Back to the scene of the crime
“Once we found the car in Michigan, I knew he was alive.”
— Peter Elliott, U.S. Marshalls Service
“The governor shall have arrested and delivered to the executive authority of any other state of the United States, any person charged in that state with treason, felony, or other crime, who has fled from justice and is found in this state.”
— Ohio Revised Code, Section 2963.02
When Lynn Jackenheimer didn’t return to her home in Ohio from a Fourth of July trip to North Carolina her family and friends sprang into action. They organized searches, printed posters and even had shirts made with her image. She had been vacationing on the Outer Banks with her two children and her boyfriend Nate Summerfield, who was the father of her younger child.
The mystery surrounding what happened to her seemed to come to a close when Summerfield returned to Ohio with the children, dropped them off with a family member and told that family member that he had killed Jackenheimer in North Carolina and dumped her body there. He then fled the area and disappeared from sight. Shortly thereafter, Jackenheimer’s body was found in Frisco, North Carolina, about a half hour from the vacation spot.
Law enforcement launched an immediate search for Summerfield. Local, state and federal officials joined in the search. They located his car in Michigan near the border with Indiana. They tracked any information about his movements and after weeks of getting few leads, located him on Wednesday morning of this week in a motel in Wadsworth, not far from where the entire ordeal began.
While Jackenheimer and Summerfield’s trip began in Ohio and his disappearance occurred in Ohio, the murder took place in North Carolina and so the proper jurisdiction for Summerfield’s prosecution is in North Carolina. But Summerfield is currently in jail in Ohio. So how does he get back to the Tar Heel State?
The return of a fugitive from one state to another or even from one nation to another is achieved through the process of extradition. Generally, the process is fairly straightforward, but because of the number of people and hearings involved it can take some time to complete. In many cases, a person simply consents to their return. Media outlets will often report that the person has “waived extradition.” In point of fact, the person hasn’t waived extradition, they have waived extradition proceedings and ensured that extradition will immediately occur.
In cases where formal extradition proceedings are not waived, the request to return the prisoner comes from the Governor of the state desiring the person and goes to the Governor of the state holding the person (or, in the case of the District of Columbia, to a justice of the D.C. Supreme Court). Ohio has an entire chapter of its criminal code devoted to the extradition process. A person’s guilt or innocence is not determined in an extradition proceeding. That’s because the purpose of the extradition is to return the person to the jurisdiction where the crime is alleged to have occurred for the very purpose of conducting a trial.
Under Ohio law, a person facing extradition has the right to a hearing at which the judge must inform the person, “of the demand made for his surrender and of the crime with which he is charged, and that he has the right to demand and procure legal counsel. If the prisoner or his counsel desires to test the legality of his arrest, the judge shall fix a reasonable time to be allowed him within which to apply for a writ of habeas corpus.” The person may be (and generally is) held in custody during extradition proceedings. If the court ultimately determines that the extradition request is proper, the person is transported to the requesting state. This is sometimes done directly by law enforcement and sometimes done by an interstate transport agency.
Summerfield’s extradition will be just the beginning of his legal processing. His prosecution in North Carolina could take months, but it won’t begin until officials in Ohio order his return.
David Hejmanowski is a magistrate and court administrator at the Delaware County Juvenile Court and a former assistant prosecuting attorney.