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Warming up Liberty cold case

Former FBI agent now leads investigation into 2017 slaying

A key piece of evidence in the investigation into the death of Loraine “Lori” Lynn, 60, was the tractor on which her body was found more than three summers ago in a pond on property off Shannon Road in Liberty. A forensic study of the piece of equipment conducted by a Florida engineer might provide some clues, but a website set up by Lynn’s family stated the tractor has since been scrapped. Submitted photo

LIBERTY — The family of a Ravenna woman, whose body was found on a tractor submerged in a pond on Shannon Road property owned by her mother, continues to seek answers in the cold case ruled a homicide.

The family also has tapped former FBI agent Bob Friedrick of Brecksville as its lead investigator.

Loraine “Lori” Lynn, 60, died sometime between Aug. 1 and 2, 2017. Her body was found on Aug. 2 on the tractor with her face submerged in one of the family ponds.

“We are fighting a uphill battle. This is a sad case, there were some missteps early on in the police investigation,” Friedrick said. “We are just getting this website off the ground, and we welcome any public input about the case. This input probably will be the most helpful along the way.”

Friedrick said he will resume interviews about the case this month, but he said the task of getting into people’s homes to talk is difficult because of COVID-19.

“The family is footing the entire bill for this investigation, and every time I talk to them about Lori, it evokes a lot of tears,” Friedrick said.

LAST DAY

The family’s website — www.whokilledlorilynn.com — solicits tips from the public to help solve the case. The website also re-creates the events of the last day of Lori Lynn’s life: She had left her Ravenna home on the morning of Aug. 1 to pick up her mother, Wanda Pullin of the Shannon Road address, to take her to the Trumbull County Courthouse in downtown Warren. Records showed Lynn called her mother several times, but was not able to make contact. She pulled into her mother’s home in her new 2017 Nissan Pathfinder to find her mother not home.

According to the website, Lynn left her mom’s house a short time later, most likely to search for her. She was gone for about 30 minutes when the Pathfinder returned to the Shannon Road address.

The car did not pull into the driveway, but instead went over grass behind the residence. The next day it was found parked behind the barn in an area strewn with glass and construction debris.

The family members questioned why Lynn would park her new vehicle in a trash pile. They said she had recently washed her new vehicle, making it more improbable that she would park it in trash away from the home security cameras, according to the website.

Family members became concerned when Lynn didn’t turn up that evening, Aug. 1. The phone calls continued into the early morning hours.

After two family members found Lynn’s vehicle behind the barn, they noticed the tractor and brush hog were missing. The two relatives followed the trail of mowed grass to one of the ponds where the body was found.

Lynn was retired from Teamsters Local 66 Operating Engineers as a heavy equipment operator. She had operated vehicles bigger than tractors for three decades and had retired only the year before.

‘NO WAY’

One of her former co-workers stated: “There is no way Lori could have driven the tractor into the family pond. Absolutely no way!”

At her funeral, another of Lynn’s male co-workers said that she worked harder than any man.

Unaware of the security cameras at the residence, the Liberty Township Police Department ruled the death a farm accident. Lori’s daughters, Samantha and Corrine, made several frantic 911 calls because they were concerned that foul play was involved.

Despite their efforts, Liberty police never interviewed them, they said.

Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, after an autopsy, first ruled her death “under investigation.” Six months later, the coroner ruled Lynn’s death a homicide.

Germaniuk died April 20, 2018, just months after making the homicide ruling.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by the family against Liberty elected officials and the police, the coroner told the two daughters Lynn had no water in her lungs and had apparently died before entering the water.

The federal lawsuit also noted the family spent thousands of dollars on a private investigation into the death of their mother; another $3,000 was paid to an agency to investigate the tractor, and more than $3,000 was spent on billboards seeking tips from the public about the cold case.

LEGAL ACTION

A probe by Friedrick & Associates concludes that police did not conduct extensive interviews with family members and “suspicious” home security footage was not watched in its entirety by police detectives.

Despite the charge that the dead woman’s constitutional rights to due process were violated, the federal lawsuit was terminated in March 2019, with federal Judge Benita Y. Pearson siding with the defendants from Liberty Township. In her nine-page ruling, Pearson cited case law in stating the factual allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. In other words, claims set forth in a complaint must be plausible, rather than conceivable.”

Pearson also wrote that “Lorraine Lynn’s civil rights terminated at her death.”

“Plaintiffs Corrine A. Lynn and Samantha R. Lynn must establish a deprivation of their own rights under the Constitution or laws of the United States,” Pearson wrote.

The federal lawsuit filing and internal police investigation both claimed neither the tractor nor Lynn’s car were properly processed for DNA evidence. A recent email from “a member of Team Lori” noted that the tractor — the key piece of evidence — was scrapped.

Friedrick said the family hired an engineer from Florida to make a forensic study of the tractor.

In an internal investigation, former police Chief Richard Tisone, and law director Cherry Poteet recommended that trustees discipline Toby Meloro, who was a captain at the time, for his role in the Lynn case. Trustees did not, instead opting in September 2019 to promote Meloro to replace Tisone, noting his long-standing record as a lawman.

An attempt to contact Meloro via email for an update on his investigation was unsuccessful.

CHANGED FOREVER

Now family members are hoping someone with information about the homicide can give a tip on their website to “warm up” the case.

“This whole thing has changed me forever. My heart sinks lowest when I think about what her killer took from my children,” said daughter Samantha Lynn, noting that her mother could only enjoy one year of retirement.

In a recent Instagram post, Samantha Lynn talks about a family member refusing to take a”polygraph.”

That man “… is the only one in the family that doesn’t want to find who did this. It’s incredible to me,” Samantha Lynn said over social media.

Meanwhile, Corrie Lynn talks about her late mother’s leadership abilities and being a “wonderful” role model.

“She was the backbone of this family, the glue that kept us all together until her last breath. Growing up, we had our trials and personal differences, but she was always there. She showed up. She listened. She put us first, even when we made life difficult for her,” Corrie Lynn said..

Lynn’s older sister Diane Pullin said her sibling had planned to do a lot of traveling during retirement.

“Before our father passed away in September 2016, Lori and I spent a week in Ireland and also went with our parents on a cruise to Canada. We had planned on many more vacations together,” Pullin said.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com

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