April 18, 2014

Elyria
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Rosenbaum shooting will go to grand jury

ELYRIA — A special prosecutor investigating the shooting of former Chief Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Jonathan Rosenbaum has told county sheriff’s deputies to prepare to present the case to a county grand jury later this month.

Lorain County Sheriff’s Capt. John Reiber said Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter is nearing the end of his review of the Aug. 23 shooting of Rosenbaum.

“He’s going to present it to the grand jury for their review to determine what, if any, charges will be filed,” Reiber said.

Deputies have said that Rosenbaum was shot in the back by his son, Aaron Rosenbaum, while they were shooting clay pigeons at the Sportsmen Gun & Reel Club in Amherst Township.

The younger Rosenbaum told investigators that he was trying to clear a jam in his semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun when the weapon accidentally went off, striking his father in the right upper-middle part of his back.

The elder Rosenbaum, who is paralyzed from the waist down and has been in and out of the hospital since the shooting, has told deputies that he believes the shooting was accidental although he can be heard on a 911 tape demanding to know whether his son shot him on purpose.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will asked for a special prosecutor because of his office’s relationship with Rosenbaum, who worked there for about 20 years and who was Will’s supervisor at one point.

But not everyone believes that Baxter can be fair.

In documents sent to Will, the Lorain County commissioners and county Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery, Baxter’s brother, E.J. Baxter, said his brother has a conflict of interest in the Rosenbaum case.

According to E.J. Baxter’s documents, Rosenbaum represented Krista Harris, a woman who has accused Kevin Baxter of pressuring her to have a sexual relationship with him during the 1995 murder trial of DeWitt McDonald Jr. in Erie County.

 Kevin Baxter allegedly threatened her with criminal charges if she didn’t have a relationship with him, Harris told officials.

Harris also has since said she fabricated her testimony against McDonald, who was convicted of firing the fatal stray bullet that struck 36-year-old mother of four Vivian Johnson in the neck while she sat in her car in 1994.

Kevin Baxter, who did not return a call seeking comment Thursday, has denied having an inappropriate relationship with Harris.

E.J. Baxter said his brother simply can’t be fair in the Rosenbaum case because of their past history.

“Either your government lawyers involved are extremely naive or they plan on fixing the case,” E.J. Baxter wrote in a letter to the Lorain County commissioners.

The Baxter family has been splintered by a long-running and well-publicized feud which has pitted not only Kevin and E.J. Baxter against each other, but also their other siblings. The feud originally centered on the assets of their parents’ estate, but since then has grown to include allegations of criminal wrongdoing and abuse of power.

Will did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

The Sandusky Register contributed to this story.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.