THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
SANDUSKY — Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter will not pursue charges in the homicide of a Napoleon man, whose death the coroner ruled resulted from seizures triggered by blunt-force head trauma.
Austin Carr, 22, died July 20 at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. The Lucas County Coroner’s Office ruled his death a homicide in December, stating he developed a seizure disorder after suffering a head injury about two years earlier.
Mr. Carr was hurt in a March, 2011, attack in Sandusky that bloodied his nose and caused swelling around his left eye and right temple, according to a Sandusky police report.
The incident led to a fourth-degree-felony aggravated assault charge against Jesse Likes, 24, of Sandusky. Prosecutors agreed to a misdemeanor assault plea deal, in part because they could not contact Mr. Carr to participate in the case.
Mr. Baxter said double jeopardy protects Likes from further prosecution.
“I really think the law is against us right now,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “I don’t anticipate us moving forward on this case.”
He met Friday with Mr. Carr’s parents, Steve and Kathy Carr of Napoleon, and explained the work he’s done this week on the case. Steve Carr understands the decision and the law’s limits but wishes more could be done.
“Our jus-tice system is so flawed that something like this can happen, and you can’t go back and do anything about it. And that’s the worst thing knowing that,” he said.
In 1993, the Ohio Supreme Court found that the state could seek additional charges in such cases, but only if it reserved that right when negotiating a plea deal for the lesser offense, Mr. Baxter said.
The deal with Likes contained no such language because “there was no indication” back then that Mr. Carr would die from his injuries.
“It just wasn’t foreseeable at the time,” Mr. Baxter said.
He also pointed to other potential problems that could come up if a case proceeded, such as witness statements that contradicted Mr. Carr’s account to police. Two witnesses and Likes all told police at the time of the assault that Mr. Carr struck Likes first.
Mr. Carr told police Likes believed he was involved with Likes’ ex-girlfriend, which Mr. Carr denied.
No weapons were used in the assault. Likes could try to claim self-defense, and it would be difficult to try the case without Mr. Carr’s testimony, Mr. Baxter said.
The coroner’s ruling in Mr. Carr’s death also listed a history of chronic drug and alcohol abuse.
Though “devastated” by a situation that feels “surreal,” Steve Carr said the family will reach out to friends and relatives for support.
“We got to keep moving forward. It’s something we got to do,” he said.