As this challenging and difficult year finally comes to a close, the Record-Herald is taking time to reflect on 2020’s biggest local stories. The following is the first of a four-part year in review series. This sampling of the year’s biggest stories covers January-March of 2020.
On Jan. 15, a 53-year-old Washington C.H. man (who was facing a rape charge after he was allegedly found heavily intoxicated with two female juveniles in a Holiday Inn Express hotel room) was indicted by a Fayette County grand jury. Just after 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 30, 2019, the Washington Police Department received a complaint about the man later identified as Jeffery T. Wilson, 7 Sunny Drive. An employee at the Holiday Inn Express, 101 Courthouse Parkway, advised that two young girls were upset and seeking help because “their parent/guardian was walking around the hotel nude,” according to reports. Police arrived and made contact with the girls, who told officers that Wilson was “extremely drunk and scaring them.” The two also said they called their biological mother to pick them up from the hotel. Police were also told that Wilson was nude in front the girls, and that he was urinating all over the hotel room.
On Saturday, Jan. 4, two individuals were facing drug trafficking charges following a traffic stop on East Market Street where police reportedly found methamphetamine and heroin. Just after 1 a.m., a Washington C.H. Police Department officer initiated the traffic stop on East Market at Lewis Street after he saw a vehicle make a right hand turn from Lewis onto East Market when the traffic light was red. According to reports, the officer advised the driver, identified as Jason Massiatte, 40, of Columbus, why the traffic stop was made. While speaking with Massiatte and the passenger, identified as Shanda M. Jones, 44, of Leesburg, the officer reportedly observed several orange needle caps on the floorboard of the passenger’s seat. A closer look allegedly revealed a hypodermic needle near Jones’s foot.
On Jan. 15, two Washington C.H. men were charged after a local man claimed he was shot by a man with a BB gun from a passing car as he was walking on South Elm Street. At around 11:20 p.m., Washington Police Department officers were dispatched to Save-A-Lot in reference to an assault complaint. A 53-year-old Washington C.H. man told police he had been walking northbound on South Elm Street near Ranchers Roast Beef when a “white older style Oldsmobile” drove by him heading southbound, reports said. According to the victim, a man leaned out of a vehicle window with a BB gun and shot him in the right side. The vehicle then continued and turned right onto Willard Street. Police said the victim had visible signs of being shot by a BB gun.
Finally on Jan. 16, a Wilmington man was in custody after police said he “used his vehicle as a weapon” in the Washington C.H. Burger King parking lot by striking a police cruiser that was occupied by an officer in an attempt to escape from authorities. At approximately 8:20 p.m., a Washington Police Department officer made a traffic stop due to the vehicle not displaying a front license plate. The vehicle pulled into Burger King, 1666 Columbus Ave., and the officer made contact with the driver — identified as Joseph W. West. A check on West’s driving status, along with a wants and warrants check, revealed West had an active arrest warrant issued by the Adult Parole Authority with a nationwide pick-up radius, according to reports. Another officer arrived on the scene and police advised West to exit the vehicle because he was under arrest.
On Feb. 2, a fire that started at a camper on Hickory Street reportedly killed a dog, injured a firefighter and damaged three houses. Just after 9 a.m., the Washington Fire Department (WFD) responded to a structure fire located at 228 Hickory St. in Washington C.H. Fire Chief Tim Downing explained that the firefighter who was injured during a ceiling collapse is okay and did not require time off work following the incident. According to reports, heavy smoke was seen during the response to the scene. A fence was removed to gain access into the rear of the property where a camper was found on fire along with arcing power lines on the ground, reports said. Due to the downed power lines, the camper itself could not be extinguished until Dayton Power & Light responded to the scene to shut off the power.
On Feb. 11, a Leesburg man who allegedly pointed a gun at the owner of Hot Shot Auto Sales and fired a shot while inside the business was being held in the Fayette County Jail on a $35,000 bond. Just before noon, Washington C.H. Police Department officers responded to the business at 321 S. Elm St. in reference to a fight and a report that a firearm had been discharged. When the first officer arrived at the scene, the owner of the business was holding William L. Hupp down on the ground, according to reports, and both had facial injuries. The man who owns Hot Shot Auto Sales told police that the incident began when Hupp, 37, arrived at the business in a vehicle, exited the vehicle and started an argument, which then turned physical. According to reports, Hupp brandished a firearm and pointed it at the business owner. The owner was reportedly able to grab the firearm and point it away from his body when the gun discharged toward the ground.
On Feb. 13, it was announced that the McKesson facility currently located in Washington Court House will be relocating in late 2022 to Jefferson Township, according to Sunny Rodriguez, the senior manager of corporate public relations. McKesson Corporation, according to its website, is “the leading healthcare company for wholesale medical supplies & equipment, pharmaceutical distribution and healthcare technology solutions.” Currently, the local facility is located at 3000 Kenskill Ave. According to public records from the Fayette County Commissioners’ office, the new site will be located northeast of State Route 729 and the intersection of State Route 435. “Our focus was ensuring we retained the outstanding team at Washington Court House (while) coupling with the benefits of a Jeffersonville location,” explained Rodriguez. “In addition to being able to keep the current team, we’re also able to be more efficient being closer to a major freeway, and we’ll be able to attract new hires for the growing location.” According to the public records, the relocation of the facility will retain 129 positions while creating 42 more.
In February, a South Solon man was indicted by a Fayette County grand jury for the kidnapping, abduction and felonious assault of a local woman. John A. Kingery, 41, was being held in the Fayette County Jail on a $51,000 bond on two counts of first-degree felony kidnapping, second-degree felonious assault and third-degree felony abduction. The victim told Fayette County Sheriff’s Office detectives that on Jan. 1, Kingery struck her in the face on several occasions and choked her at the woman’s business in Washington C.H. According to reports, Kingery told the victim several times that he was going to kill her and that she wasn’t allowed to leave.
As of the end of February, Fayette County Public Health (FCPH) had been working since the beginning of the year on coronavirus (COVID-19) preparation. According to FCPH Deputy Health Commissioner Leigh Cannon, the department had provided information and guidance to various healthcare providers in the county as the situation had changed. Additionally, it provided social media updates and information for the general public on COVID-19. More than 83,000 COVID-19 cases were reported worldwide, nearly 79,000 of them in mainland China. Government officials in China at that time had severely restricted travel and imposed strict quarantine measures to try and stop the virus from spreading. “Across Fayette County and Ohio, the COVID-19 situation has not changed much in the last week,” Cannon wrote in a press release. “What has changed is the rhetoric surrounding it. Updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including ‘when not if’ or ‘inevitable’ statements about COVID-19 in the United States, have caused people to pay a little more attention to the situation in the country.”
On March 4, no people were injured; however one dog was killed during a major house fire on Spring Lake Avenue. According to Washington Fire Department Chief Tim Downing, at approximately 8 p.m. the fire at 1066 Spring Lake Ave., just off of Old U.S. 35 in Washington Court House, was reported to the department. Downing said initial reports of the blaze suggested the fire was coming out of both the top and bottom floor windows. When firefighters arrived on scene, all occupants were already out of the home. After it was determined to be safe for the firefighters to enter, they discovered the dog who had perished in the fire.
On March 9, a woman was killed by multiple gunshots during a reported domestic incident at the Pine Tree Apartment complex on Joanne Drive off of US Route 22 East. Lilliana M. Null, 20, of Cincinnati, was the victim, according to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, and her ex-boyfriend, Joseph A. Brown, 21, of Washington C.H., was arrested for aggravated murder. According to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, just after 6 p.m. his office received a call indicating that a man had shot a female at the rear of the apartment buildings on Joanne Drive. The initial call reported that the assailant was still in possession of the firearm and remained in the area. When deputies arrived they encountered a man exiting the front of an apartment in building 16 and learned that he was the alleged shooter. Brown was detained by deputies, Stanforth said.
By March 13, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fayette County Memorial Hospital (FCMH) announced it was not permitting visitors — the first of several times to occur this year. A statement from FCMH read: “Our caregivers are working diligently to protect the safety of our patients and staff. This is an ever-changing environment and we are adjusting to meet it and working to look ahead, because we want to be prepared in the event we see an increase in patients. Just as the governor has explained, to help prevent the spread, we must limit contact where possible. It is with this in mind that FCMH is not permitting visitors.”
On March 16, the schools of Ohio started their mandatory three-week closure, and local districts had been hard at work ensuring students could continue learning while enacting social distancing in an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19. In an effort to continue learning for students, Miami Trace Local Schools started its Distance Learning, a program designed to allow students and teachers to remotely work with one another to ensure the kids receive education while out of school. Although the program is designed for a number of applications such as closures due to weather or disasters, it is a new program for the district. The Washington Court House City School District also worked hard to start its Remote Learning program. Similar to the Distance Learning at Miami Trace, WCHCS has put together a plan to help educate students forced to stay away from school.
Finally, on March 24, Fayette County’s first case of COVID-19 coronavirus was confirmed by Fayette County Public Health (FCPH) and the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency (FCEMA). The 22-year-old patient was self-quarantining at home with daily oversight from FCPH. Proper follow-up was done with close contacts, according to Leigh Cannon, deputy health commissioner of FCPH. The name of the patient was not released. At the time Fayette County joined 49 other counties in Ohio with confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a state total number of cases at 564. Cannon said that while it was not possible to know how many people had been tested, it was no surprise the virus had made its way to Fayette County.