Unanswered questions surround Cary Owsley's suicide investigation
02/02/2018 1:52 pm PST
How far would you go if you felt your loved one was murdered?
For the family of Indiana father and husband Cary Owsley, that answer is easy: They will never give up until they feel they know who really pulled the trigger that ended his life.
It all starts in the city of Columbus on April 7, 2013, when a wife calls 911 after she's just found her husband shot in their home in a death that defies logic.
Was evidence destroyed? Was there a conspiracy? Crime Watch Daily goes looking for answers. What happened to Cary Owsley?
An avid fisherman and hunter since the age of 8, Cary Owsley was a truck driver by trade. That is, until his big sister Cheryl Owsley Jackson helped him find something a bit more local. With a new position at an auto parts factory, there was an unexpected perk: his wife, Lisa Owsley.
Lisa had two adult sons of her own from a previous marriage, Josh Janes and Dewayne Janes Jr. And from time to time they would stay with Cary and Lisa at their home in Columbus, Indiana.
Cary's son Logan says his dad treated Josh and Dewayne Jr. like they were his own.
"He would let them use his truck, his boat, his guns," Logan Owsley tells Crime Watch Daily. "He didn't believe in seeing me or them any different. He treated us all the same."
A happy family is what Cary wanted them to be. But things as of late were a lot less harmonious.
"They had been getting into arguments over some money issues, and he noticed that she had really been treating him bad," said Logan.
"Her sons were giving them problems and instead of her taking up for her husband, she would take up for her sons," said Rosemary Owsley, Cary's mother.
And then just three years in, tragedy struck. A mystery in broad daylight behind closed doors.
Operator: "911, what is your emergency?"
Lisa Owsley: "My husband just shot himself at [----] Roosevelt Street."
Operator: "OK, where did he shoot himself?"
Lisa Owsley: "Looks like in the chest. He doesn't look like he's breathing or anything."
Operator: "Did he just do it?"
Lisa Owsley: "Yes. He's been severely depressed and seeing a psychotherapist."
Operator: "OK, can you tell if he's still breathing or not?"
Lisa Owsley: "I'm going back in there, I was trying to get my dogs out of the blood. Cary, Cary, Cary -- he's not responding and I don't feel a pulse in his neck."
Operator: "OK, what kind of weapon was it?"
Lisa Owsley: "Um, I don't know. I don't even see it. I just, I was in the other, he just took a gasp. I don't even see the gun. It looks like he sat down in the chair and shot himself and he's gasping again for air. Oh no, there's a handgun laying in the, in the blankets. It was a handgun. Cary, Cary -- do you hear he's gasping? Are they coming?"
Operator: "Right, they're on the way. Is there anything you can put over the wound?"
Lisa Owsley: "Yeah, there's a sweatshirt laying here. There's quite a bit of blood under his back. Cary, can you hear me? He's been threatening suicide with his psychotherapist."
Operator: "All right, they're on the way."
When Bartholomew County Sheriff's deputies arrive on the scene, 49-year-old Cary Owsley is dead from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Cary's mom Rosemary is the first to learn the devastating news.
"Lisa called, she said 'Cary's dead, he killed himself.' And I said no he didn't, and I said a few choice words to her, but I didn't believe it for a minute," said Rose Owsley. "I knew she was lying. I didn't know exactly what had happened, but I knew that he did not take his own life."
Cary Owsley is dead with a gunshot wound to the chest. The person who find him was Cary's wife Lisa, who was home when the shot rang out.
Lisa, her son Dewayne Janes Jr. and Bartholomew County Sheriff's deputies are at the house when Cary's distraught son Logan arrives.
"I went in the house just yelling 'Where is my dad? I want to see my dad,' and the officer stepped around the corner and said 'I'm sorry but I cannot let you back here, your dad would not want you to see him like that," said Logan.
Logan says Lisa was less than consoling.
"She put her hand on my shoulder and said 'Your dad was a depressed man,' turned away from me, went back in the house," said Logan.
Almost four hours away, Cary's sister Cheryl Owsley Jackson received the most gut-wrenching call of her life.
"I happened to be on a blind date with a Chicago detective, he goes to the bathroom, by the time he comes back I'm on the floor," Cheryl tells Crime Watch Daily. "Mom said Cary killed himself, and I just started screaming 'No he didn't, no he didn't.'"
But even right then in her grief-induced haze she says knew that what she was hearing wasn't true -- this was no suicide. On her frantic drive to the scene, Cheryl calls Lisa several times. Eventually Lisa picks up.
"I said 'Lisa, what happened?' And she said 'I don't know. He just walked in there and shot himself,'" said Cheryl. "And she said 'We're going to have no service and cremate him,' and then I flipped. I said 'I swear to God I will take you to court, you have got to give me my brother's body,' and she said 'No service, we're cremating him.' I said 'It's not happening. It's not happening.'"
While Cary's lifeless body lies in his home office, Bartholomew Sheriff's deputies process the scene. One of those deputies is there despite being off-duty at the time. That deputy is Dewayne Janes Sr., Lisa's ex-husband.
"He was in the back room with my dad's body," said Logan Owsley.
Turns out Dewayne Jr. summoned his father there after the shooting.
Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher, who also owns a flower shop in town, arrives, and along with law enforcement, he treats Cary's death as a suicide.
"That's the only thing I ever heard out of them," said Logan. "It was a closed and shut case."
Cary's body was sent not to the morgue, but to the funeral home. Coroner Larry Fisher says no autopsy will be done.
"The day Cary died I called Larry Fisher. I wanted an autopsy of my son's body and he refused it," said Rosemary Owsley.
What was the rationale given for no autopsy?
"There wasn't one," said Cheryl. "I say 'Hey, don't rule this a suicide. There's a lot of fighting that's been going on here,' and he says 'Your brother killed himself, get over it.' I said 'Larry, listen to me, I need you to wait.'"
He said it that callously?
"Worse than that. And he starts laughing," said Cheryl. "Laughing. 'I'm a bad guy, boo-hoo-hoo, I'm a bad guy,' click."
Despite the family's desperate pleas for an autopsy, there won't be one. But just one day later, Lisa agrees to give up all rights to Cary's remains. The family is allowed to bury him.
Cary Owsley's death has been ruled a suicide. One single bullet fired into his chest.
His family is convinced he did not pull the trigger. Crime Watch Daily talked to a forensic investigator who took interest in the case, and he's walking us through everything, detail by detail, of what he thinks happened that deadly day.
It appears to have violated standard police protocol.
"Not only standard police protocol, but specific Indiana State Coroner training," said Trent McCain. "If there is an apparent suicide with only one witness, an autopsy must be performed, and this case, there was no autopsy performed or ordered by the coroner, Larry Fisher."
So Cary's family is on a mission, believing the evidence points not to suicide, but foul play.
"The evidence does not show that Cary Owsley killed himself. The evidence shows somebody shot him," said Cary's sister Cheryl.
Attorney Trent McCain is helping them lead the charge.
Why did you get involved?
"Voltaire said 'To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth,' and when I heard the facts and circumstances behind this case, I was compelled to get involved," said McCain.
Starting with a court battle to get Cary's body exhumed.
Why did Lisa fight you in court, opposing you to get the body exhumed?
"That's a very good question," said Cheryl. "Why not say 'Let's let Cheryl Jackson exhume her brother's body so she can see he killed himself'? But no, his wife and the coroner and the city fought that exhumation to the end."
In the end all parties agreed to have Cary's body exhumed for an autopsy. But Cheryl's battle is far from over.
Two independent doctors performed the autopsy -- one court-appointed, Dr. Scott Wagner -- the other hired by the family, famed pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz.
Dr. Wagner concluded: "There is no evidence this death is a homicide, within reasonable medical certainty."
Dr. Spitz's conclusion was "undetermined."
A setback for Cheryl and her family. But then Dr. Bill Smock, a police surgeon from Louisville, Kentucky, hears about the case and agrees to take a closer look.
"I did a training in with Scotland Yard and they have physicians called 'police surgeons' that assist the police in the investigation of violent crime, so when I was creating the first forensic program in the United States for living forensics, we borrowed the term 'police surgeon,'" said Dr. Smock.
I know viewers are asking, Are you being paid by the Owsley family in any way?
"No, this was a pro bono case," said Dr. Smock.
What was your determination?
"There isn't enough evidence to determine whether it's homicide, suicide, or staged scene," said Smock.
But the sheriff's office says flat-out this was definitely a suicide.
"Now I think the sheriff's office may have had a little case of tunnel vision, because there are unanswered questions from a forensics standpoint," said Dr. Smock.
Dr. Bill Smock agreed to take us through his findings and the questions he still has in more detail than he did under oath in his deposition.
Crime Watch Daily cannot independently verify any of Smock's claims.
"We can start out with the initial crime scene investigation: totally inadequate pictures, malfunctioning cameras, every photo was out of focus," said Dr. Smock.
Then there's Coroner Larry Fisher's final report, which stated in part:
"The victim was found on his back, still sitting in chair while he fell backwards."
"Victim had a .380 cal. wound to his chest."
- "The bullet also penetrated the wall behind him."
Dr. Smock says it might not be that simple. Again, the views expressed by Dr. Smock are his own and were not shared during his sworn deposition.
This is the official finding, right? That Cary was sitting in a chair and he shot himself in the chest.
"That's the official finding. And he certainly had a contact wound to his left chest," said Smock. Smock demonstrated the angle.
In all your years, have you ever come across anyone committing suicide like this?
"Never," said Dr. Smock. "Very unusual. Never seen it."
In his deposition, Dr. Smock did not testify that Cary Owsley died under suspicious circumstances.
The detectives on scene didn't check if there was any bullet holes, impact entrances in the floor?
"That was my very first question: 'Did you look at the rug and the floor?'" said Smock. "We don't know if that bullet came from this gun because it wasn't collected, it wasn't examined, no firearms examiner looked at that weapon or looked at the bullet."
And there are two shell casings that are found in the house?
"Right," said Dr. Smock.
We don't know if that's from the same weapon or two different weapons.
"Correct," said Smock.
A lot of unanswered questions.
"Too many," said Smock.
But one bullet was found. Was that tested?
"The bullet allegedly was found by a family member several days later and mysteriously disappeared," said Dr. Smock. "Was not turned over to the police and no one knows what happened to it."
Any gun residue tested on either Cary or anyone else?
"No. No residue tested on Cary or anybody else who might have come in contact with that room and that scene," said Dr. Smock.
Every time I'm asking you a question it raises another question.
"Why wasn't this investigated the way it should've been?" said Smock.
What about the blood spatter?
"The blood that was found on the carpet was blood that I would associate with the exit wound, but what's interesting is there is a second area of blood on the foot of a stepladder. How did it get there? That blood wasn't tested, we don't even know if that was Cary's blood or somebody else's blood," said Smock.
Any signs of a struggle?
"Yes, the stepladder is overturned, there was a basket of clothes that are overturned. So that's another question for the detectives," said Dr. Smock.
And then to bring the findings full circle, Cary is on his back. You're saying if it were indeed the self-inflicted gunshot wound, he would have been face forward, The momentum of the shot is not going to blast him back. This is not Hollywood.
"When a bullet, particularly a .380, enters the body, there is no transfer of energy that is going to move your body backwards," said Dr. Smock. "It's going to pass through and in this case ruptures your heart, you're going to lose your blood pressure. And you're on the floor."
After hearing Dr. Bill Smock's theories and Cary Owsley's family's concerns, and considering all the evidence presented by both sides, the Bartholomew County Circuit Court ruled there was an overall lack of evidence that his death was anything but suicide.
But for Dr. Smock, one of the most troubling of all the unanswered questions revolves around why a certain Bartholomew County Sheriff's deputy was on the scene that day -- Deputy Dewayne Janes Sr., Lisa's ex-husband.
"Personnel related to the deceased's family, they're on the scene. That is so inappropriate," said Dr. Smock.
And according to Deputy Janes' own report, he says among other things, he "assisted SGT Johnson by reading the serial number off the weapon," and he "assisted him [Coroner Larry Fisher] by carrying the body bag out of the office."
It's textbook conflict of interest, no?
"Textbook 101," said attorney Trent McCain.
Conflict of interest? Maybe.
Three deputies were suspended and a new county sheriff had the FBI and the Department of Justice review the case, which by all accounts was a substandard investigation. But both the FBI and the D.O.J. determined there was no violation of federal law, and did not pursue any charges against any member of the sheriff's department, including Deputy Dewayne Janes Sr.
But attorney Trent McCain says there was something else he found curious: the gun found near Cary's body wasn't his.
"The gun belonged to that same deputy sheriff used to be married to Cary's wife," said McCain.
It was Deputy Janes' gun.
"He claims that he gave this gun to Lisa when they were married years before," said Cheryl Owsley Jackson.
"For whatever reason they did not do an adequate investigation, didn't do what was necessary to answer the question of what happened to Cary," said forensics expert Dr. Bill Smock.
But not everyone agrees with Smock's assessment. The FBI and the Department of Justice concluded no federal laws were broken. But some believe one of the most troubling aspects is that Bartholomew County Sheriff's Deputy Dewayne Janes Sr. was on the scene that day. Deputy Janes is the ex-husband of Cary's wife Lisa.
According to Deputy Janes' own report, he wrote: "I with the help of my son Dewayne cut out a section of the rug that was blood soaked bagging it for disposal. Later in the afternoon the chair Cary was sitting in that had one spindle shattered was burnt by someone."
The sheriff suspended Deputy Dewayne Janes and two others as a result of the substandard investigation of the Owsley death scene specifically. Janes was "suspended for five working days, ordered to receive remedial training regarding death scene investigation and scene preservation."
About a year later, after Deputy Janes involved himself in yet another investigation involving his ex-wife Lisa and their sons, formal charges against Janes were filed with the Merit Board. But no hearing took place. Deputy Janes announced his retirement.
Cory's sister Cheryl says there's more.
"Cary's clothes, destroyed. No longer part of the evidence," said Cheryl. "They admitted that they no longer had his clothes. They destroyed them at the funeral home."
However, when there's no suspicion of foul play, this can be common practice. And there is no evidence to support any other theory.
But attorney Trent McCain says having Cary's clothes could have helped answer some of their questions.
"If they were able to examine that shirt, they would be able to determine whether or not there was any stippling or gunpowder residue on the shirt to determine the distance the shooter would have been when they fired the fatal shot," said McCain. "Crucial evidence that could have led to knowing exactly how Cary died, died along with him."
But Cary's family says there's more to the story than what they believe to be shoddy police work. Cheryl, Logan and Rosemary paint an unflattering picture of Cary's home life with his wife.
Crime Watch Daily tried to verify their claims and dug deep into court papers. What we learned was that the court did not buy a word of it. The court decided the family's allegations were baseless. It sided with Lisa Owsley when the family challenged Lisa's appointment as the personal representative of Cary's estate. Simply put, according to the court, the FBI and the D.O.J., there is no evidence to support the following claims by Cheryl and her family.
But Cheryl still says that to get to the truth of what happened to Cary, look no further than the other side of Owsley's front door.
"There was a constant fighting, police reports will show that someone's calling the police out there because Cary's in conflict with her adult sons," said Cheryl.
Sensing the rising volatility in the home, Cary's mom Rosemary shared a timely premonition with her son.
"I had talked to Cary the day before and I had told him, I said 'Get out, your life is in danger,'" said Rose Owsley.
And it seemed like Cary decided to heed her warning. The morning Cary died he called his son Logan to help him move out.
"He said 'I can't take it anymore,'" said Logan Owsley. "I was like 'All right, no worries, we'll get it done,' and I said 'I love you,' he said 'I love you too,' and he hung up the phone."
"By the time Logan gets out there his dad is dead," said Cheryl Owsley Jackson.
But is there evidence that proves Cary did indeed take his own life?
According to the court, there is substantial evidence to support the conclusion that Cary Owsley committed suicide.
The sheriff now says your brother was suicidal. They point to conversations he had with a therapist. What do you know about that?
"I haven't seen anything from the doctor's office," said Cheryl.
But court documents show in Cary's last seven sessions with his therapist, he mentioned suicide in four of them, and he had recently recommitted to a "safety plan" with his therapist to protect him from harming himself.
Medical reports show Cary Owsley suffered from chronic back pain for years, and in the months leading up to his death his pain was increasing, which made him consistently depressed.
Court documents also reveal a suicidal text sent by cary to a friend, which reads in part: "I fell [sic] like I want to die. Boom"
And there was a note found in a notebook at the scene written by Cary, which read: "As I need to take out more life insurances to make my love ones not to worry about my debts and what it takes to put me away."
Cheryl still doesn't believe that was a suicide note.
"Do you think anybody would call their 21-year-old son and have them meet at his house, knowing that by the time he got out there he would be dead? It doesn't make any sense. He had a way out. His way out wasn't suicide, it was moving," said Cheryl.
Cheryl Owsley Jackson is way past wondering -- and she's holding nothing back, dropping an utter bombshell.
"I think Josh Janes killed my brother," Cheryl tells Crime Watch Daily.
Josh Janes is the adult son of Cary's wife Lisa.
"He literally moved in the night before my brother died. And there was nothing but conflict," said Cheryl.
So where was Josh Janes when Cary Owsley was shot? According to court documents: "The police determined through corroborative evidence that Josh Janes was not at the Roosevelt residence at the time of the shooting."
"There were two polygraphs. One to Lisa and one to Josh," said Josh.
Lisa Owsley passed. And Josh Janes? "No opinion," or inconclusive.
Cary's son Logan Owsley says he's not exactly sure what happened the day his dad died. But he believes Deputy Dewayne Sr. and his sons Dewayne Jr. and Josh all could have been involved.
"I believe that they got in an argument and one of the sons saw their opportunity, and one thing led to another, my dad would not back down," said Logan. "They could have both been there, I'm not 100-percent sure. There's thousands and thousands of different variations that go through my head that could've happened."
But you think one of Dewayne Senior's sons killed your father.
"Yes. And dad came to help," said Logan.
Explosive accusations from both Logan and Cheryl -- but ones the court says are unfounded.
The Bartholomew Circuit Court, in its final order, concluded that no one in the Janes family had anything to do with Cary Owsley's death. It was a suicide.
But Cheryl says she thinks it's even bigger than the Janeses. And she says there's been an attempt to conceal the truth.
"If it were incompetence initially, it's a conspiracy now, because no one is coming forward and telling the truth," said Cheryl.
In court papers Lisa tells a very different story. Lisa claimed she and Cary had a very loving relationship. In the last several years of his life he suffered from increasing physical pain from his back, and severe depression.
Lisa even told the court that his sister Cheryl rarely had contact with her brother in his lifetime, and Cary was estranged from his son Logan. Lisa went on to tell the court that Cheryl has exaggerated and twisted the events surrounding Cary's death while defaming her through the media.
"If you look at the history of our photos over the last 10 years, my brother and I are together," said Cheryl. "Our family is together, we're all very close. And she's actually in our holiday photos with us. So why she comes up with this, I have no idea. But I have never spent five days not talking to my brother in my life. I have never been estranged from Cary Owsley."
We wanted to get the story straight from Lisa Owsley herself. We met up with her outside the home she once shared with Cary. She declined to speak with us.
Since Lisa Owsley wasn't talking, we decided to pay a visit to her son Josh's house to see if he would tell us his side of the story. Josh Janes was recently arrested for child neglect and possession of drug paraphernalia. And in his car police found four unsecured firearms. He was released on $10,000 bond. There was no answer at his door.
Then we went to see his father, retired Deputy Dewayne Janes Sr. There was no answer there either.
And finally we wanted to talk to former Coroner Larry Fisher. He's no longer the coroner, but he does own a flower shop where we spoke to him.
Why did you decide not to perform an autopsy, why did you automatically decide it was a suicide?
"You know what, it's my decision in every case," said Fisher.
It's standard procedure for every death scene to be treated as a homicide. What decided against this being a homicide as opposed to a suicide?
"Well, you know, I'm not going to comment on it," said Fisher.
Remember, Cary Owsley's body was later exhumed, and there were two autopsies performed. One found "there is no evidence this death is a homicide within reasonable medical certainty." The other was "undetermined."
In addition to trying to talk to Lisa Owsley outside her house, we also reached out to her for a formal interview.
Her attorney, Mark McNeely, responded in part with: "Lisa Owsley wants closure to this issue in her life. She loved her husband and completely cooperated with the Bartholomew Co. Sheriff's Department, the Prosecutor's Office, the Court and Legal System... The Court rendered a long, detailed, and thorough decision, which I request and insist be read to your audience."
Crime Watch Daily has shared the court's decision in this story, which sided with Lisa Owsley against Cheryl Owsley Jackson, concluding there was a lack of evidence to suggest anything but suicide.
We also reached out to the current sheriff, Matthew Myers, Bartholomew County Prosecutor William Nash and Dr. Scott Wagner, the court-appointed pathologist who performed Cary's autopsy. None responded to our request for an interview.
For Cary's family, the pain is still raw, the loss still too much to bear.
"It's been very, very hard," said Logan. "Physically and mentally. My grandmother has had several strokes since my dad passing."
So they vow they're never giving up. They're just getting started.
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