Owsley estate case dismissed

Marion probate judge’s move could affect lawsuit against county officials

A Marion County Superior Court judge has dismissed an estate filing made earlier this year in Indianapolis on behalf of Logan Owsley in the death of his father, Cary Owsley.

After a Tuesday hearing, Probate Judge Steven R. Eichholtz ruled the letters of administration in the probate case be vacated and the probate filing be dismissed.

Eichholtz ruled that a decision to allow an estate to be opened for Cary Owsley in Marion County was incorrect as the estate assets had been probated and administrated in Bartholomew County courts.

The claim for a violation of the decedent Cary Owsley’s constitutional rights is not an asset of the estate subject to administration, the judge said in his order.

“The court finds that the claim being pursued by the personal representative in federal court is not an asset nor property of the decedent’s (Cary Owsley’s) estate,” the ruling states. “The decedent (Cary Owsley) has no constitutional rights to adjudicate and therefore the letters of administration by the court were improperly issued.”

Special Judge Richard Poynter ruled Feb. 10 in Bartholomew Circuit Court that the Cary Owsley estate locally should be closed and his son Logan could keep the federal lawsuit as abandoned property from the estate.

Logan Owsley is seeking legal standing to continue his federal lawsuit against eight current or former Bartholomew County employees or elected officials alleging obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the investigation into Cary Owsley’s death.

Cary Owsley was found dead from a gunshot wound April 7, 2013, in his home in Zephyr Village outside of Columbus, which County Coroner Larry Fisher ruled as a suicide. The suicide ruling was challenged by Cary Owsley’s sister, Cheryl Jackson, who contends Bartholomew County officials botched the investigation and lost or mishandled the evidence that could have proved that her brother was murdered.

On April 7, 2015, Logan Owsley filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court against then-Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark E. Gorbett, current and former deputies E. DeWayne Janes Sr., Dean A. Johnson, Christie L. Nunemaker, Brent E. Worman, William R. Kinman Jr. and Christopher Roberts, and Fisher.

In the federal lawsuit, Logan Owsley is alleging obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice based on discrimination, failure to intervene, hindering access to courts and intentional infliction of emotional distress in the aftermath of the investigation into Cary Owsley’s death.

Trent McCain, an attorney for Logan Owsley, said in an earlier interview that dismissal of the probate court filing — if it occurred — could affect whether Logan Owsley could continue to have standing as a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, although he also said a surviving heir may bring a federal lawsuit, not just an estate.

In a filing Sept. 16 in the federal case, the Bartholomew County officials provided amended defenses describing why the Logan Owsley case should be dismissed, including alleging that he lacks proper standing to bring the claims set forth in the complaint.

Jackson said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the fight for justice for her brother will continue — “forever, if necessary.”

Five attorneys representing Logan Owsley in the federal case were meeting to form a strategy on what is next in the federal lawsuit, she said.

McCain, attorney for Logan Owsley, and Jeff Beck, who is representing some of the county officials, said they would not comment on the probate court ruling.

Attorneys in the case are scheduled to teleconference this morning with the U.S. District Court on progress in the federal case.

In February, McCain was joined in representing Logan Owsley by the Chicago legal firm of Loevy and Loevy, a civil rights firm.

Bartholomew County officials added more legal representation in June, hiring Elizabeth A. Knight and the law firm of Knight, Hoppe, Kurnik and Knight LTD, Schererville. Knight has declined to comment about the case, saying she does not comment on pending litigation.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.