2017 in Review: Part Three

By Martin Graham - mgraham@aimmediamidwest.com

In September, the Miami Trace Local Schools campus received threats of violence. Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Andy Bivens, and Miami Trace Superintendent David Lewis discuss the social media threat made against the school district. The FCSO led a campus-wide search in response to the threat.

As the community transitions into 2018, the Record-Herald takes a look back at the top stories of 2017. This is the third of three parts and will cover September, October, November and December.


The Fayette County Commissioners signed a proclamation in September encouraging citizens to help observe and celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bloomingburg Presbyterian Church. In three articles printed this year, the Record-Herald has reported on the various historical time spans that made the Bloomingburg Presbyterian Church memorable. From the establishment of the church in November of 1817 to the church’s involvement in the Underground Railroad to its current service to the community, the Bloomingburg Presbyterian Church has stood the test of time and settled into the history of Fayette County. “That church, I think, is the oldest existing church that is still in use today,” Fayette County Commissioner Chairman Dan Dean said. “We signed a proclamation to commemorate the upcoming celebration…200 years is a big event for our community. The county has only been a county since 1809, so the church has been around almost as long as the county itself. We are proud to be a part of it and are proud to recognize the church for this anniversary and its service to the community.”

No explosive devices or suspicious items were found on the Miami Trace Local Schools campus Sept. 18 during a thorough search precipitated by a social media threat of violence. The decision was made to close the campus as a precautionary measure after a post on Instagram was discovered. An account with the name of “bombingsociety1234” posted the following: “My pan (sic) is too (sic) bomb miami trace schools and burn the place to shreds text me if you want too (sic) help stabbing people with knifes (sic) and shooting with guns….imgoingtobombmiamitrace.com/” Miami Trace Superintendent David Lewis and Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said that the buildings were safe and secure following the search.

The Fayette County Parks District board met for its regular monthly meeting and named Dan Stahl the new treasurer of the board, as well as discussed work on The Greens golf course and The Highland House restaurant. The meeting began with David Kiger resigning as treasurer of the board. He said he hasn’t had the time the position requires as he is also busy with his law practice. He said that Stahl, one of the two newest board members, (the other newest member to the now five-member board is Miami Trace Superintendent David Lewis, who was absent from the meeting) is retired and may have more time to handle the responsibilities of the position. Kiger then made a motion to name Stahl the new treasurer for the Fayette County Parks District board and it was seconded by Angie Tackett before being approved unanimously by the board.

Carla A. Doctor was ordered to complete drug treatment and counseling after she was convicted for taking heroin and fentanyl into the Fayette County Jail. Doctor, 45, of Washington Court House, appeared in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas on three felony criminal charges and was convicted on illegal conveyance of drugs into a detention facility, a third-degree felony, possession of heroin, and aggravated possession of fentanyl, each a fifth-degree felony.

A trio of individuals from Columbus were charged for a $36,000 fireworks theft from Phantom Fireworks in Fayette County. The alleged heist happened in 2016. Daniel J. Forsythe, Brittany N. Messer, and Richard David Coverdale were named as suspects in a theft of $36,000 worth of fireworks from Phantom Fireworks, 12973 OH-38, Bloomingburg. Coverdale, 25, and Messer, 26, were both indicted in April on felonious charges of grand theft, a fourth-degree felony, receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony, and breaking and entering, a fifth-degree felony. Forsythe was served with his indictment and was arraigned in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas on similar charges.


A Washington C.H. man who was trapped inside a burning car was rescued by passersby after he apparently drove off the road and hit a tree on SR 753 in Fayette County, a few miles north of Greenfield. Robert Slager, 59, was later flown to the hospital by medical helicopter with non-life-threatening injuries, according to officials. At 6:06 p.m., Slager was reportedly driving his 1996 Buick Regal southbound on SR 753 when he crossed the middle line, went off of the roadway and crashed into a tree. Two passersby, identified as Lanny Brown and Devin Trefz, reportedly were able to get Slager out of the vehicle.

The community had a chance to “Meet the Candidates” for the Nov. 7 general election back in October. This annual event put on by the Washington Kiwanis Club invited locals to meet and ask questions of the candidates for the Washington City Council, Washington City Schools Board of Education and Washington Court House Municipal Court Judge, as well as learn additional information on levies coming to the ballot. The proceedings were divided into two portions in front of the crowd at the Rusty Keg’s Crown Room in Washington C.H., the first being an introductory section allowing those seeking the various public offices to explain their own stance on particular subjects and introduce themselves. Incumbents and newcomers alike attended the event.

Crossroads Christian Church in Washington Court House once again thanked employees and businesses of Fayette County by providing meals as a way of giving back to them for their service to the community. The third-annual “Shout Out to Court House” was held Oct. 13 with Crossroads volunteering its church members and time to serve employees of the county a meal. According to Todd Maurer, Crossroads Christian Church preaching minister, the day began with members of the church visiting the school districts in the morning to deliver cinnamon rolls. “We took cinnamon rolls to both Miami Trace and Court House schools. We couldn’t wait to visit bus garages, administrative offices and all of the school employees, thanks to BB’s Cakes, to deliver a nice morning treat. Then later in the day we served burgers on the lawn at the courthouse. All of the business owners and employees had a chance to stop by and either eat with us here on the lawn or take their meal to go in a take-out container we provided.”

A second trial for Donnie E. Wright ended with a guilty verdict and the 48-year-old Washington Court House resident was sentenced to eight years in prison for having sex with a minor. Wright was convicted by a Fayette County jury on three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, each a third-degree high-tier felony, for having a sexual relationship with his girlfriend’s 14-year-old daughter.


For the second time this year, Victor Pontious was victorious in an election for Washington Court House Municipal Court Judge. Back in the May during the Republican primary, Pontious defeated Susan Wollscheid, and at the general election, Pontious again came out on top – this time over local attorney Steve Eckstein – by a 2,835 (59.71 percent) to 1,913 (40.29 percent) margin, according to unofficial results from the Fayette County Board of Elections. “The word ‘hallelujah’ comes to mind,” Pontious said with relief after the results were released. “I really appreciate each vote I received today. I feel very blessed to live and work in this community. I want to thank my Christian friends for their prayers and encouragement during the election season. It is a real privilege to serve my community as a judge and I appreciate the opportunity to try to be a fair and effective judge. Also, I work with a really nice group of people and I’m very happy that I’m going to continue that work.”

A man who walked into a Washington Court House pawn shop and stole a handgun was sentenced in court to serve a two-year prison sentence. Anthony A. Garcia, 41, of Washington C.H., was sentenced to prison in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas to one charge of grand theft, a third-degree felony. Reports filed in court from the Washington C.H. Police Department say that Garcia walked into Top Dollar Pawn Aug. 5 and asked an employee to look at handguns in the case. The reports state Garcia had been a known pawn loan customer at the shop for over a year.

New York Times best-selling author Margaret Peterson Haddix visited Liberty Hall on the Washington Court House City Schools high school/middle school campus on Nov. 20. Haddix, a Fayette County native, discussed her current books and upcoming new releases. Following the discussion, there was plenty of time for questions, photos and autographs.

For the second time in just short of seven months, Aaron Coole was appointed as Fayette County Auditor. Coole, who resigned as auditor in November as part of a settlement with plaintiffs who alleged Coole’s April 13 appointment violated open meeting laws, won a roll call re-vote at the Fayette County Republican Central Committee meeting by a 19-5 margin against Brenda Mossbarger. “It’s been a long six months,” Coole said following the meeting held at the Center of Economic Opportunity in Washington C.H. “I want to thank the committee for their support and I just want to do the best job I can for the people of Fayette County. Now, I just want to work with everybody and move forward.”


A county-owned site on Robinson Road was selected as the proposed location for a new Fayette County Jail currently in the pre-planning stages. Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said the county picked the new location and the Fayette County Commissioners voted to approve of the new location at a meeting. The site location on Robinson Road is between the Union Township Fire House and the Fayette County Dog Shelter, Stanforth said. The Shremshock architects working on the project are preparing a floor-plan for a proposed single-story adult detention facility. “We have been working with the architectural firm on the needs assessment. Based on the needs assessment and their experience on what they think we need, they will be presenting a proposed architectural floor-plan to the county in early December,” said Stanforth.

A Jeffersonville man arrested at the Fayette County Memorial Hospital had two more complaints filed against him by residents in Washington Court House and New Holland. Derek J. Myers, 25, left the Washington Municipal Court after claiming to have a panic attack minutes before going to trial on nine cases open against him in the court. He faces traffic citations and misdemeanor charges for speed, failure to control, obstructing official business, reckless operation, and license and registration violations, according to court records.

A 59-year-old man who allegedly punched a Washington Court House police officer in the throat Sept. 22 appeared in court, but said the incident wasn’t an assault. Joseph E. Lyons, of Washington C.H., was transported from the Fayette County Jail to appear on an assaulting a police officer charge in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas. The incident was reported to have occurred Sept. 22 at 511 E. Temple St. when the Washington Court House Police Department was dispatched to apartment 11 in reference to a protection order violation.

After 30 years of service to the community, Fayette County Clerk of Courts Evelyn Pentzer decided to retire at the end of this year. The Record-Herald spoke with Pentzer about her long career within the county. She started out working part-time at Huntington Bank when Clerk of Courts, Ann L. Marvin, was serving. Pentzer said during an interview that Marvin would stop into the bank and make the deposit for the Clerk of Courts’ office. “She kept on me and asked me several times if I would like to work for her at the courthouse,” Pentzer said. “I’m from Pennsylvania so I wasn’t in Ohio too awful long when that happened. Huntington Bank started working me on Saturdays and my husband was not a fan of that, as we had three little kids. So when she came one more time to the window I said, ‘Sure!’”

Editor’s note: This is only a small selection of the top stories from the final third of the year. The other two parts ran in the Tuesday, Dec. 26 and the Wednesday, Dec. 27 editions of the Record-Herald. They can be found online at www.recordherald.com.

In September, the Miami Trace Local Schools campus received threats of violence. Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Andy Bivens, and Miami Trace Superintendent David Lewis discuss the social media threat made against the school district. The FCSO led a campus-wide search in response to the threat.
http://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2017/12/web1_D34C73C5-.jpgIn September, the Miami Trace Local Schools campus received threats of violence. Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Andy Bivens, and Miami Trace Superintendent David Lewis discuss the social media threat made against the school district. The FCSO led a campus-wide search in response to the threat.

By Martin Graham


Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy

Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy