Judge rules against change of representative for estate

A Bartholomew County judge denied a petition that would have allowed wrongful-death lawsuits to be filed in the aftermath of the Cary Owsley police investigation.

Cheryl Jackson and her deceased brother’s only son, Logan Owsley, asked that Lisa Owsley be removed as personal representative of her late husband’s estate and that Jackson be named special administrator.

Had Circuit Judge Stephen Heimann approved the change, it would have allowed Jackson — in addition to heirs Logan and Lisa Owsley — to seek monetary damages against investigators and others.

Such litigation would have had to be filed by midnight Tuesday, the two-year anniversary of Cary Owsley’s death, according to state statutes.

While federal authorities have up to five years to file criminal charges in the case, the two-year limit is in regard to civil liability for wrongful acts or noncontractual infringement of rights, said Mark McNeely of Shelbyville, attorney for Lisa Owsley.

“What expired here is Cheryl’s ability to seek money damages,” McNeely said Wednesday. “We believe (Jackson) has been trying to assert her mission for money, instead of her mission for justice.”

Cary Owsley’s death April 7, 2013, from a gunshot wound to the chest was ruled a suicide, but Jackson challenged Coroner Larry Fisher’s determination, made without an autopsy being ordered. Following an autopsy in March 2014, when Owsley’s body was exhumed after almost a year, two forensic pathologists concluded the cause of his death to be undetermined.

One reason Jackson has repeatedly cited for suspecting wrongdoing in the investigation is the fact that Deputy E. DeWayne Janes Sr., who was divorced from Lisa Owsley, was allowed on the premises and handled evidence at the death scene.

In his ruling issued at 10:59 p.m. Tuesday — one hour before the statute of limitations ran out — Heimann denied Jackson’s petition in its entirety.

Heimann cited in his court order that Jackson:

Failed in her petition to provide the point of law that would compel the court to remove Lisa Owsley as personal representative.

Did not follow simple court instructions regarding multiple requests to be appointed as personal representative.

Filed a petition with numerous assertions but lacking fact.

Testified she did not know who she would bring a cause of action against nor what facts the underlying cause would be based on.

Failed to provide the court with a report by Louisville surgeon Dr. William S. Smock prior to last Friday’s hearing, although evidence showed the report came into her possession prior to March 6.

While Jackson was asking to handle her late brother’s estate pending a possible FBI investigation, Heimann said it’s not known whether such an investigation will take place.

The judge also stated the evidence shows the FBI is not investigating Lisa Owsley to determine if she had a role in the death of her husband, Heimann wrote.

Smock has never claimed Cary Owsley was murdered, and his report does not find that he died under suspicious circumstances as Jackson has suggested, Heimann wrote.

Instead, the report states Smock did not have all materials from the investigation, and needed to see more evidence before rendering an opinion on the manner of death, the order stated.

“It is the outcome I expected,” Jackson said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It is clear we cannot get justice in Bartholomew County, so we will seek it elsewhere.”

Jackson said she is specifically referring to a federal civil lawsuit filed Tuesday by her late brother’s only surviving child, Logan Owsley, against Fisher, former Sheriff Mark Gorbett, and six current or former deputies, including Janes.

Since he had not read Heimann’s order, Jackson’s attorney — Trent McCain of Merrillville — declined comment on the decision.

Although Logan Owsley and his attorney sat with Jackson during Friday’s Bartholomew Circuit Court hearing, Logan Owsley has not filed any petition or motion in the matter, Heimann wrote.

For that reason, the judge wrote his order “is not providing any affirma-tive or negative relief concerning Logan.”

McNeely praised Heimann for his diligence to issue his ruling before the deadline.

“I don’t know what more Judge Heimann could do to accommodate Cheryl and her attorneys,” McNeely said.

Judge's footnote

The following was added as a footnote to the April 7 order issued by Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann regarding the case of Lisa A. Owsley vs. Cheryl Owsley Jackson.

“The Court realizes that it could have simply dealt with Ms. Jackson’s lack of standing and Logan Owsley’s failure to file any pleadings or motions and that would have taken care of all issues. However, because of the large amount of misunderstanding concerning the facts in the cases, the court felt it would serve not only the parties, but the community at large, for the court to deal with each issue as though Ms. Jackson had had standing to file her petition.”

Heimann made his entire order available online to the general public online. The complete order can be found under the heading “Latest Department News” on the home page of the Bartholomew County government website at bartholomewco.com.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.