Something is rotten in one Ohio Sheriff’s Department, where the sheriff was stripped of his badge and gun last week—for allegedly stealing painkillers from police disposal boxes—and where the detective who fingered him was himself put on paid leave over claims he’d compromised an investigation into the brutal murder of a single mother.
Sandusky County lawman Kyle Overmyer was indicted by a grand jury on 43 charges—including stealing Percocet and other powerful painkillers, pocketing county funds and tampering with evidence. The charges stem from a 2015 complaint to state and federal agencies by six area police chiefs—including detective Sean O’Connell, who filed the first complaint against the sheriff, the Sandusky Register reported.
The sheriff and his supporters have called the drug probe “politically motivated.”
When reached by The Daily Beast, Overmyer’s attorney, Andrew Mayle, declined to comment on anything other than the sheriff’s pending criminal charges, which he called “very vague.” “I’ve been involved in many high-profile cases where the prosecutor cuts out a big indictment and when you get to trial, there’s really nothing there,” he added.
Overmyer did not return messages left by The Daily Beast. But he told one police chief, and later the Fremont News-Messenger, he was merely carting away the castoff drug capsules under an agreement with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
At Overmyer’s arraignment last week, special prosecutor Carol Hamilton O’Brien declined to provide more details on the charges—but some of the theft allegations against Overmyer were revealed in a February report by former Sandusky County prosecutor and FBI special agent John Meyers, a friend and supporter of a local police chief named Bruce Gower, who was also running for sheriff and lost against Overmyer in the Republican primary this spring.
Back then, prosecutor O’Brien told the Sandusky Register she was reviewing the report, which alleged Overmyer wrote himself $2,500 in checks for “drug buy money.” Court papers also allege Overmyer stole thousands from his county Furtherance of Justice Fund but do not elaborate on what he supposedly did with the money.
The alleged pill-snatching is hardly the first scandal to plague the sheriff’s department since Overmyer took office. It has faced federal lawsuits and a slew of cold cases, including one that got the Dr. Phil treatment.
As it turns out, many of those controversial cases were headed up by the man who blew the whistle on Sheriff Overmyer—Detective Sean O’Connell.
In one case, the body of single mother Heather Bogle was found in the trunk of her car, parked at the Somerton Apartments in Clyde, Ohio. Bogle had clocked out of her job at Whirlpool around 6:17 a.m. and was never seen again. Her mother filed a missing person report on April 9, 2015, after Bogle failed to pick up her 5-year-old daughter from school.
The next day, the single mom’s body was found, the Fremont News-Messenger reported.
An autopsy report later provided more details on Bogle’s gruesome death: She died from two gunshot wounds to the lungs. She was bruised and beaten and bound by her wrists and ankles. Her hair was cut to the scalp in a ragged pattern, and she had defensive marks on the back of both hands, the News-Messenger revealed.
“She doesn’t have any enemies that we know of,” Bogle’s friend Angie Ginnever told Toledo TV station WTOL after her body was discovered. “She’s such a devoted mom. I have no idea how this could happen.”
Detective O’Connell eventually released the names of three suspects in the case, two young black men and a black single mother who lived in the apartment complex where Bogle was found dead. One of the men was already incarcerated on a weapons charge in Detroit when he was announced as a person of interest. He claimed Sandusky County investigators were “trying to set me up” because of his race and said O’Connell told him, “I know it’s not you, but I’ll make it you.” (O’Connell denied the allegation and said all his interviews with the suspect had been tape-recorded.)
Another of the young men told the Sandusky Register that DNA tests cleared him of the slaying at the outset. All three suspects professed their innocence and none of them have been charged in the case.
For his part, Detective O’Connell declined to say how the suspects might be related to each other or to Bogle, but maintained that Bogle had been killed by the incarcerated suspect, using a gun he took from his fiancée and later supposedly sold in Detroit (no weapon was ever recovered in the case.) In February, when the female suspect was cuffed on unrelated charges of felony theft and misuse of a credit card, O’Connell told the local newspaper, “I believe she’s responsible for Heather Bogle’s death. I think he [sic] being in jail is a good thing. This gives the public a chance to come forward with information…. This shows what she is capable of.”
Still, Bogle’s own family isn’t quite convinced that the sheriff’s department has the right suspects.
“The Sandusky County Sheriff is DOING NOTHING. They will not follow leads, return phone calls or even send the profiling information to the FBI like promised. Somebody, Anybody. What can we do?” Bogle’s sister Jennifer wrote on a private Facebook group this year, according to the Register. (Jennifer Bogle did not return messages for comment left by The Daily Beast.)
And Bogle’s half-brother, Josh Feasel, told The Daily Beast that O’Connell refused to investigate Bogle’s ex-girlfriend, who moved to Florida after the murder. The brother says he warned O’Connell about Bogle’s issues with her ex, whom he described as possessive.
“Anytime I did call [Detective O’Connell] with facts, he would automatically dismiss it,” Feasel said. “They’re trying to put this murder on three black people who I don’t think had anything to do with it.”
The detective “painted this picture… it was a robbery gone bad,” he added, “but you don’t cut somebody’s hair out [during a robbery] and pound them to death.”
The Daily Beast was unable to reach O’Connell for comment.
Bogle’s death was a big story for the local press, which accused both O’Connell and Overmyer of giving the public contradictory information on several other high-profile cases in Sandusky County. One involved a 2007 probe into the death of 37-year-old Craig Burdine, who died after Fremont cops arrested him and Sandusky County jailers allegedly used a Taser gun on him three times in an attempt to subdue him.
Detective O’Connell, at the time a Fremont police officer, had reportedly assured the Burdines in 2007 that he’d investigate their son’s death. Back then, Sheriff Overmyer was a captain assigned to oversight of the jail, the Register reported.
Yet during a deposition, O’Connell testified that he never considered foul play by Sandusky County personnel. And he admitted that he declined to interview the officers involved, court records show.
Burdine’s father, who served in the U.S. Navy, spent his life savings—more than $391,000—on a $40 million wrongful-death lawsuit against Sandusky County and Fremont to hold police accountable for killing his son. His complaint was dismissed in 2012 after he ran out of money and his lawyer bailed, he claimed. In 2014, a grand jury ruled law enforcement did not use excessive force in Burdine’s case.
By 2010, the sheriff’s department again found itself in hot water, after police shot and killed a 26-year-old man who had allegedly been drinking for two days and threatened to kill his mother.
In July of that year, Tracy Jones dialed 911 seeking help for his 26-year-old son, Bryan. Jones told a dispatcher Bryan had loaded guns in the home he shared with his parents, the Toledo Blade reported.
It was about 9:45 p.m. when Jones made the call. “I never would have called the cops if I’d known they were going to shoot him,” Jones told the Blade.
Jones told deputies he believed his son’s shotgun was empty and that he was passed out. No one was home and would be harmed, the worried father told the cops, according to a $20 million wrongful-death suit against the sheriff and two deputies. The Jones family lost the case at trial in 2014.
A SWAT team, including Overmyer, stormed the residence around 11:30 p.m. (It’s unclear if O’Connell had any involvement in the Jones case.) One officer fired two flash-bang grenades through the front window while three others came through the back door, the complaint says. Immediately after, Bryan woke and yelled, “Why?” as the deputies spewed bullets into his head and body.
The county’s version of events differ slightly from the family’s. Deputies claimed they saw Jones sitting on the couch, holding a shotgun, and that they’d tried unsuccessfully to reach him by phone, according to the News-Messenger. The SWAT team leader, Deputy Jose Calvillo—who had a history of disciplinary problems—claimed in a deposition that he saw Jones “turning the shotgun toward the direction we were at,” the News-Messenger reported.
In an independent report, state police approved of the sheriff’s actions, saying, “Bryan P. Jones exhibited numerous indicators that relate this situation to a ‘suicide by cop.’” In May 2013, a grand jury declined to seek criminal charges against Deputy Calvillo and his brother and fellow deputy Mario Calvillo, whom authorities said fired 14 shots at Jones.
Overmyer was part of the SWAT team that day. He testified at trial: “I wanted the element of surprise. Bryan Jones would have dropped the weapon, we would have handcuffed him, took him away and got him help.”
But the family believed the sheriff’s office had no intention of helping Bryan. The SWAT team “was so wild with delusions and anger that bullets were found in the walls and woodwork of the residence,” the lawsuit claimed. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit of Appeals in Cincinnati rejected arguments for a retrial. The Jones family attorney has vowed to fight up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A few years later, O’Connell faced criticism when he served as the lead investigator in the death of Jacob Limberios, a 19-year-old father who was fatally shot in the head in March 2012. Authorities said Limberios had been at a party with three other people in a York Township home.
An avid gun owner, Limberios took a revolver to a friend’s home and let three pals take turns test-firing the gun in the backyard. His unsolved death became a two-part series on the Dr. Phil show, on which two out of three witnesses took a lie detector test and failed.
Limberios’s family accused the detective of delivering conflicting information, first saying one of the three witnesses accidentally shot Limberios. O’Connell later concluded the victim shot himself without providing additional details, the Register reported.
The county coroner allegedly ruled Limberios’s death an accidental suicide without ever visiting the scene, interviewing witnesses or examining the body. Rather, he made his determination after speaking to a sheriff’s deputy over the phone, ABC News reported.
In 2013, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that a special grand jury had determined Limberios’s death was not a suicide but a freak accident. State investigators found the teen’s gun had a faulty safety mechanism.
O’Connell was not convicted of any wrongdoing nor disciplined in connection with any of the above cases.
O’Connell has faced more serious difficulties in the case of Heather Bogle, the murdered single mother, and it may turn out to be the detective’s undoing. Over the summer, even as the special prosecutor was wrapping up her investigation into Sheriff Overmyer’s alleged pill-filching—set in motion by O’Connell’s complaints—Overmyer suspended O’Connell and released a report on the detective’s conduct in the Bogle affair, claiming he had committed a crime by sending confidential information on the case to a friend.
The sheriff’s complaint was referred to county prosecutor Tom Stierwalt to determine whether O’Connell will face criminal charges, the Register reported.
Meanwhile, despite the controversies dogging his office, Overmyer has vowed to stay in office and on the ballot this November.
The sheriff’s refusal to resign has critics—and the families of some victims—crying foul.
“This nightmare is still my reality,” said Josh Feasel, the half-brother of Heather Bogle. “The general public wants to believe that law enforcement is good… the people in these communities don’t believe this stuff until a 43-count indictment comes out.”
Bruce Gower, the police chief who lost the primary to Overmyer, denied that the pill-theft charges against the sheriff were political in nature and noted to The Daily Beast, “You have a sheriff that’s under indictment… You have the lead investigator who the sheriff put on leave.
“The whole place is a mess. It’s going to be a long process to straighten it out.”