YEAR IN REVIEW: Key local stories from May-June


This is Part 3 of a six-part series looking back at just a few of the key stories in the pages of the Record-Herald throughout 2022.


Two 18-year-olds injured in crash after Miami Trace prom

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (May 3) — Two 18-year-olds were seriously injured in a one-vehicle accident after leaving the Miami Trace High School prom Saturday night.

The crash occurred on Bloomingburg-New Holland Road at the intersection of Lewis Road in Union Township at approximately 10:07 p.m. The two individuals involved — Kylan C. Knapp of Washington C.H. and Emily J. Helms of New Holland — were reported to be in stable condition as of Monday morning.

According to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, a 2002 Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck was heading northeast on Bloomingburg-New Holland Road when Knapp lost control at the intersection of Lewis Road. The vehicle went off the left side of the roadway and crashed into a stop sign, landscape area and tree before coming to rest in the yard of a residence.

Knapp was pinned beneath the vehicle and was extricated by members of the Washington Fire Department, Stanforth said. The passenger in the vehicle, identified as Helms, is believed to have been ejected from the vehicle at the time of the crash.

Both Knapp and Helms were treated at the scene and then transported by Fayette County EMS to Adena-Fayette Hospital. They were subsequently transferred to an area trauma center for further medical treatment.

Voters approve MT renewal levy

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (May 4) — The Miami Trace Local School District’s five-year, 3.2-mill renewal tax levy that will generate $1.9 million for the district each year passed by a 1,319-1,034 margin at Tuesday’s primary election, according to unofficial results from the Fayette County Board of Elections.

“We would like to extend a since ‘thank you’ to the Miami Trace community,” Miami Trace Superintendent Kim Pittser said in a statement. “The passage of this levy will continue to support daily operations (such as personnel, purchased services, and supplies/equipment) in the district. We are extremely grateful for a community that advocates for a quality education for students.”

The operating levy first passed in 2002 and was renewed in 2017 — when it was reduced by $500,000.

Semi causes major water line incident

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP (May 4) — A fire hydrant in Jefferson Township was reportedly struck by a semi late Monday night/early Tuesday morning — causing a major water line incident that emptied a 300,000 gallon water tower.

According to Jefferson Township Fire and EMS Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Warner, a semi driver witnessed another semi hitting the hydrant and then driving off. The hydrant was in Jeffersonville near the US 35, I-71, and US 435 area near Destination Outlets and Travel Center of America.

“(The witness) couldn’t get any identification off of the truck. He said the truck departed on I-71. So, it was never found,” said Warner. “Ironically, about one year ago today, the same thing happened with that same hydrant, and they put cones all around it. Truck parking is at a premium everywhere. The truck stops are full, McDonald’s parking lots are full. It’s hard to maneuver around some of those places at (night). That’s just a lot of water to be wasted.”

Strong storms cause damage

FAYETTE COUNTY (May 5) — Several instances of damage occurred throughout Fayette County on Tuesday due to strong storms and straight line winds.

According to various notifications from the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, there was a severe thunderstorm warning as well as a tornado watch yesterday.

According to Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Director Melissa Havens, both she and the National Weather Service agreed there was no tornado. Damage was caused by straight line winds.

Straight line winds, according to Havens, is when wind is blowing in one direction horizontally. It can blow over objects, get into buildings, and cause lifting and destruction. The difference is a tornado has wind in multiple directions.

Significant damage occurred in and around Jeffersonville and Jefferson Township.

Sheriff Vernon Stanforth explained via email, “The series of storms moving through Fayette County caused extensive damage to structures and utilities in the northern quadrant. The Buckeye RV suffered significant dollar loss with the destruction of numerous trailers in the lot. A neighboring barn was also heavily damaged.”

WCH man indicted on murder charges

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (May 10) — The Washington C.H. man accused of stabbing 38-year-old Annette Lowery to death while she was pregnant is scheduled to go to trial later this month.

Jeremy B. Cottrell, 37, was indicted by a Fayette County grand jury on aggravated murder and murder charges, as well as kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and trespass in a habitation. The indictment accuses Cottrell of causing the death of Lowery on March 3, as well as the “unlawful termination of Annette Lowery’s pregnancy.”

On April 25 during his arraignment in Fayette County Common Pleas Court, Cottrell pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. His jury trial is currently scheduled for May 25 at 8 a.m.

Lowery’s body was found the morning of March 3 in a room at the City Motel after she was allegedly stabbed to death. Cottrell and Lowery, also of Washington C.H., had been staying at the motel, located at 1524 Washington Ave., for at least a couple of days, according to Washington Police Department Chief Jeff Funari.

Former OSHP trooper indicted for rape

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (May 11) — A retired Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper indicted for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor for over several years was arraigned Monday in Fayette County Common Pleas Court.

Robert Ruth, 57, formerly of 21 Residence Drive in Washington C.H., pleaded “not guilty” to three counts of first-degree felony rape and one count of third-degree felony sexual battery.

According to the grand jury indictment, the alleged abuse of the male occurred between Sept. 30, 2001 and Feb. 3, 2006 in Fayette County. The reported abuse first occurred when the victim was 9 to 11 years of age, according to court documents.

The first rape charge alleges Ruth engaged in sexual conduct with the victim between Sept. 30, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2005. The second and third rape charges allege Ruth engaged in sexual conduct with the victim and “purposely compelled” him “to submit by force or threat of force” on Sept. 30, 2001 and Feb. 3, 2006.

Ruth first appeared in court April 22 when a $100,000 bond was issued, but was released from the Fayette County Jail April 25 on his own recognizance.

Body discovered in local barn lot

FAYETTE COUNTY (May 18) — Authorities are investigating the death of a Circleville man whose body was found Sunday morning in a barn lot in the 200 block of Bloomingburg-New Holland Road Northeast.

Detectives with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene Sunday morning, along with the Fayette County Coroner’s Office. During the investigation, the deceased male was identified as 37-year-old Donald G. Anderson, who was found to have been a reported missing person from the City of Circleville, according to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth.

The investigation revealed that a white 2009 Buick Lucerne, bearing Ohio registration GWZ-8038 and belonging to Anderson, was missing. Detectives from the Circleville Police Department responded to the Bloomingburg-New Holland Road scene and both agencies have collaboratively launched an investigation into Anderson’s death.

Rankin to join Senior Hall of Fame

JASPER TOWNSHIP (May 20) — Glenn Rankin, of Jasper Township, is one of 11 honorees who will be recognized for their accomplishments and volunteerism at the 46th Central Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Recognition Ceremony — an annual event hosted by Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA).

The Recognition Ceremony is an invitation-only event that will be held on Wednesday, May 25 at The Gallery At Champions venue (Champions Golf Course) in Columbus. The Hall of Fame honors central Ohio older adults who share their dedication, talent, and vitality in ways that significantly improve their communities and the lives of others.

COAAA hosts the Hall of Fame in May during Older Americans Month, a month that celebrates the contributions of senior citizens.

A lifelong resident of Jasper Township, Rankin has devotedly served his local community through several efforts. He is passionate toward cultivating and guiding the next generation of leaders in the Boy Scouts. His commitment to honoring veterans is evident with his volunteerism in the Fayette County Honor Guard. Along with these passions, he also volunteers his time to various organizations and causes that further strengthen his Fayette County community.

MT holds 60th commencement

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (May 24) — Numerous members of the Miami Trace family came together Friday evening to hold the 60th-annual commencement ceremony in honor of nearly 210 graduates in the Class of 2022.

The ceremony was moved from the football stadium to the Miami Trace High School (MTHS) gymnasium due to expected high winds. Students were given eight tickets for guests, while those without tickets could view a livestream of the ceremony in additional viewing areas.

Speakers for the evening included Miami Trace Superintendent Kim Pittser, MTHS Principal Bryan Sheets, 2022 class salutatorian Emma Seyfang, 2022 class valedictorian Hidy Kirkpatrick, 2022 class valedictorian Kandice Mathews, and 2022 class president and valedictorian Emily Moser.

WHS holds 146th commencement

Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) honored this year’s 139 graduates Friday evening at its 146th commencement ceremony.

The graduation was held in the Washington High School (WHS) gymnasium at 7 p.m. A large crowd of family and friends filled the gym and lobby just outside the gym to take part in the celebration.

The WHS band and choir provided the music for the ceremony. Graduate Luke Rader provided the invocation while WHS Assistant Principal Beth Day gave the introduction.

WHS Principal Tracy Rose was chosen as the class speaker. Rose spoke to the students of their history learning and growing in the local schools.

“Today, you become the first class to graduate from Washington Court House City Schools starting and ending your career in our new and restored buildings, which were completed in 2009,” said Rose. “No matter your current path, you each faced challenges and obstacles and your perseverance has prepared you to take on life. We are all so very proud of you.”


Fayette Christian student excels at rodeo

FAYETTE COUNTY (June 8) — Clay Wines, an eighth grade student at Fayette Christian School, has earned a position on the Ohio National Junior High rodeo team and will be traveling with fellow teammates to Perry, Ga., June 19-25, to compete at the 17th-annual National Junior High Finals Rodeo (NJHFR).

Wines will be competing in the team roping, ribbon roping, chute dogging, breakaway and light rifle competitions.

Featuring roughly 1,200 contestants from 43 US states, five Canadian provinces, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand, the NJHFR is the world’s largest junior high rodeo. In addition to competing for more than $80,000 in prizes, NJHFR contestants will also be competing for more than $200,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named a National Junior High Finals Rodeo World Champion.

Sean Sweeney tribute game set for June

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (June 11) — This year, Miami Trace High School gave out the first-annual Coach Sean Sweeney Memorial Scholarship at its graduation ceremony in honor of late coach Sean Sweeney who passed away tragically this past year.

To those who knew him, Sean was a joy to be around and instilled countless lessons and priceless life advice into the youth who were fortunate enough to have him as a coach.

The scholarship fund was created to honor his legacy, and to allow him to continue to help the next generation of soccer players and young adults, the first of which were Drew Black and Noah Perry.

Both students had a close bond with Sean and were devastated to learn of Sean’s passing. A committee of Sean’s family members selected both young men to win their awards that will help them in their future journey into college, with both young men attending Kent State University this coming fall.

Lisa Sweeney, Sean’s wife, and Gayle Smith, Sean’s mom, were at the graduation ceremony May 20 and were able to talk with both scholarship recipients about what the award means and why they were chosen for this year’s rewards, as they exemplified the character traits that Sean exhibited so memorably during his life.

This year’s award was funded by Sean’s family, but that is obviously not sustainable.

Three vie to become fair queen

FAYETTE COUNTY (June 14) — Three young ladies are vying to become the 2022 Fayette County Fair Queen: Libby Aleshire, Abigail Brandt and Hidy Kirkpatrick.

The queen will be crowned at the Fayette County Fair opening ceremonies on Sunday, July 17.

This year’s fair will run from July 18-23.

Toast to Summer returns

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (June 15) — It’s almost time to uncork the fun! The sixth-annual Fayette County Toast to Summer & Hot Air Balloon Glow returns Saturday, June 25 from 1-10 p.m.

Rain or shine, this event will go on at the Fayette County Airport, located at 2770 SR 38, Washington Court House. There will be $5 dollar parking and free general admission.

“Fayette County Pilots & Friends Association is proud to host the 2022 Toast to Summer,” said Jerry Morris, with the Fayette County Pilots & Friends. “We very much appreciate partnering with the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce and significant help from Fayette County Travel & Tourism. The airport could not host this event without the approval of the county commissioners.”

“Fayette County Travel & Tourism Bureau is thrilled to partner again in this annual event as our mission is to attract visitors and promote tourism to the county,” said Stephanie Dunham, executive director of Fayette County Travel & Tourism. “The Toast to Summer & Hot Air Balloon Glow repeatedly draws in wine and art enthusiasts from all over Ohio, showcasing a glimpse to those in attendance what Fayette County has to offer. We are looking forward to a wonderful day and hope to see you there!”

Tackage wins 54th Christman Award

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (June 21) — Tyler Tackage, a member of the Washington High School Class of 2022, has been named the winner of the 54th-annual Record-Herald Clarence A. Christman Award.

The award has been presented each year since 1969.

It began as the Record-Herald Award and was soon named in honor of Mr. Christman.

The award, consisting of a $500 scholarship and a commemorative plaque, goes to a local high school senior who best exemplifies excellence in the areas of athletics, academics and leadership.

The award is being sponsored by the Record-Herald and Gordon CDJR.

Tackage was selected for the award from a group of 22 nominees (12 from Washington High School, nine from Miami Trace High School and one from Fayette Christian School.)

Local heroes come to the rescue

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (June 30) — Two City of Washington Court House employees were recently commended for their heroic efforts in rescuing two children who were in fear of drowning in Paint Creek, according to city officials.

A letter of commendation from Washington Court House Chief of Police Jeffrey Funari reads, “On June 9, 2022, Pete Harperee and Spencer Bryan were in the area of S. Elm St. near Chrisman Park. Both heard loud voices screaming for help. They looked in the creek and observed two small children in the creek, hanging on so they would not be swept away. Pete and Spencer entered the creek that had high rushing water to save the children and keep them from being swept further down the creek and possibly drowning.”

Funari went on to congratulate both men for going above and beyond their duties in rescuing these two children.

City Manager Joe Denen released a statement about the situation, which reportedly occurred around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 9.

“Spencer Bryan and Pete Harperee did much more than anyone could expect. They both jumped in without hesitation, risking their own lives. We are incredibly proud of Spencer and Pete; they are both incredibly decent people,” said Denen.

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