2015: A Year in Review, Part One

By Martin Graham - mgraham@civitasmedia.com

The Record-Herald reported on many news topics between January and June of this year, including community news, fatal accidents, drug busts and more. The Fayette County Honor Guard was one of several photos submitted to the Record-Herald by Bev Mullen, and this one was featured with a story about the American Legion Post 25 sponsored Memorial Day service at the Washington Cemetery on May 25.

The Record-Herald takes a moment as the year ends to remember some major news items from 2015. This is the first of two parts and will cover January through June.


Fayette County and the horse and harness racing industry lost an icon on New Year’s Day when Dr. Donald Edward Mossbarger passed away. Dr. Mossbarger was born March 28, 1922, in Ross County to John S. and Frances Scott Mossbarger. He graduated from Clarksburg High School in 1940 and went on to receive his doctrine of veterinarian medicine from Ohio State University in 1945. It was this same year he started his large animal veterinary practice. The Record-Herald wrote a feature told from the perspective of his sons, Jay Mossbarger and Dr. John Mossbarger, who detailed a life lived for his family.

On Jan. 9, a 66-year-old Washington C.H. woman was killed in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 22 Northwest, just a half mile west of the intersection of Miami Trace Road, according to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth. At 7:39 a.m., a 2006 Ford Fusion driven by Patty A. Rohde was traveling west on U.S. 22 Northwest when she lost control of her vehicle, Stanforth said. Rohde’s vehicle slid into the eastbound lane of U.S. 22 and into the path of a 2014 Western Star dump truck, driven by James M. Taylor, 31, of New Vienna. Rohde was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Jan. 15, when staring in the face of danger some will freeze or flee in panic, but one local Jeffersonville volunteer firefighter stared danger in the face and charged right in. A house fire at 13 Janes Street in Jeffersonville began at around 2:30 p.m., according to Jefferson Township Fire Chief Aaron Hauer. “When I got on the porch, I yelled to her and told her she needed to get out because the home was on fire,” Kevin Robinette said. “She looked confused and I ran in and took her out of the home and away from the fire. I just did what I thought anyone in my position would do. I suppose after I got home and had a chance to think about it I felt really good about what I did. I know the family felt good too.”

Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth was one of 18 members appointed by Gov. John Kasich to the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations earlier this year. “It’s an honor to serve on a task force that’s been asked to help improve relationships with our communities,” said Stanforth. “This is such a critical issue that’s impacted the entire country, and Ohio is not immune to these social issues. The primary goal is to listen to the public and explore how we can improve relationships.”


On Feb. 7, a Washington C.H. man was arrested for his alleged involvement in the burglary of a home in the 6000 block of State Route 41 Northwest in Jefferson Township in April of 2013. Donald L. Roberts, 46, was arrested by Fayette County Sheriff’s Office deputies after months of pursuing him, according to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth. “Roberts was located by deputies, hiding in the crawl space of his Inskeep Road home and was taken into custody without incident,” Stanforth said.

On Feb. 10, the Washington Fire Department responded to a house fire on Lewis Street that resulted in thousands of dollars worth of damage. At approximately 6:40 p.m. the WFD responded to an alarm of a structure fire at 409 Lewis St., a home owned by Dwayne Morris. Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke and fire coming from a single story residence. The rest of the home suffered heat and smoke damage, and a hole was burnt through one of the walls. In total, losses were estimated at $20,000.

On Feb. 11, while investigating an auto accident that involved an 8-year-old driver and 11-year-old passenger, Washington C.H. Police discovered that this was at least the sixth time that these boys had allegedly taken their mother’s car keys and driven her vehicle. At around 11:40 a.m., police responded to an accident on Cedar Street and Florence Street in Washington C.H. The 8-year-old drove the 2006 Chrysler Pacifica westbound on Cedar Street and as he turned left onto Florence Street, he lost control of the vehicle, went off the roadway and struck a tree near 1011 Cedar St., according to reports.

On Feb. 18, Fayette County Memorial Hospital celebrated its affiliation with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center with a kick-off party. “This is an affiliation. There is no equity. There is absolutely no money changing hands here,” then CEO John DesMarais said. “What we are gaining from this affiliation is programs, help, support, and analytics. OSU has a program that we can input a whole bunch of different kinds of data, and it can tell us exactly where the holes are and what we need to work on. OSU can assist us in keeping care close to home, something that is in OSU’s mission statement, and to help facilitate things that we can’t do on our own.”

On Feb. 21, a Washington C.H. man who allegedly brandished a gun in the Wal-Mart parking lot while intoxicated was facing a felony charge. Greg P. Shaffer, 45, was charged with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle. At around 4:45 p.m. Saturday, Washington C.H. police received a complaint of a man driving around vehicles in the Wal-Mart parking lot, located at 1397 Leesburg Ave., harassing people and pointing a firearm into the air, according to reports.

On Feb. 22, a Washington C.H. mother was facing child endangering and domestic violence charges for allegedly assaulting her 10-year-old son following a wrestling match in Delaware. Tavia Kettles, 35, of 833 Aspen Drive, had been released from jail on a $5,000 bond. Kettles is accused of striking her son in an “excessive” manner following the Ohio Wrestling Association for Youth Tournament at Hayes High School in Delaware.


On March 6, a 22-year-old Washington C.H. man was being held in the Fayette County Jail for the alleged abduction of his girlfriend. Phillip M. Blackburn, of 812 Delaware St., Apt. 18, was charged with abduction and domestic violence, both felonies of the third degree.

On March 14, a two-vehicle traffic crash that claimed the life of a 26-year-old Washington C.H. resident was under investigation by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. William Rankin died in the accident that occurred at 2:39 a.m. on State Route 41 North near the intersection of State Route 734 in Jefferson Township, according to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth.

Also on March 14, more than 180 grams of marijuana packaged in several large plastic bags and $12,000 in cash were reportedly recovered by Washington C.H. Police when they served a search warrant at an apartment in “The Lofts.” After receiving several complaints, police prepared a search warrant, which was approved by a judge, and it was executed at around 6 p.m., according to reports. The residents of the apartment were not home at the time of the search, Long said.

On March 18, the Dec. 26 fire that killed a Fayette County woman and her three grandsons was likely caused by a liquefied petroleum (LP) gas explosion, the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Bureau announced. The early morning fire at 5662 Inskeep Road killed 60-year-old Terry Harris and her three grandsons, 14-year-old Kenyon, 11-year-old Broderick and 9-year-old Braylon. Authorities say the boys wanted to spend Christmas night with their grandmother so she wouldn’t be alone.

During the week of March 16-20, the two women who moved and abandoned the body of 20-year-old Megan M. Jones, who was found dead June 29, 2014 inside of a vehicle on East Temple Street in Washington Court House, were sent to prison this week. Both Jaime Lynn Metcalfe, 34, of 1209 Gregg St. in Washington C.H. and Kayci M. Rowland, 30, of 1280 Dakin Chapel Road in Clinton County, pleaded guilty on Jan. 20 to tampering with evidence. The Fayette County Common Pleas Court ruled that Rowland be sentenced to three years in prison and Metcalfe be sentenced to two years.

In March, the concluded 2014-15 high school basketball season marked a major milestone in the life of one of the most beloved figures in the history of Miami Trace High School, Tom “Chatter” Harris. At the final home game of the season, against the Washington Blue Lions, Harris was recognized by athletic director Aaron Hammond just before the tip-off. Harris received a standing ovation from the Panther faithful and a warm round of applause from many of the folks rooting for the Blue Lions. When Hammond called Harris to step out onto center court, Hammond said, “You didn’t think we were going to let you get by 50 years without honoring you,” Harris recalled. “I said, ‘Well, it’s about the kids.’”

On March 27, a 61-year-old Washington C.H. woman died at Grant Medical Center in Columbus following a one-vehicle accident on Leesburg Avenue. Marlene M. Ludwick, of 1117 Gregg St., had worked at Bundy TI and YUSA, and attended the South Side Church of Christ. She was the owner of the Misfit Craft Shop. She was attending Southern State Community College where she was working on her accounting certificate.


On April 2, a Fayette County man was sentenced to seven years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of 20-year-old Megan M. Jones, who was found dead of a drug overdose on June 29, 2014 inside of a vehicle on East Temple Street in Washington C.H. In Fayette County Common Pleas Court, Marcus J. Francis, 32, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence as part of a plea agreement. The Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to dismiss charges of gross abuse of a corpse and corrupting another with drugs. In pleading guilty, Francis admitted to providing the drugs that caused Jones’ overdose.

In April, Justin Howland, 30, of Washington C.H., was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to the aggravated vehicular homicide of his wife. Howland was indicted on Nov. 7, 2014 on two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, one a second-degree felony and one a third-degree felony, and one count of involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the third degree. The State of Ohio dismissed the charges of involuntary manslaughter and one count of aggravated vehicular homicide as part of the plea agreement with the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office.

In April, preliminary results from the autopsy of 2-year-old LeRoy J. Toppins confirmed that drowning was the cause of his death and that there were no signs of foul play, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. The boy went missing on April 3 from his Staunton-Sugar Grove Road home, prompting a search that included hundreds of volunteers before he was found dead Saturday evening in a pond adjacent to the stone quarry on Staunton-Sugar Grove. “We believe the child wandered away, got too close to the water and fell in,” Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said Saturday.

On April 23 and 24, despite being found not guilty of three of the four counts against him, a Washington C.H. man convicted of domestic violence against his stepfather was sentenced to over five years in prison following a jury trial. Travis Jones, 37, of 1078 Lewis St., was originally accused of assaulting his mother and stepfather on Feb. 14. He was also accused of attempting to cause physical harm to his mother by means of a butcher knife. At the start of his trial in Fayette County Common Pleas Court, Jones was facing charges of felonious assault, aggravated menacing and two counts of domestic violence.


On May 1, three Montgomery County residents were arrested at the Washington Square Shopping Center for drug trafficking following a narcotics operation by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. At around 12:30 p.m., FCSO detectives and agents from the U.S. 23 Major Crimes Task Force conducted the operation on the Washington Square Shopping Center parking lot, leading to the arrests. Detectives seized evidence “presumptively identified as heroin and cocaine,” Sheriff Vernon Stanforth said.

On May 5, six Washington C.H. residents were facing charges following the discovery of a methamphetamine lab at an East Temple Street home. According to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, members of the Washington C.H. Municipal Court Probation Department requested the assistance of sheriff’s deputies during a probation check at 721-B E. Temple St. During a check of the residence, a “one-pot” meth lab and several components used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine were reportedly located inside the home.

Also on May 5, in a special election that was decided by less than 100 votes, the Miami Trace Local School District’s goal to secure funding for a brand-new high school to go along with the rest of its centralized campus was accomplished. According to unofficial results from the Fayette County Board of Elections, the 3.9-mill, 37-year bond issue passed by 99 votes, 1,346-1,247. The building design phase for a new high school, which will be located on a nearly 60-acre piece of farmland to the east of the football stadium, would soon begin.

On May 7, the Fayette County Memorial Hospital and the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce came together to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the hospital. FCMH opened in 1950 with 35 beds. Just three months into its existence, the hospital was in desperate need for more beds. For a cost of $2,100, one section was remodeled and eight additional beds were put into service.

In May, a Washington C.H. man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison on two counts of grand theft and one count of burglary. Shannon D. Hunt, 26, was indicted in January following a reported incident on March 26, 2014 that resulted in Hunt being charged with two counts of grand theft, one being a felony of the third degree and one being a felony of the fourth degree, one count of burglary, a felony of the third degree, and one count of receiving stolen property, a felony of the fourth degree.


In June, the Record-Herald reported that a Washington C.H. man had been indicted by a grand jury on multiple counts for allegedly possessing pornographic and/or obscene material involving children. Clarence A. Walters, 26, was arraigned in Fayette County Common Pleas Court on three counts of pandering obscenity involving a minor, with two of those second-degree felony counts and one a fourth-degree felony count; two counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, with one of those a second-degree felony count and the other a fourth-degree felony count; one count of illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material or performance, a fifth-degree felony; and possessing criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony.

In June, a Washington C.H. man and a Bloomingburg woman were sentenced to multiple years in prison after pleading guilty to several heroin and cocaine-related charges. David Pettiford, 41, of 632 E. Temple St., and Leslie Coe, 32, of 11928 State Route 38 Northeast, were accused of making nine separate drug transactions from Oct. 23, 2014, to Feb. 23, 2015, according to the grand jury indictment. Coe and Pettiford were both charged with nine counts of trafficking in heroin, nine counts of possession of heroin, one count of trafficking in cocaine and one count of possession of cocaine.

On June 2, a Jefferson Township man was sentenced to six years in prison on burglary and grand theft charges Tuesday morning in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas. Donald Lee Roberts, 46, of 5746 Inskeep Road in Jefferson Township, pleaded guilty to burglary, a felony of the third degree, grand theft of a firearm, a felony of the third degree, and grand theft, a felony of the fourth degree.

On June 17, the Record-Herald announced its 2015 Citizen of the Year at the annual Fayette County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon held at the Mahan Building. The recipient of this annual award was Chiquita Nash, free store and volunteer coordinator for The Well at Sunnyside. The award was presented to Nash as a surprise during the luncheon. “When I think of the attributes of a strong woman in our society, I think of a positive attitude, kindness, the ability to overcome obstacles, strong-mindedness, soft-hearted, filled with integrity, goal-oriented, driven and focused,” Ryan Carter, editor of the Record-Herald, said during the luncheon. “Our 2015 Citizen of the Year embodies all of these qualities.”

On June 20, a Washington C.H. woman was facing multiple charges after allegedly stealing a vehicle while in possession of heroin and cocaine. Rebecca J. Hedges, 20, of 508 Campbell St., was charged with two felony counts of receiving stolen property, felony counts of possession of heroin and possession of cocaine, a felony count of tampering with evidence, and misdemeanor counts of possession of drug abuse instruments and possession of drug paraphernalia.

On June 24, the Fayette County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees reached an agreement with Dr. John DesMarais to end his employment as the chief executive officer of the hospital, according to a news release. Two board members, Oleta Milstead and Myron Priest, declined to comment on whether DesMarais has resigned or was fired from the job that he’s held full-time since Jan. 29 of this year. They also declined to comment on the reason DesMarais is no longer the CEO.

Also on June 24, four juvenile residents of the Ranch of Opportunity, a residential treatment center for abused teenage girls, were facing charges after a staff member and a 17-year-old resident were reportedly assaulted Wednesday night at the facility. At around 11 p.m., the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office received a report that a female staff member had been assaulted by two juvenile residents, 14- and 17-years old, at the Ranch, located at 1771 Palmer Road. According to reports, the staff member suffered a back injury after the juveniles allegedly kicked her. A 14-year-old resident was also arrested and charged with criminal damaging after she allegedly threw a rock through the back window of the vehicle that had the injured staff member inside.

On June 25, a drug-related search warrant served at the Bluestone Inn in Washington C.H. resulted in the arrest of one man and the alleged recovery of heroin and cash. Shortly after 9:30 p.m., members of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. #23 Major Crimes Task Force executed the warrant at Room 234 of the Bluestone Inn on Columbus Avenue. Detectives and task force agents served the search warrant following an investigation into alleged drug trafficking taking place at that location, according to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth.

On June 28, the discovery by police of a stolen vehicle in Washington C.H. reportedly led to a short foot pursuit that resulted in an arrest and the recovery of methamphetamine. A Washington C.H. Police Department officer spotted a Ford Focus, which matched the description of a vehicle that had earlier been reported stolen. The license plate number also matched the plate of the stolen vehicle, reports said. The vehicle pulled into the Walgreen’s parking lot and at that time the officer activated his cruiser’s overhead lights. The vehicle continued to the rear of the lot and then stopped, according to reports. The defendant, later identified as Thomas A. Cornett, 45, of Greenfield, quickly exited the vehicle and ran northbound, police said.

The “2015 Year in Review Part Two” will run in the Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, edition of the Record-Herald.

The Record-Herald reported on many news topics between January and June of this year, including community news, fatal accidents, drug busts and more. The Fayette County Honor Guard was one of several photos submitted to the Record-Herald by Bev Mullen, and this one was featured with a story about the American Legion Post 25 sponsored Memorial Day service at the Washington Cemetery on May 25.
http://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2015/12/web1_Fayette-County-Honor-guard.jpgThe Record-Herald reported on many news topics between January and June of this year, including community news, fatal accidents, drug busts and more. The Fayette County Honor Guard was one of several photos submitted to the Record-Herald by Bev Mullen, and this one was featured with a story about the American Legion Post 25 sponsored Memorial Day service at the Washington Cemetery on May 25.


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