YEAR IN REVIEW: Key local stories from March-April


The Record-Herald



Police were investigating a homicide at the City Motel on Thursday afternoon. A suspect is in custody after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Hillsboro.

Police were investigating a homicide at the City Motel on Thursday afternoon. A suspect is in custody after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Hillsboro.


R-H file photos

Firefighters found one person dead as they battled a fire at this home at 417 Clyburn Ave. early Wednesday morning.


R-H file photos

The Chamber of Commerce and several individuals joined newly-opened Autumn Treatment Center in Washington Court House for a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house.


R-H file photos

“Trash for Treats” was a clean-up project done in 2019. The major prize in that competition was a Cincinnati Reds suite for a game (two passes and a buffet), which was won by Charlie Speakman.


R-H file photos

The Fayette Regional Humane Society (FRHS) recently took part in an animal rescue to save cats from possible euthanasia.


R-H file photos

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor speaks to one of the attorneys during the hearing.


R-H file photos

This is Part 2 of a six-part series looking back at just a few of the key stories in the pages of the Record-Herald throughout 2022.

MARCH

Woman sentenced in home invasion

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 2) — The Mt. Sterling woman who broke into a Grace Street home in October and threatened the resident with a railroad spike was sentenced Monday to eight to 10 years in prison.

Sherry L. Lahmon, 37, plead guilty in Fayette County Common Pleas Court to second-degree felony burglary, second-degree felony robbery, fourth-degree felony grand theft of a motor vehicle, and first-degree misdemeanor endangering children.

The guilty pleas were part of an agreement with the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office, which dismissed one count of theft.

Community health fair set to return

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 3) — The public is being asked to save the date for the 30th Community Health Fair Family Fun Day to be held on Saturday, June 11, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Grace Community Church in Washington C.H.

A scaled back version of the highly-anticipated event will be back in 2022 with a new date, but many familiar free and reduced-price screenings and family fun activities, according to Fayette County Public Health officials. The health fair had been an annual county tradition for 29 years prior to a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are very excited to partner with Adena Fayette Medical Center and other local agencies and organizations to bring the health fair back this year,” said Leigh Cannon, MPH, deputy health commissioner at Fayette County Public Health. “It’s time to return to routine. Routine screenings, routine bloodwork, routine well checks and immunizations — all of these are important for health and wellness and also for disease prevention or early disease detection and care.”

Homicide suspect captured

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 4) — The Washington C.H. Police Department is investigating a reported homicide that occurred Thursday morning at the City Motel, according to authorities.

The name of the victim is not being released at this time. Washington Police Department Chief Jeff Funari said a “person of interest” is in custody. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation was on the scene assisting with the investigation.

According to Funari, police received a call from the City Motel, 1524 Washington Ave., at 11:23 a.m. Thursday.

The Washington Police Department informed the Highland County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Thursday morning to be on the lookout for the driver of a 2005 white Chevrolet Impala with a license plate number, according to HCSO Chief Deputy Brandon Stratton. The HCSO put the BOLO out on the radio, a member of the Brushcreek Volunteer Fire Department in Highland County heard the radio call, then spotted the vehicle at the back of the Hillsboro Walmart near the service center.

WCH man charged with murder

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 5) — A Washington C.H. man has been charged with the murder of 38-year-old Annette Lowery, whose body was found Thursday morning in a room at the City Motel after she was allegedly stabbed to death.

Jeremy B. Cottrell, 37, is being held in the Fayette County Jail after being apprehended Thursday afternoon. 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.

“A sharp instrument is alleged to have been used in the murder,” Funari said. “We’re not releasing many more details than that at this time, as we’re waiting on test results and the autopsy report.”

Funari added that it’s too early to talk about possible motives in the alleged murder. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is assisting in the investigation.

One found dead in house fire

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 10) — Firefighters found one person dead inside a Clyburn Avenue home overnight Wednesday, according to authorities, as they brought a residential fire under control.

At 12:21 a.m., members of the Washington Fire Department and Fayette County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to 417 Clyburn Ave. on the northwest edge of Washington Court House. Firefighters battled the blaze and brought the fire under control.

During their investigation, a deceased occupant was located inside the residence. The Fayette County Coroner’s Office is withholding information about the identity of the deceased pending a positive identification.

Drug operation nets 36 convictions

FAYETTE COUNTY (March 12) — A large-scale, undercover operation designed to thwart the sale of narcotics in Fayette County has, to date, resulted in the convictions of 36 individuals and a total of approximately 92 years, five months of prison time for offenders.

“Operation Red, White and Bust” was first announced by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost before the July 4 weekend of 2021. Locally, contributing agencies to the investigation, arrests and prosecution were the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, US 23 Major Crimes Task Force, Fayette County Prosecutor Jess Weade and assistant prosecutor Rachel Martin. Their cases were prosecuted in Fayette County Common Pleas Court.

The operation focused on alleged traffickers in fentanyl, tramadol, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

WCH man pleads guilty to murder

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 17) — Kyle Wes Wilson pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murder of Robert Lee Gould II and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

After a period of negotiation with the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office, the 28-year-old Washington C.H. man admitted to shooting and killing Gould II, 45, on June 24 at around 1 a.m. at the intersection of East Temple and Delaware streets. Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Beathard sentenced Wilson to a total of 20 years to life sentence on the murder charge — which includes a gun specification — as well as drug charges Wilson pleaded guilty to on Feb. 28.

“(Wilson) was charged with murder, not aggravated murder. With murder, there’s just one sentence, which is 15 years to life,” said Fayette County Prosecutor Jess Weade. “If you’re convicted of murder — whether it’s by trial or by plea — it’s 15 to life. If you use a gun, it’s an automatic three-year gun enhancement, which brings it up to 18 to life. He had the other drug charges, so he was subject to additional time on that. He offered, and the judge agreed, to do 20 to life. It basically added two more years for those drug charges.”

New treatment center opens

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 17) — On Wednesday afternoon, several individuals stopped by the newly-opened Autumn Treatment Center for an open house and a ribbon cutting ceremony welcoming the center as new members into the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.

The treatment center, located at 321 E. Court St. in Washington Court House, offers treatment for both mental health conditions and Substance Use Disorder (SUD), according to chief operations officer Stephanie Duell.

She further explained they are able to provide walk-in appointments to allow people to be assessed and seen immediately.

The building itself has a room for counseling, telehealth, treatment, etc., along with a larger room for group therapy.

Youth invited to clean up county

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 19) — From now through Sunday, April 3, local youths are being encouraged to help clean up their communities and take pride in where they live.

According to local Steven Armstrong, this is the second time the project has been held.

“I decided to do this program because it is embarrassing to see all of the trash along the roads in our area,” explained Armstrong.

Each kid ages 14 and under that picks up a bag of trash is asked to post a picture of it on the event Facebook page — they will then receive a gift certificate for a free one topping pizza from Supersport Pizza.

The gift certificates are courtesy of Supersport Pizza and Steven Armstrong of Point Realty.

Disc golf course coming to town

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 24) — A disc golf course will soon be joining entertainment and activity options in the city of Washington Court House.

As previously reported, local Jason Stritenberger began the initiative for the local course and even started his own disc golf supply shop in downtown Washington C.H. at 149 S. Fayette St.

According to www.discgolf.com/, “Disc golf is similar to traditional golf; however, instead of using golf clubs and balls aiming for a hole, disc golf players use disc golf discs and aim for a disc golf basket which is a pole extending up from the ground with chains and a basket where the disc lands. The object of the game is to complete each hole in the fewest number of throws, starting from a tee area and finishing with the disc coming to rest in the basket.”

FRHS aids cat-saving initiative

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 24) — Fayette Regional Humane Society (FRHS) recently took part in an animal rescue initiative to save cats from possible euthanasia.

Second Chance Animal Rescue, out of Georgetown, SC, coordinated the transport of 52 cats from Robeson County Animal Shelter in North Carolina, a shelter with a 90% euthanasia rate for cats.

There were several Ohio humane societies and rescues that recently went to Cincinnati where they connected with the transport vehicle from North Carolina.

Those shelters included FRHS, along with Best Friend Animal Society, Cincinnati Animal Care Humane Society, SPCA Cincinnati, League for Animal Welfare, and Ohio Alley Cat Resource.

The Fayette Regional Humane Society took 11 of those cats. One of those cats has already been adopted.

Rose reinstated as WHS principal

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (March 31) — Tracy Rose has been reinstated as principal of Washington High School (WHS) with a number of stipulations in place after a third-party investigation concluded that he was culpable in two separate acts of harassment, under board of education policy, against WHS assistant principal Beth Day.

On Feb. 9, the Washington Court House City School (WCHCS) District placed Rose — who has been principal at WHS since July 2015 — on administrative leave pending the conclusion of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct. According to WCHCS documents requested by the Record-Herald, the investigation began after Day made a complaint that Rose created a hostile work environment through bullying and/or harassing behavior.

A formal written complaint dated Feb. 15 was submitted by Day to the WCHCS Board of Education’s legal counsel, Ennis Britton Co., of Cincinnati, which handled the investigation for the school district.

In her written complaint, Day alleged a pattern of bullying and harassing behavior from Rose that created a toxic work environment. Day, who said she had previously worked for Rose as a substitute teacher in 2004, accepted the assistant principal position in 2018.

APRIL

Two former MT employees indicted

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (April 1) —The former transportation supervisor at Miami Trace Local Schools and her father, a school van driver, have been indicted by a Fayette County grand jury for allegedly stealing money from the district.

Joni Daniels-Blouse, 41, has been charged with fourth-degree felony complicity to theft in office and Steven Grubb, 69, has been charged with theft in office, also a felony of the fourth degree.

Daniels-Blouse was placed on administrative leave Feb. 7 after a complaint had been received that justified an investigation, according to Miami Trace officials.

Both Daniels-Blouse and Grubb have resigned from their positions. Jack Anders was hired as the new transportation supervisor at the Feb. 28 Board of Education meeting.

Body found in field

FAYETTE COUNTY (April 5) — The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the discovery of a body that was located in an agricultural field Saturday evening in the 2000 block of State Route 753.

The discovery was made by a local farmer shortly after 7:30 p.m.

According to Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, his office was contacted about the discovery of a body and once deputies arrived on scene, they confirmed the discovery of an unidentified deceased male.

The Fayette County Coroner was summoned to the scene and conducted a joint investigation with sheriff’s detectives. The deceased male was transported from the scene to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office for a post-mortem examination.

Through investigation and the subsequent post-mortem exam, detectives were able to positively identify the deceased male on Sunday morning as Harrison K.C. Conaway IV, 35, of Washington C.H.

Plans made for prosecutor’s office

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (April 7) — The new building that will be the future location of the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to be completed in spring of 2023.

The new building is planned to be located on Market Street, to the left of the Fayette County Court House where there is currently a county-owned parking lot.

Plans for the new building are for it to include seven offices, two work areas and a brick exterior. The current construction plan has the building listed as 66-by-60 square feet.

Sex offender sentenced to prison

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (April 13) — A Mount Sterling man was sentenced Tuesday in Fayette County Common Pleas Court to five years in prison after pleading guilty to 12 counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Zackaria S. Winkler, 24, was also designated as a Tier 2 sex offender and is subject to five years of post-release control once he’s released from prison. Winkler engaged in sexual conduct with a juvenile over a period of several months while living in the home with the juvenile and parent. The incident reported on Dec. 31 led to Fayette County Sheriff’s Office deputies being dispatched to the residence on Baldwin Road in northeast Fayette County after the parent became aware of the alleged inappropriate relationship, according to authorities.

Ohio Supreme Court holds hearings at MT High School

WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE (April 28) — A remarkable educational opportunity presented itself to Fayette County students on Wednesday as the Supreme Court of Ohio heard three cases at Miami Trace High School.

Fayette County rolled out the red carpet for the seven Supreme Court justices who visited as part of the court’s ongoing civic education outreach to help students and the public learn more about the judicial branch. It was the first session held in 2022 as part of the off-site court program, which began in 1987.

“The Supreme Court goes off-site twice a year, but we’re only going to do it once this year,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. “Serving the educational needs of students is the main reason we hold these off-site courts. It’s worked out extremely well. We move from high school to high school because we find that these are phenomenally valuable experiences — these in-person experiences for the students, for the teachers, the administration and the community at-large. We hope that our visit here in Fayette County had the same effect as we’ve had in other counties.”

To date, the Ohio Supreme Court has traveled to 72 of Ohio’s 88 counties as part of the program.

Police were investigating a homicide at the City Motel on Thursday afternoon. A suspect is in custody after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Hillsboro.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2022/12/web1_20220303_151906-1-.jpgPolice were investigating a homicide at the City Motel on Thursday afternoon. A suspect is in custody after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Hillsboro. R-H file photos

Firefighters found one person dead as they battled a fire at this home at 417 Clyburn Ave. early Wednesday morning.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2022/12/web1_IMG_1741001-1-.jpgFirefighters found one person dead as they battled a fire at this home at 417 Clyburn Ave. early Wednesday morning. R-H file photos

The Chamber of Commerce and several individuals joined newly-opened Autumn Treatment Center in Washington Court House for a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2022/12/web1_20220315_161550-1-.jpgThe Chamber of Commerce and several individuals joined newly-opened Autumn Treatment Center in Washington Court House for a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house. R-H file photos

“Trash for Treats” was a clean-up project done in 2019. The major prize in that competition was a Cincinnati Reds suite for a game (two passes and a buffet), which was won by Charlie Speakman.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2022/12/web1_download-3-.jpg“Trash for Treats” was a clean-up project done in 2019. The major prize in that competition was a Cincinnati Reds suite for a game (two passes and a buffet), which was won by Charlie Speakman. R-H file photos

The Fayette Regional Humane Society (FRHS) recently took part in an animal rescue to save cats from possible euthanasia.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2022/12/web1_received_249161880748782-1-.jpegThe Fayette Regional Humane Society (FRHS) recently took part in an animal rescue to save cats from possible euthanasia. R-H file photos

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor speaks to one of the attorneys during the hearing.
https://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2022/12/web1_IMG_7258.jpgOhio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor speaks to one of the attorneys during the hearing. R-H file photos

The Record-Herald