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Judge: Confidentiality needed for autopsy

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Bartholomew County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann has issued a court order outlining many of the final preparations needed before the body of shooting victim Cary Owsley can be dug up from Garland Brook Cemetery for an autopsy.

Heimann has required at least a half-dozen participants who will take part in exhuming Owsley’s body or performing the autopsy to sign confidentiality agreements barring them from divulging exactly when the dead man’s casket will be removed from the grave or where the autopsy will take place.

Court-approved observers also will have to stand 200 feet away from Owsley’s grave as a safety measure when the 800-pound lid to his burial vault is removed, Heimann’s court order says. Other portions of the order with additional details about procedures and participants are being kept confidential by Heimann as a security measure.

Here are a few new details included in court filings:

By Feb. 21, Heimann wants signed confidentiality agreements from companies and doctors who will take part in the removal of Owsley’s casket from the grave or handle some aspect of the autopsy. The judge’s order says anyone who violates the court order runs the risk of being found in contempt of court.

As of Thursday afternoon, confidentiality agreements were on file at the courthouse from Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher; Dr. Werner Spitz of St. Clair Shores, Mich., a forensic specialist hired by Owsley’s family; and Louis Godsey, representing Sexton Wilber Corp., a burial vault company.

Signed agreements had not yet been received from Dr. Scott Wagner, a forensic pathologist from Fort Wayne retained by the court to jointly oversee the autopsy along with Spitz; Fort Wayne-based D.O. McComb & Sons funeral home, which will transport Owsley’s body and casket to the autopsy site; and from Dr. Thomas J. Sozio and a medical student assistant, both of whom have been authorized to be inside the autopsy room as observers for the county coroner.

The actual excavation work needed to remove Owsley’s casket from the cemetery will begin at 8:30 a.m. on a date that will be kept secret, Heimann ruled.

Heimann’s court order says he intends to secure an Indiana State Police photographer to take photos of the actual autopsy to maintain a visual record. The physicians who conduct the autopsy also will file written reports with the court.

Once the casket with Owsley’s body is out of the grave, Heimann’s order says it must be driven by D.O. McComb & Sons to the autopsy site, and arrive there no later than 12:30 p.m. on the date that’s chosen.

The autopsy will start between noon and 1 p.m. on the secret date, the judge’s order says, and Owsley’s body will be returned to Garland Brook Cemetery in Columbus the next day for reburial.

Cheryl Jackson of Columbus, a former newspaper

and TV reporter, filed a civil lawsuit last year seeking the right to exhume the body of her 49-year-old brother, Owsley, to have medical and forensic tests conducted on his remains.

Jackson and her lawyers want medical experts to look for evidence that he might have been the victim of foul play, and not a suicide as the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and the coroner ruled after his April 7 shooting death last year.

Under a court-sanctioned settlement, attorneys for Jackson have deposited $17,490 in a Bartholomew County account to cover many of the costs of removing the body and conducting the autopsy.

The coroner didn’t perform an autopsy after Owsley’s body was found. Instead, Fisher said at the time he believed that the shooting scene made it obvious Owsley had taken his own life.

Jackson maintains her brother would never 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 waged a Facebook campaign and organized public rallies calling for a review of evidence and an autopsy to provide justice for her late brother.

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