilman) claim the Feds were unfair to Bratton and that Bratton didn't really do anything wrong.

It's that type of arrogance that is behind the alleged cover-ups in the Burdine, Limberios, and Vitte cases. LE's are confident that they can call in political markers and avoid being truly held accountable for their wrongdoing.

slightthroat212

This seems more like an alleged murder....which has no statute of limitations if I am not mistaken: whether LE or not. It remains an open ended Felony. These two men murdered this man.

I hope for this father's peace of mind, these two cops, if guilty, get arrested and brought to justice.

Babo

Yes there is the potential for a murder charge there, but it's tough to prove with missing evidence and a cold case. IMO, if one allows the AG to argue murder is the only charge due to statute of limitations issues, he will try to weasel out of looking at other charges that are more likely to obtain a conviction such as manslaughter.

It bothers me that assistants to Mr. DeWine appear to have misled Mr. Burdine in an interview with him. It suggests to me that they are looking for a reason not to aggressively pursue the case. The fact is under Ohio law the statute of limitations has not run on felony or misdemeanor charges in this case. So why did the office mislead Mr Burdine?

slightthroat212

Interesting question. This goes WAY beyond the thin blue line theory. Who is attached to whom here? Why would an AG assistant stick his or her neck out to protect two cops in a remote jail? That is what it appears to be. Yet somewhere up the line these two got protection from on high. Why is that and from who? It makes no sense. So who protected them and what became of critical evidence? Too coincidental for my liking.