YEAR IN REVIEW: Key local stories from Sept.-Oct.


This is Part 5 of a six-part series looking back at just a few of the key stories in the pages of the Record-Herald throughout 2022.


Reported crimes lead to FCSO manhunt

FAYETTE COUNTY (Sept. 8) — A series of reported crimes led Fayette County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) deputies on a manhunt that began Tuesday evening and continued throughout Wednesday. The suspect was reportedly taken into custody by members of the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force without incident Wednesday at a residence in east Columbus.

The incident began on Wesley Chapel Road near the intersection of Reid Road at approximately 4:58 p.m. Tuesday. According to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, his office received a complaint of a suspicious male on Wesley Chapel Road.

Upon arrival, deputy Justin Bennett encountered an unidentified male in the ditch area with a motorcycle nearby. When Bennett inquired why the suspicious male was in the area, the male reported that he was looking for his cell phone and then mounted the motorcycle, fleeing from Bennett on Wesley Chapel Road toward Prairie Road.

Bennett pursued the motorcycle, at times reaching speeds exceeding 100 MPH until the pursuit was terminated on State Route #38 for safety reasons as the vehicle was northbound toward Interstate 71, according to Stanforth. At the time, Bennett was unable to identify the male or obtain a registration from the motorcycle.

A manhunt ensued for the subject spanning several hours, Stanforth said.

As law enforcement was attempting to locate the male, information was obtained from the Mechanicsburg Police Department in Champaign County, Ohio indicating that the male subject being pursued was believed to be Tristan S. Metzger, 24, of Marion, Ohio.

Scarecrow Fest arrives

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Sept. 16) — One of the most highly-anticipated local events of the year has arrived: the 2022 Scarecrow Festival.

The three-day festival in downtown Washington Court House kicks off today at noon with opening ceremonies and a performance by the Miami Trace Marching Band. The newly-crowned Scarecrow Festival Queen, Kaley Moser, will also be introduced along with her court: first runner-up Aubrey Pfeifer and second runner-up Onesti Evans.

Rides, vendors and amusements will be open today from noon to 10 p.m. and “The Bluegrass Ramblers” will also be performing beginning at 2 p.m. on the main stage. From 5-6 p.m., “Sourblood” will perform on the main stage.

A balloon artist and face painter, free of charge, will be available on the courthouse lawn from 5-8 p.m., along with free kids’ activities from 5-8 p.m.

Local artist, Micah Mootispaw, will perform on the corner of Court and Main streets from 6-7 p.m.

The beer garden will be in operation from 7-10 p.m.

Then, beginning at 8 p.m. on the main stage will be the Friday night headliner: country music band “Confederate Railroad.”

“Orianthi” new Scarecrow headliner

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Sept. 17) — One day before the Scarecrow Festival began and about 48 hours before the rock band was scheduled to perform as Saturday night’s headliner, “Hinder” representatives informed the festival committee that the band would not be in attendance “due to a series of unforeseen circumstances.” On extremely short notice, the committee was able to secure a new Saturday night headliner: “Orianthi” — a platinum-selling recording artist and world class guitarist.

Orianthi’s first major solo artist success, as a singer-songwriter and guitarist, was with the Geffen Records release of “According To You,” which is now RIAA-Certified Platinum® and has over 29 million streams on Spotify. Orianthi has announced the upcoming release of her new studio album, “Rock Candy,” on Oct. 14.

“We are so thankful that Orianthi is available and willing to come rock the stage at the 2022 Scarecrow Festival,” read a statement from the Scarecrow Festival committee.

18-year-old indicted for alleged vehicular assault, OVI

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Sept. 22) — An 18-year-old male has been indicted on vehicular assault and OVI charges for his alleged role in an April 30 one-vehicle accident that occurred after leaving the Miami Trace High School prom.

Kylan C. Knapp has been charged with aggravated vehicular assault (third-degree felony), vehicular assault (fourth-degree felony), and two counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drug of abuse (first-degree misdemeanors). He is scheduled to be arraigned in Fayette County Common Pleas Court on Monday, Sept. 26.

The crash occurred on Bloomingburg-New Holland Road at the intersection of Lewis Road in Union Township at approximately 10:07 p.m. April 30. Two individuals were involved — Knapp and Emily J. Helms, of New Holland, who is the victim in this case.

Knapp, of Washington C.H., was a Miami Trace student and Helms was his guest at the prom, according to authorities. Both reportedly suffered significant injuries.

Former My Sister’s House bookkeeper sent to prison

CINCINNATI (Sept. 30) — The former bookkeeper of My Sister’s House — a now-shuttered domestic violence shelter in Washington Court House — was sentenced in U.S. District Court Wednesday to one year in prison for crimes related to stealing funds from the shelter.

Jaime Cardinal, 46, of Washington Court House, was arrested in July 2020.

Cardinal spent tens of thousands of dollars intended for the operation of the shelter on personal expenses, including food, a trip to Disney World and Universal Studios for her daughter, and thousands of dollars in purchases from Avon, Thirty-One and iTunes.

Between January 2014 and October 2016, Cardinal and a co-conspirator — Crystal Chrisman, who served as the executive director of My Sister’s House — misused debit cards connected to the shelter’s bank accounts to make hundreds of personal purchases at restaurants, auctions, craft stores and bowling alleys, among other places – including purchases made when few, if any, victims were living at the shelter.

For example, in March and April 2016, when no victims were in the shelter, Cardinal and Chrisman charged more than $6,000 to the shelter’s debit cards for food at restaurants and grocery stores, car repair and fuel for personal cars, weight-loss supplements, and other personal expenses.


U.S. Census: City of WCH continues to grow

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Oct. 1) — The City of Washington Court House continues to grow, according to the US Census, which was referenced by city manager Joe Denen at Wednesday’s city council meeting.

Denen provided the council with multiple graphs from the latest census. In the 2010 Census, the city’s population was 14,192; in 2020 the population was 14,401; and the population projection from July 2021 is 14,496.

“Our population continues to grow in the positive direction, which for a rural community, is rather good,” explained Denen.

The city manager was very pleased with the Percent of Population 16+ Years in the Civilian Labor Force graph from 2016-2020. “At 57.7%, that’s good. That means people are working.”

He then referenced the Total Retail Sales ($1,000) graph, where Washington Court House sat at $320,555 and the Total Accommodation and Food Service Sales ($1,000), where Washington Court House sat at $38,282.

“We will always have the blessing and the challenge of our location. It’s relatively easy for our population to access the Dayton/Beavercreek area, south side of Columbus, Mason, and the north side of Cincinnati,” he said. “That will always be a blessing but on the retail/food side of things, it definitely presents some challenges.”

Couple indicted for child abuse

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Oct. 4) — A Washington C.H. couple has been indicted by a Fayette County grand jury for an alleged pattern of cruel and physical abuse of their four children.

Joshua Lee Smith, 37, is facing a second-degree felonious assault charge and eight counts of endangering children — all felonies of the third degree. Ashley Smith, 32, is also charged with eight third-degree felony counts of endangering children.

On Aug. 2, Washington Police Department officers responded to a residence within the city to assist Children Services (Fayette County) in removing four children from the home. Officers were made aware that the children had allegedly been abused, with one of the children possibly receiving serious physical harm, according to reports.

The Children Services investigation began after the children had placed a letter in a neighbor’s mailbox advising that their father, Joshua Lee Smith, physically abused them.

Honda to build $3.5B battery plant in Fayette Co., hire 2,200 workers

COLUMBUS (Oct. 12) — Honda announced Tuesday it will build a $3.5 billion joint-venture electric vehicle battery factory at the Fayette County mega-site that will create 2,200 jobs.

During a special event at the Ohio Statehouse that included a multitude of state, local and federal officials, Honda and LG Energy Solution confirmed that their combined investments of at least $4.2 billion will create a total of 2,527 new jobs in Ohio between the establishment of a new electric vehicle battery plant at the Mid-West Mega Commerce Center — east of Interstate 71 and near U.S. Route 35, near Jeffersonville — and the retooling of existing Honda plants in Union, Logan, and Shelby counties for electric vehicle production.

Fayette County’s mega-site offers more than 1,500 acres and is billed as the state’s “largest certified job ready site.”

Local officials are calling this a transformational economic development for Fayette County and surrounding areas.

“This will change our world,” said Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean following the Statehouse event. “We’re going to have a lot of well-paying jobs in the community. It will help our hospital because all of these people are going to be insured. Just the fact that it’s here in Fayette County, we will have new subdivisions I would say…new population growth. Fayette County has been 28,000 people for some time and I would expect this development will change not only the population in Washington Court House, but the Village of Jeffersonville and even the Village of Octa. So all of those areas are where new growth will show.”

Cottrell receives two life sentences for Lowery murder

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Oct. 22) — Following a three-day trial, it took the jury only 30 minutes to find Jeremy B. Cottrell guilty of the brutal murder of Annette Lowery and their unborn child. The 37-year-old Washington C.H. man was sentenced Friday morning to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The trial that began Tuesday in Fayette County Common Pleas Court and concluded Thursday afternoon included graphic and disturbing images from the March 3 stabbing murder that occurred at the City Motel in Washington C.H.

Cottrell and the 38-year-old 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 authorities. Lowery’s body was found when a motel staff member came to the room to inform the two that it was the motel’s check-out time. By that time, Cottrell had already left the motel.

Testimony during the trial revealed that Lowery — who at the time was approximately five months pregnant — was beaten and tortured by Cottrell before she was stabbed multiple times and her throat was cut. Photos of the gruesome injuries were presented as evidence.

“We know that they were in a relationship,” said Fayette County Prosecutor Jess Weade when asked about a possible motive. “It was later determined that it was (Cottrell’s) unborn son. We know that (Lowery) knew she was pregnant. I do not know if he knew she was pregnant, that never became clear. But we could certainly hypothesize that the topic of the pregnancy or something of that nature came into play when the murder occurred.”

Cottrell was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder for purposefully causing the death of Lowery while he was in the process of committing the offense of kidnapping and for the unlawful termination of Lowery’s pregnancy while he was committing the offense of kidnapping.

“Mr. Cottrell, you slaughtered her like we slaughter livestock,” Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Beathard said Friday as he spoke to the defendant during the sentencing hearing. “The court also finds that you showed no remorse. I watched you closely during the trial. You looked at and studied every image, every graphic image of what you did to Ms. Lowery, and not one reaction whatsoever. Never. You’ve never taken responsibility for what you did.”

Garrison retiring from Fayette County Public Health after 33 years

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (Oct. 22) — Fayette County Public Health (FCPH) Environmental Health Director Rick Garrison is retiring after 33 years of public service.

He has been employed at FCPH for 22 years and has served as the environmental health director at Fayette County Public Health for 19 of those years. Prior to coming to FCPH, he worked for 10 years at Highland County Health District.

“Basically what drew me to the field was a steady paycheck,” Garrison said. “I had no idea what I was going to be doing. I did not even know I was going to have a desk, telephone, and typewriter. I grew to love the job because it was outside and had a variety of programs such as septic systems and well construction and development.

“I enjoyed working with the contractors and other governmental agencies. It was also nice to drive throughout the counties and appreciate the outdoors,” he added.

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