Questions surrounding the death of Cary Owsley have loomed over Columbus for nearly two years. It has involved disciplinary action against three Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department deputies, further allegations raised by family members about handling of the case, an exhumation of the body and an autopsy by forensic pathologists.
With criticism directed at the department he now leads, new Sheriff Matt Myers did the right thing after examining the evidence himself — sending all of it to the FBI so the agency could consider doing its own investigation.
Owsley’s April 7, 2013, death from a gunshot wound was ruled a suicide by County Coroner Larry Fisher without an autopsy being ordered. Owsley’s family contended that the 49-year-old never would have killed himself. The family, led by Owsley’s sister, Cheryl Jackson, contends that the investigation was botched because three deputies — who were later punished by the department — lost or mishandled key evidence.
Jackson successfully campaigned to have her brother’s body exhumed. But tests performed by two forensic pathologists ruled the cause of death as undetermined, and in doing so failed to resolve the long-standing question: Did Owsley take his own life or was there foul play? After the autopsy results were released, a Bartholomew Circuit Court judge said the material did not need to be forwarded for a criminal investigation, but that ruling did not put an end to the questions that continue to be raised in the community.
Turning over all the evidence to the FBI serves not just the Owsley family, but the sheriff’s department and Bartholomew County as a whole. All parties are interested in a resolution once and for all, and turning the case over to the FBI for an independent review is one way to potentially achieve that.