The Bartholomew County judge presiding over a Columbus death investigation that has generated national attention has placed all of the case’s court orders online due to high demand.
Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann said he approved the online postings in a court order last week because email and telephone inquiries about the Cary Owsley case were consuming too much of his staff’s time.
“I’ve got thousands of other cases, and my staff has to process all of them,” Heimann said. “This case was taking too much of their time, just from inquiries.”
In an effort to seek a solution, the judge sought advice from the Indiana State Court Administration and was told it would be appropriate to put relevant court orders and other documents on the website.
Owsley’s death from a gunshot wound to the chest April 7, 2013, had been ruled a suicide by Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher after an investigation by the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.
The victim’s sister, Cheryl Jackson, disputed that ruling without an autopsy and filed a lawsuit so her family could learn from medical experts whether evidence would show that Owsley was murdered.
Jackson objected to the suicide finding, in part because her brother’s wife was once married to a deputy allowed onto the premises where Owsley was found dead of the gunshot wound.
Lisa Owsley’s former husband, E. DeWayne Janes, was one of three deputies disciplined by Sheriff Mark Gorbett over mistakes made at the death scene. The others were Sgt. Dean Johnson and Det. Christie Nunemaker.
Court-appointed pathologist Dr. Scott Wagner of Fort Wayne wrote that he could find no evidence of foul play in Owsley’s death. Wagner’s findings from the March 12 autopsy were released during a May 27 court hearing.
Heimann ruled out further criminal investigation in the Owsley case during that hearing, based on “the lack of evidence that the manner of death is anything other than suicide.”
However, a pathologist hired by Jackson who took part in the autopsy, Dr. Werner Spitz of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, said he could not rule out that Owsley’s death was a homicide.
Jackson said she may seek involvement by the FBI and the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
The case has attracted media interest nationwide, including coverage by USA Today and CNN.
Most of the inquiries to Circuit Court employees have come from either attorneys or journalists, court reporter Leah Nugent said.
While the Web postings are unusual for Bartholomew County, Heimann said he is aware of one other Indiana judge who also posted court case records on a website.
Dearborn Circuit Court Judge James D. Humphrey in 2011 received national media attention for his handling of the case of a Milan resident who was convicted of intimidation, perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from blog posts he made criticizing the judge. Humphrey afterward agreed to post relevant court documents on his website.