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Autopsy results’ release delayed

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The sister of Columbus shooting victim Cary Owsley, who filed a lawsuit last year to have an autopsy performed, is now seeking to keep results confidential for the time being.

The autopsy report had been expected to be made public this week.

Cheryl Jackson has requested assurances that the forensic pathologist she hired has the same evidence and information provided to a court-appointed pathologist before the report is made public, according to an emergency motion filed Thursday.

Jackson is asking Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann for an itemization of all the documents, including the number of pages, be provided to Dr. Scott Wagner and her pathologist, Dr. Werner Spitz, to ensure that both pathologists had the benefit of the same information in forming the basis of their opinions.

Heimann is not expected to make a ruling on Jackson’s motion until sometime next week, court officials said Friday.

Jackson, Owsley’s only sibling, filed the civil lawsuit last year to get the right to exhume the body of her 49-year-old brother so forensic tests could be conducted on his remains.

The suit states the Owsley family wants to learn from medical experts whether evidence would show that he was the victim of foul play and not a suicide as the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Coroner Larry Fisher ruled after his April 7, 2013, shooting death.

Fisher also was accused in the suit of being negligent of his duties by not performing an immediate autopsy.

In a telephone interview Friday, Jackson said she believes someone in the Sheriff’s Department edited investigative files on her brother’s death before they were sent to the court.

“I don’t believe either of the pathologists have the complete facts,” Jackson said.

One of Jackson’s strongest criticisms has been that Deputy E. DeWayne Janes, the ex-husband of Cary Owsley’s wife, was allowed to work the initial death investigation. Investigators say Lisa Owsley was home alone with Cary Owsley at the time of the shooting and dialed 911.

Janes later acknowledged in an internal review that he arrived shortly after the shooting and helped place the dead man’s body on a gurney. The internal review also found other deputies allowed Janes to walk through the house and touch the handgun suspected to have been used in the shooting death.

Missing material?

According to Jackson, missing evidence that should have been shared with her pathologist includes:

Details that Janes was allowed inside the house during the death investigation.

Information that no effort was made at the scene to resuscitate her brother.

Knowledge that Janes was later suspended from the sheriff’s department.

Janes was the former owner of the gun used in her brother’s death.

The body was exhumed March 12 from Garland Brook Cemetery almost a year after Owsley’s death and taken to Fort Wayne for the autopsy to be performed.

One day after the exhumation, Heimann issued a court order that allowed Wagner, whose practice is in Fort Wayne, to make a copy of all information and materials he had received to be forwarded to Spitz.

After Jackson’s attorney, Trent McCain of Merrillville, asked Heimann to provide identical evidence and information to Spitz, court records indicate the judge complied with the request six weeks ago.

Preserving evidence

In a certified letter dated April 8 that accompanied the documents and a DVD containing photographs, Heimann apologized to Spitz for not initially providing both pathologists with identical materials.

“I was trying to be cautious with the official investigation documents because they are not to be disseminated to anyone, including the parties,” Heimann wrote. “I didn’t want to place you in a position where your clients witnessed you receiving them and attempt to pressure you into giving them a copy.”

Later in the letter, Heimann wrote: “The court is not attempting to hamper you in providing a complete report. I am simply attempting to preserve evidence in the event that further criminal investigation is required.”

Jackson said the DVD sent to Spitz did not contain any photographs from the crime scene.

The receipt from the certified mail filed with court documents prove the letter and materials sent by the judge were received April 14 by Diane L. Lucke, Spitz’s administrative assistant at Wayne State University in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.

Jackson maintains her brother never would have killed himself. She contends the coroner’s office and Sheriff’s Department bungled the death scene investigation by losing or mishandling much of the evidence last spring.

Before and after filing suit, Jackson organized public rallies calling for a review of evidence and an autopsy to provide justice for her late brother.

Besides Janes, Sheriff Mark Gorbett also suspended then-Det. Christie Nunemaker, initially the lead investigator on the case, and Sgt. Dean Johnson for errors in judgment at the death scene.

Nunemaker, who was subsequently demoted to the traffic division, has recently retired from the department. Earlier this month, Johnson lost in his effort to gain the Republican nomination for Bartholomew County sheriff.

High-profile cases

Spitz has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the investigations of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

According to an 2011 article in the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, the 86-year-old pathologist also testified at other trials that gained national attention, including:

Casey Anthony, the Florida mother found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2008.

Phil Spector, the music producer found guilty of killing an actress in 2003.

The civil trial against O.J. Simpson, who was ordered to pay punitive damages in the death of his former wife and her friend.

Spitz consulted on the Colorado death investigation of JonBenet Ramsey, which has never been solved, the newspaper reported.

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