As 2018 comes to a close, the Record-Herald is taking a moment to reflect on the year’s biggest news and sports stories.
Beginning in April, a state-approved project was underway to renovate the Fayette County Bureau of Motor Vehicles at 105 E. East St. in Washington C.H. and would create new handicap-accessible public restrooms. The Fayette County Commissioners said the building improvement project was approved by the State of Ohio BMV and is estimated to cost more than $500,000 in the first phase of development.
The Fayette County Dragons captured the Special Olympics Division II tournament title with a 59-38 win over the Darke County Dawgs in Dover. “I am so proud of this team and my assistant coach,” head coach Brandon Runk said. “I’m so thankful Caleb McKinney could help me guide this team to our first-ever state championship.”
Former Record-Herald reporter Ashley Bunton won two awards in 2018 at the annual Ohio Associated Press Media Editors newspaper competition in Columbus. In the Division I competition, which includes newspapers with a daily circulation up to 7,999, Bunton collected the first place award for “Best Business Writer” and the second place award for “Best Columnist.”
The Fayette County Dog Shelter recently welcomed a new dog warden this year to take the place of Bruce Denen, who retired from the position at the end of March. During a meeting in April, the Fayette County Commissioners appointed Nelson Prater as the new Fayette County Dog Warden. Prater, who started part-time at the shelter in 2010, served for the past few years as the assistant dog warden to three different wardens. According to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, Prater was instrumental in training these wardens.
A one-vehicle crash on State Route 753 claimed the life of a 37-year-old Fayette County woman. According to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, a 1998 Toyota Camry, driven by Amanda D. Saltz-Smith of Washington C.H., was heading south on State Route 753 south of the Stuckey Road intersection when the vehicle went off the left side of the roadway. The vehicle went down an embankment and overturned multiple times before coming to rest in a field. Saltz-Smith was reportedly unrestrained, and was ejected from the vehicle during the crash. She was pronounced dead at the scene by the Fayette County Coroner’s Office.
A body found inside of a duplex in Harrisburg, Ohio was identified as 20-year-old Hanna Geiger, who was reported missing from Washington C.H. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the landlord of the duplex, located on High Street, reporting that during a walk-through of the building, she discovered what she believed to be a deceased person wrapped in a garbage bag, according to a news release. Sheriff’s patrol officers confirmed it was a deceased person, and the sheriff’s detective bureau along with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation were called to the scene. Initial indications were that Geiger died of a drug overdose, according to Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. Investigators believe, based on body decomposition, that Geiger could have been in the home for about a month.
Washington Little League was pleased to host the 2018 Opening Day Ceremonies at the Little League fields on Lewis Street May 5 beginning at 11 a.m. All five Minors teams, and all seven Majors teams were represented, and Andrew Ingram-Shaw had the honor of tossing out the first pitch.
Although a fixture on Elm Street since 1974, the tear-down of the old McDonald’s restaurant ushered in the construction of a brand-new McDonald’s at the same location. On May 17 beginning at around 9 a.m., the existing McDonald’s was demolished by crews from Mark-L Construction, a company based out of the Columbus area. It was a bittersweet moment for Nick Epifano, owner/operator of McDonald’s of Fayette County, given the building’s rich history, but he said it’s time to update the building and move toward the future.
A 39-year-old Tipp City man was set to go to court on two significant drug trafficking and possession cases. In his most recent case in Fayette County Common Pleas Court, Julio C. Villalobos was indicted on a charge of aggravated trafficking in drugs (a second-degree felony) and a charge of aggravated possession of drugs (a second-degree felony).
The Well at Sunnyside completed another tax season of helping its neighbors complete and file their tax reports. It was another record-setting year for The Well’s 13 tax counselors. This year they helped to complete a record 1,158 returns, for potential tax refunds and credits valued at $1,775,283, another record for The Well. In addition, The Well was fourth in the state’s top tax sites — an amazing achievement considering that the top three were urban areas, such as Stark County and three other multiple county sites.
A recent financial audit of the Washington Court House City School (WCHCS) District by the Auditor of State’s office this year has returned a clean audit report. The district’s excellent record-keeping has earned it the Auditor of State Award once again. The Auditor of State Award is presented to local governments and school districts upon the completion of a financial audit.
Finally in May, Washington Court House City Schools recognized first responders and dedicated a campus road to Steven Eric DiSario at the Washington Middle and High School campus. DiSario, a graduate of the Washington C.H. High School Class of 1997, had been police chief in Kirkersville for only three weeks when he was fatally shot May 12, 2017 while responding to reports of an armed man at a nursing home in the city about 24 miles (39 kilometers) east of Columbus.
A substantial natural gas leak at a Vectren Energy substation forced the evacuation of the Valero Bloomingburg Ethanol Plant for a little over two hours. The substation is located behind the Valero property near the railroad. The leak was reported at 3:44 p.m. and the public was encouraged by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office to stay clear of the area. By approximately 6 p.m., the situation was resolved and the ethanol plant resumed operations.
Less than 24 hours after winning the Division II State championship in the discus throw, Katie Seyfang was back in the field directly across from the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium to try to do it all again. And she nearly succeeded before finally placing third in the shot put with a throw of 42’ 4 1/4”. “Gosh, what a phenomenal weekend up here for Katie Seyfang,” Miami Trace head coach Brent Noes said. “And her family and the Miami Trace track and field program, as well.”
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office participated in a collaborative, years-long investigation that resulted in 2018 in the federal court sentencing of four individuals convicted of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to steal truckloads of high-value merchandise traveling in interstate commerce. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, among those sentenced in New Albany were the ringleaders of the theft organization: Roberto Santos-Gonzalez, 37; Carlos Enrique Freire-Pifferrer, 39; Juan Perez-Gonzalez, 44; and Eduardo Hernandez, 55.
Former Washington Court House City Council member Trent Dye pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to crimes related to defrauding his former employer of nearly $400,000. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Dye, 47, was employed as the general manager of Paramount Freight Systems, LCC (PFS) — a Jeffersonville trucking company — between 2008 and 2016. Between 2013 and 2016, Dye reportedly devised a scheme to defraud funds from PFS by submitting false invoices through his shell company, DW Recruiting, in order to take advantage of PFS’s third-party recruitment program. Through the recruitment program, approved recruiters could earn an $800 referral fee for each driver PFS hired based on the recruiter’s referral.
As part of an investigation into suspected drug trafficking, three individuals were arrested in June in Jeffersonville by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. According to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, FCSO detectives and agents from the US 23 Major Crimes Task Force were investigating intelligence received about alleged drug trafficking taking place in the area. During the investigation, detectives identified a vehicle reportedly associated with the intelligence received, and they made a traffic stop on State Street in the Village of Jeffersonville.
A Washington C.H. man accused of raping a 6-year-old girl was being held in the Fayette County Jail on a $1 million bond after he was indicted on 10 counts of rape and five counts of gross sexual imposition. Benjamin L. Knisley, 28, of 1025 Dayton Ave., Lot 12, was served with his grand jury indictment inside the jail. He was arraigned in Fayette County Common Pleas Court. Judge Steven Beathard made the decision to raise his bond to $1 million.
This is the second part in a series of four, covering April through June, that reflects on important 2018 news and sports stories that ran in the Record-Herald. Stay with the Record-Herald all this week for more.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.