The report from County Coroner Frank Miller III says the cause of Rosemary Vinci's death was a blocked artery. But the doctor who runs the Division of Autopsy Services at Ohio State University respectfully disagrees. At Scene's request, Dr. Charles Hitchcock reviewed the coroner's report last week. Dr. Hitchcock says he believes Vinci died of "cardiac arrhythmia," a sudden change in the frequency of heartbeats, which can cause sudden death - and that drugs found in her system may have contributed to it.
The question nobody seems able to answer is where the drugs came from. Vinci was a somewhat mysterious figure in local politics. Her father, James, the owner of Diamond Jim's nightclub, was found murdered in his bar in 1985, the victim of an apparent mob hit for which no one was charged. Last year The Plain Dealer reported that Vinci was recently netting a $48,000 salary as a "municipal liaison" for County Auditor Frank Russo, though it appears she also did work for County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora. When reporters asked Dimora what exactly she did for him, he had security remove them from the room.
Vinci, we would learn, was also a felon, busted for theft and forgery in Florida the year her father was killed. She was also, briefly, a radio personality known as Madam LaRue and once managed a popular strip club in the Flats. She even threatened RTA officials that she would be waiting for them with a shotgun in hand if they tried to take her property by eminent domain. When the feds raided the county administration building as part of their corruption probe, among the items they were looking for were pictures of Vinci and Dimora together.
In her father's old house on the West Bank of the flats, Vinci regularly held fundraisers for Dimora, Russo and Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty - another apparent target of the FBI investigations. In fact, Vinci seemed to know everyone involved in the probe.
On December 22, 2008, Vinci's lifeless body was discovered by a friend, slumped in a chair at her kitchen table.
A previously unpublished toxicology report obtained by Scene shows that there were traces of the drug Carisoprodol in Vinci's blood when she died. A powerful muscle relaxant also known as Soma, the drug is soluble in alcohol and chloroform - a chemical that, on its own, can cause cardiac arrhythmia when inhaled. Close friend Emily Lipovan says that Vinci had taken painkillers in 2007 after breaking her ankle, but had stopped More than a year before. She had never mentioned taking Soma, and Lipovan found no prescription bottles in the apartment when she cleaned it out. Nor were prescription bottles mentioned in the police or coroner's reports.
The details of Vinci's involvement with the FBI investigation will remain unclear until a federal court finally hands down indictments. Until then, we can only wonder what she had - or might have - revealed. - James Renner & Dan Harkins
Lakewood's Ward 2 councilman Tom Powell Bullock - a progressive environmentalist who championed a recent, ill-fated proposal to allow residents to raise chickens for fresh eggs - has a little something in common with Barack Obama. Unknown to him, in an apparently flattering gesture, someone made a stencil of his likeness and wheat-pasted the image on a building with a bold-face caption: "I REP DIS BLOCK." Bullock's face mingles with paint, magic marker and paint-stick graffiti behind a building in the middle of his town.
Bullock learned about the street art while ordering coffee at the nearby Phoenix Coffee Shop, which is the epicenter of a large community of people who support local food and other green initiatives. Those are his peeps, both ideologically and electorally. The coffee shop and street art are in his ward, which lends truth to the stencil's caption.
"I literally do rep this block," Bullock notes.
He says he has no idea who is responsible but figures it's someone more informed about politics than the typical tagger. The councilman must have been somewhat flattered because he put a photo of it on his Facebook page. But he also reported the "damage" to police. - Michael Gill
The Plain Dealer is once again in the company of some of the country's most storied newspapers, but that's not good news. A month after Time magazine ran a cover story about how to save newspapers, Time.com followed up with "The Ten Major Newspapers That Will Fold or Go Digital Next," a story rerun from new online business site 247wallst.com.
The PD makes the list at No. 10, following a grim prognosis for The Philadelphia Daily News (No. 1), The Miami Herald (No. 3), The Detroit News (No. 4), and others. Author Douglas A. McIntyre observes that the PD is "is in one of the economically weakest markets in the country" and notes that parent company Advance Publications has already put its Newark paper on the chopping block.
Concludes McIntyre, "The Plain Dealer will be shut or go digital by the end of next year."
Publisher Terrance Egger called the attack "baseless" in a piece by PD reporter Patrick O'Donnell, who questioned McIntyre's unnamed sources. Egger complained that McIntyre hadn't called the PD for comment, but Egger did not return Scene's calls before press time. But you can ask him about it yourself when he speaks at Old Stone Church (91 Public Square, 216.241.6145, oldstonechurch.org) at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 25. - D.X. Ferris