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AUSTINTOWN Homicide ruling took 4 months, shook family

By Ian Hill

Monday, February 23, 2004

Donations are being accepted to pay for the boy's funeral.
AUSTINTOWN -- Jesse Wolfe's family had been waiting four months for answers about his death, and the wait was frustrating.
"We definitely wanted to know how he died," said April Wolfe of Struthers, Jesse's aunt. "He was fine the day before" his death.
Jesse, 2, was found not breathing in his Compass West apartment about 7:35 p.m. Oct. 22. He was later pronounced dead at Forum Health Northside Medical Center.
Tuesday, the Trumbull County coroner's office ruled the toddler's death a homicide.
Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, a forensic pathologist with the coroner's office, explained why the ruling took so long. He said the coroner needs time to examine several different factors before issuing a ruling. In addition, the coroner may have to interview witnesses and examine the location of death to reach a conclusion, he said.
"You have to take a look at the whole situation," Dr. Germaniuk said. "An autopsy is a lab test that is never conducted in a vacuum. You try to get as much information from as many sources as you can."
Shortage of experts
He also noted that there is a shortage of forensic pathologists and toxicologists to perform autopsies and post-mortem tests needed to determine cause of death.
"Things do take time," Dr. Germaniuk said.
Dr. Germaniuk wouldn't say what delayed the ruling in Jesse's death, noting that he didn't want to release information important to the investigation.
Austintown Detective Sgt. Ray Holmes wouldn't comment when asked if the four-month wait for the coroner's ruling caused problems for his investigation into Jesse's slaying.
The boy's mother, Jennifer Wolfe, is not listed in the phone book and could not be reached to comment. Jesse's father is in jail.
What was reported
Jennifer Wolfe's boyfriend, whose name has not been released, told police he had just arrived at the apartment Oct. 22 and found that Jesse was not breathing and his skin was blue. The boy also had blood in his throat, police said.
The boyfriend said he performed CPR on Jesse until paramedics arrived.
Jennifer Wolfe told police that she had gone next door about five minutes before her boyfriend arrived and that Jesse appeared to be in good health earlier in the day. Her 6-year-old daughter Chelsea was also in the apartment.
April and Jason Wolfe, Jesse's and Chelsea's aunt and uncle, have since been given custody of Chelsea.
A private funeral was held for Jesse last winter, and the boy was buried in an unmarked grave in Youngstown's Calvary Cemetery. Austintown Detective Sgt. Frank Tomasino and Kathy Blackstone, the owner of Blackstone Monument Co. in Girard donated a small temporary marker for the grave that was set to be installed Friday.
Blackstone said she has received calls from some residents interested in making donations to help pay for the headstone. She noted, however, that the donations are not needed.
Funeral donations needed
Donations are needed, however, for Jesse's funeral. Jason Wolfe said Jennifer Wolfe hasn't paid the $2,500 bill for the funeral.
Checks to help pay for the funeral should be made out to Rossi Bros. Funeral Home and sent to the funeral home at 442 South Avenue, Youngstown, OH 44512.
Andy Higgins, a funeral director for Rossi Bros., said if the funeral home receives more than is needed for the funeral, he will work with the family to decide how the additional donations should be used.