Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ashland Surrenders Autopsy Report

Two years.

That's how long Ashland County Coroner William Emery and Prosecutor Ramona Rogers stalled me on my requests to view the hidden details of Amy's crime scene and the autopsy report that followed. Thanks to involvement from Attorney General Marc Dann's office, I was finally given access to those files this morning.

The terms were these: No pens, no pencils, no recording devices. Eyes only. And I had to sit under the watchful eye of Emery's wife, Karen, who recently had the Ashland County bookstore remove a display of the book because it "offended" her. Needless to say, it was a high-pressure situation.

I wish I could unsee what I have seen. I wish I could remember her as the girl with the side-saddle ponytail.

I'm in a weird spot, now. On one hand, I'm a reporter who values open records and open government, who believes that this information should be shared with the public. On the other hand, I am also someone who has become a little obsessed with solving this case. And I don't want to do anything that would jeopardize the ongoing investigation. Especially at the moment, when Bay Village detectives seem to be hot on the killer's trail, once again.

I've decided to hold off on releasing details. I figure six months is a fair amount of time. Long enough for DNA results to come back. If the Bay Village detectives still have not solved this crime by then, I'll tell you what I found. If I was a betting man, though, I'd say they'll have it solved in half that time.

So, on October 27, 2007, on the 18th anniversary of the abduction, I'll release the information contained in those files here, first.

I have learned that I have been mislead by certain informants about the nature of this crime. At least one person intentionally lied to me. What their motivations were are beyond my comprehension. Quotes from individuals that appear in the book in reference to the crime scene should be weighed against the character of the person talking. Like any good mystery novel, there are characters who cannot be entirely trusted.

In the meantime, let me just say that there is reason to hope. I believe that now more than ever. They have the evidence necessary to solve this crime.

And it appears Kristy Sabo was right. Amy fought back.

As I expected, the reaction to my decision to not talk about the autopsy publicly until October is not exactly welcomed by all (see comments below). All I can say is that we've waited 17 years for these answers. Six more months isn't too much to ask. Let's give Bay Village a little more time. And on that subject, please don't assume anything that you know about the crime scene is fact. I've made that mistake myself. Debate, conjecture if you will. But don't state anything as fact. We have not been told the truth in the past. I promise, the truth is coming.
-James Renner


Anonymous said...


Lisa (LR) said...

I am pleased you have been able to see it. At the same time with DNA being taken from certain people and etc. I agree it is best certain details should not be talked about yet, there is no need to tip your hand to a possible suspect right now.

I am curious though, that someone lied to you. I know you prob will not tell, but I would love to know if it was a police officer, witness or suspect that lied.

Anyways, I am glad you were able to see it.

Lisa (Lr)

Anonymous said...

James, I am glad that you were able to see the autopsy report after all this time, no matter what truths it revealed to you. We all know that Amy experienced horrors that no one should go through. You have really helped rejuvenate the search for Amy's killer and she is with you, helping lead the right people to him. Thanks for your dedication and determination. Kent, OH

juliemoose said...

James, does seeing the autopsy report help you understand why they wouldn't let you see it for 2 years?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Good work. I have to think she was sexually assaulted based on your comments. Which is sad, of course. But, in retrospect, probably means the police have solid DNA of the killer.

Anonymous said...

James -

Thanks for the ongoing updates! I'm anxious to know which informant mislead you in the book? Can you give any hints?

I was also sad to read the last comment in your update, that Amy fought back. While it's good to know she tried, it's sad to know she was probably terrified.

Any updates on Mr. Harvey? Do you still think he's a potential suspect?

Keep up all the good work! You are keeping her name in the media, and everyone appreciates that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim,

I hate to say this but I think there have been alot of cover up's on this case and I just do not understand why. I feel this case would of sat in the cold case file, if it was not for you. I will see you in New London.

mark said...

Wow. Can't even imagine what it was like to see what was in the files.

At least the info provided you some optimism that we are close to a conclusion.

Fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

No Comments Posted??

You really are a sellout. You have become the person that you write about in your book. The person who has the information but you want to keep it for youself.

And now, when people call you out, you refuse to put let people know.


Anonymous said...

James~Someone had told me that they heard a news report that it is possible to have this case solved as soon as next week. Have you heard anything about this and if so can you please post more of the story. If they do charge someone will you be posting what is in the autopsy report at that time, I am very curious about what was there. After reading your book, I have changed the way I use to let my children play. I live in New London and now am afraid to let them play outside alone. It scares me to think that child killer could be living in my neighborhood. You are in my prayers and also that they will catch who ever has done this horrible thing to this beautiful little girl. No matter what happens, One thing is for certain: they might have gotten away with this for this many years and may for many more to come, but YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM GOD!!!!!!! I have faith that they will pay one way or another. God bless you James~you and your family are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean, that it would be fair to say it was a cult like killing and that she was in fact raped? If her friend was right and she fought back that is what it is saying to me.

Anonymous said...

So I guess this means I or anyone else shouldnt try to ask you about what you seen in the reports?, (when we see you in New London on 4-15-07)
It does not take THAT long for a
D N A test to come back, why cant we just get this guy....and all the liars that knew what he did and tried to keep it covered up? I feel there will be more than 1 person to go to prison before its all said and done. God Bless you James, I think that if it was not for you writting this book, and keeping this open blog, all these people writting in on their opinion, this would still be a "open, but COLD case"
Lets bring him (them) down. Lets get this done, so we ALL and go on with our lives.

Anonymous said...

I Am just SURPRISED that the coroner permited you in to see it. ( Pretty crappy you couldnt take notes, Am sure you still are reeling and overwhelmed with what you did see)
Now the question is... was it real, or another "TRIP" in your investigation? You seen so much, James, we all are sorry you have seen the gruesome things you did, But sometimes you just HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! once the killer is caught, the killer will be so relived that its over, we might get all the details, some I know, No one will want to hear.

Anonymous said...

Why now? Why would all the sudden you get to view this, just because a higher figure was involved, possible a threat against his job, or another article in the paper, he looks bad to a lot of the public eye now,he couldnt risk more ridicule from us, But what reason was it that your were not allowed to take notes, and you were under a watchful eye the whole time, What, did they think you were going to take something from them, THEIR autopsy report? It was theirs and they didnt want to share, hell its not like they are out to solve a murder, they just have the answers, why keep it locked up all this time, did they think they would get the key to Bay Village if they solved it?
(Not like they were trying!) More like trying to cover something up, Could it be there any one to vertify.... was the report actually the real report or just some thing to shut you up? Who would know huh? Its now considered public record? or just public to you? Could any
"TOM" request to see it now?


I don't know, James. Having fought many public record battles and served on Lee Fisher's Open Government Task Force, I fully understand both the frustration of public record battles and the conflict of revealing details that might compromise Amy's investigation. But I think, having finally won access to the autopsy report, you're making a mistake. You got access because someone significant agreed it should be public. Now, as so often happens, you've decided there are good reasons after all to keep it secret. The urge to censure because one feels they know best is just about universal and one of the biggest obstacles to making public record laws work. Had Amy's autopsy report been made public long ago other investigative minds might have made connections that would have solved the case or, should it be solved, solved it sooner. And that could very well be the case now. Secrecy is not always wrong. But this record is either public or it isn't. And right now, you're making yourself part of the problem I think. In any event, I'm very glad you finally got access and that eventually, we've been promised, the report will become meaningfully public.

Laura said...


Now that you've seen it...
Why do you think the report was kept so secret?


Megan said...

For those of you pitching a fit about James not being specific about his findings in the autopsy report...there's a darn good reason! I don't recall who he showed the picture to, but in the book he screwed up and got chewed out by Bay Village police for showing Billy Strunak's picture to some girl. That's a HUGE no-no! The proper way would've been for the police to do a photo array of at least six pictures. James shouldn't risk screwing up again. (sorry James, it was a good example :P) The primary reason that James shouldn't mention things in the autopsy report is that when they DO find the person, whoever it may be, the autopsy report holds details that only the killer would know since they've not been released to the media.

I'm glad you're staying quite, James.

Congratulations on finally getting access to the autopsy report. Most of the girls in my office have read the book and we have all made up images in our mind of what the coroner's wife looks like. Got a picture, by chance? We're curious. :) We've painted a nasty picture in our minds.


Anonymous said...

Are you saying then , that you now know by looking at the report, who was involved?



You should trust yourself more and those who want to decide what you should and shouldn't see, a lot less.

James has a good, logical reason to not reveal what he saw in the very record he has long argued was "public." There are often good reasons for secrecy. Ever notice how often those who already have access to a record decide secrecy isn't such a bad idea after all?

Time and again the media has decided to allow restrictive public record laws to go forward because they've been promised special access.

I stress, however, that James has done Amy and all of us a great service with his determination to see this case solved. I have the greatest respect for him.

Anonymous said...

Here's the deal. James spends a lot of time in of his book (and in this blog) arguing that the autopsy should be public record. Now that he has read it, he feels that it is better if he not reveal what he has read. He is not doing his job as a reporter by not revealing it. This case will be solved not because of James Renner, but because of Detective Mark Spaetzel and all the other agents that have worked tirelessly on this case. They worked on this case long before James decided to write a book, and they never forgot about it. James has been successful in bringing this case back to the public's attention. But the police and FBI stayed focused on it long before this book.

That being said, I do not know what is in the report, or what is in it that could jeopardize prosecuting the killer. If there truly information in there that should not be revealed to the public, then it should not be accesible to the public, the coroner's wife is right, and should not have been portrayed as a bad person, and James Renner did this case a disservice by pushing to see it.

What happens in 6 months if the case is not solved?? Does revealing the infomation no longer jeopardize the case??

James is most definitely in a no win situation. I just think that he is a hypocrite. Would I reveal the information? I don't know, especially since I don't know what it is. But I also have faith in people (like the coroner's wife). If she thought the information should remain private, trust her.

James does not have faith in people. He feels only he can decide what should remain public and what should remain private.

If you read his book, which I have, James now has his "presious". And he is keeping it all for himself.

Anonymous said...

If you read the book then you would have seen Mrs. Emery's picture standing next to her husband infront of their house.

Anonymous said...

Let me just clairify one little thing here.
A few yrs. back when I was giving the Bay Village police some info. on this case I was told that they will look into it when they got some time as they were to busy doing other things for Cleveland. They didn't know when they could look into it,just when ever they got extra time. So they didn't stay johnny on the spot with this case at all times.

Anonymous said...

So now that you've seen the report you can see why the parents didn't wish to see the body.My guess is there was markings on her body that the public doesn't need to know about.

juliemoose said...

James-I commend you for deciding not to speak about what you saw in the autopsy report; you've been the one keeping the flame lit, so naturally you might like to be the one to reveal what was in the report. You therefore must have a very good reason for not doing so. I'm looking forward to the time when Amy's killer(s) is caught.

Anonymous said...

The death certificate was at least one lie, they changed it to say Ashland County as the place of death one yr. after the fact. Is that because they actully knew it was in Ashland but were afraid. Because of leaving certain areas on the death certificate as unknown the state requires the exact place. If they were afraid, what were they afraid of?There must have been some kind of markings on the body, was it cult or gang related, or both?

Anonymous said...

James were you mislead by the things asked, such as , there really was a video made,or was it a vendetta against one or both of the parents? or a drug deal gone astray?or was Amy a target of a group of guys at that party house that thought it would be fun to do a little girl, or just all the above?

Anonymous said...

James, one day not long ago I had been in a store around Medina I believe and a woman that worked there was telling me that the step father was the one on witness protection, she went on to say that her friend that worked at the police dept. in Bay Village had told her this. Is it true? I remember reading in your book that the Mihaljevic's were seperating at the time Amy went missing. It was possible then for her to have a step father if it looked like her mother was going to remarry someone else, what's your thoughts on this?

Anonymous said...

James do you think that there is any connection in the death of Amy's girlfriends father as in your book you say his glasses lenses were found under the seat of the car on the other side but the frames were in his pocket? After all you reported that her mother was the person that watched Amy for sleep overs when Amy's mother went out at night and stayed till the next morning. Where did she go? And who was she with?What did Amy's girlfriends father have knowledge of?

Anonymous said...

Where did that Matlock person go to 17 yrs. ago or is he not in this thing anymore?

Anonymous said...

James has done a great job portraying himself as the hero here. The bottom line is that he set out to "solve" this case, and eventually realized that he wasn't going to solve it. He thought he would have better success than the police and he didn't. How does that make him a hero?

If you gave information to the BVPD, and they did not look into it, it might not have been good information.

Did you ever think that all they are looking for is the proper evidence to nail the killer? They might know who the killer is, but they can't prosecute unless they have the proper evidence.

James Renner said...

Couple things I want to clear up. Most important: Amy did not have a stepfather. I don't know where that rumor came from, but it is not true. None of the Mihaljevics were in witness protection. If they were, it was the worst witness protection ever, because they never changed their names.

Secondly, I will not reply to questions about the autopsy until Oct. 27. Sorry. I know that's frustrating. But it's really not that far away.

Third, I believe Matlock has still not been ruled out completely. Most likely, he's just a punk who liked to brag about committing the crime. He lives in Arizona. I have a reporter out there looking into him. I'll let you know what he finds out as soon as I hear back from him.
-James Renner

Anonymous said...

just a word or two about things said.
1. The person that questioned step dad therory.. what they were saying was that ...who ever the person was that Margaret was seeing at that time was considered the step dad, it had nothing to do with Margarets husband Mark.
2. I personally called Washington to ask about the name changes people make under witness protection and ...they said,people don't always change their names, that is something other people take for granted.
3. Only a fool would think that Mr. Renner wouldn't be able to solve this case.
Thank You for hearring me out.

Anonymous said...

The info. I gave the BVPD was good info. At the time there was nothing being said about anything,as luck would have it, someone else turned in the same thing and they did finally act on it.As for a hero.....It makes no difference at all to me whether it is solved by BVPD,FBI, or Renner...My hero is justice.

Anonymous said...

keep up the good work Jim !!!

Liz R.

Anonymous said...

James, I been reading every coment people wrote. Going back to the psychic. She was right on they where hiding some thing.Plus someone was covering something up. Is that what you where looking for. Well keep up the good work. May God Bless you for every thing you done to help that little girl.Hopefully she will soon rest in peace.