Owsley case has petition, pending answer

The Indiana Supreme Court has received a transfer petition from Logan A. Owsley about the unsupervised estate of his late father, Cary A. Owsley, and a response from attorneys representing Bartholomew County officials who oppose it.

The case is an appeal in a Marion County probate case for Cary Owsley, which is tied to a civil obstruction-of-justice lawsuit filed by his son against current and former Bartholomew County officials.

Merrillville attorney Trent McCain, who represents Logan Owsley, is asking the Indiana Supreme Court to consider what civil rights belong to a decedent’s estate as opposed to what rights belonged to the decedent before his death.

“It is well settled that only a personal representative can bring a wrongful-death claim under the Wrongful Death Act,” the petition states. “Thus, it stands to reason that the estate was deprived of the right to do that due to the defendant’s alleged conduct; therefore, Logan’s claim for access to courts belongs to him as personal representative of his father’s estate.”

The response from attorneys representing the Bartholomew County officials contends the issues were fully litigated in Bartholomew Circuit Court prior to the probate case being contested.

“The Marion Superior Court’s Order dismissing this estate proceeding should be affirmed because a disappointed heir opening an estate proceeding in a second court for the purpose of collaterally attacking the first court’s final, unappealed probate order seriously threatens the finality of probate orders and judgements,” the county officials argue.

On Nov. 21, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of a Marion Superior Court probate case filed by Logan Owsley, who had attempted to become the personal representative of his father’s estate in order to continue a federal lawsuit against a former Bartholomew County sheriff, a former coroner and current and former sheriff’s deputies.

The federal lawsuit was filed on April 7, 2015, by Logan Owsley in U.S. District Court against then-Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett, then-Coroner Larry Fisher and current and former sheriff’s deputies E. DeWayne Janes Sr., Dean A. Johnson, Christie L. Nunemaker, Brent E. Worman, William R. Kinman Jr. and Christopher Roberts. The federal case remains on hold by court administrative order and agreement of the parties until the probate case is settled, court records state.

Logan Owsley is seeking legal standing to continue his federal lawsuit, 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 Columbus, which was ruled a suicide by then-coroner Fisher.

The suicide ruling was challenged by Cary Owsley’s sister, Cheryl Jackson, who contends the Bartholomew County officials botched the investigation and lost or mishandled evidence that could have proved that her brother was murdered.

Special Judge Richard Poynter ruled Feb. 10, 2016 in Bartholomew Circuit Court that the Cary Owsley estate should be closed and Logan Owsley would keep the federal lawsuit as abandoned property from the estate. The ruling allowed Logan Owsley to have legal standing in the federal lawsuit, according to the Owsley attorneys.

However, when Logan Owsley’s attorneys reopened his father’s estate in Marion County, it was challenged by the Bartholomew County officials’ attorneys, which led to the probate court litigation.

The Indiana Supreme Court has the option of accepting or declining to hear the case at its discretion, McCain said.

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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.