MEIGS COUNTY — Our final look back at 2018 takes a look at some of the major court cases in 2018, a focus on school safety and other happenings throughout the year.
Focus on School Safety
Schools, law enforcement and many others in the county had been focusing on school safety in 2018 after the shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, earlier in the year.
Working together, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood, along with Superintendents Scot Gheen, Steve Ohlinger and Tony Deem, along with other school representatives and individuals from other agencies have formed a school safety council which is led by Eastern Middle School Principal and district safety coordinator Bill Francis.
Along with the group, the districts have conducted trainings including ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) and FASTER.
ALICE Training began after the shooting at Columbine High School, with a law enforcement officer and a teacher deciding that there had to be a better way than the lockdown.
ALICE helps to prepare staff for ways to react in the event of an active shooter or other emergency situation at the school.
In addition to training staff members at the respective districts, and instructor training was held over the summer at Eastern Elementary with 40 people taking part. Becoming certified following the training allows for each of the individuals to conduct ALICE trainings at their respective schools. Among those taking part were Eastern, Meigs and Southern Local Schools, Carleton School and the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers.
Eastern Local also hosted the FASTER Program during one of its waiver days in the fall. FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response.
FASTER was created by concerned parents, law enforcement, and nationally-recognized safety and medical experts. FASTER is a groundbreaking, nonprofit program that gives educators practical violence response training.
The website states, “the purpose is not to replace police and EMT, but to allow teachers, administrators, and other personnel on-site to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately. When violence strikes and students’ lives are on the line, every second matters. Faster response is better response.”
Among the items covered in the training were how to assess injuries, wounds in different areas, how to remain calm and get others involved to help.
Commissioners vs. Rutland
The more than year long civil case between the Village of Rutland and the Meigs County Commissioners came to an end in March with a settlement between the parties.
The commissioners claimed ownership of a portion of the property, which was the site of a former bus garage.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the village was able to dispose of the Old Bus Garage in any manner it saw fit as long as the disposal or transfer complies with all applicable statutes, regulations, laws and ordinances. Other terms of the settlement included that the County is receive a payment of $30,000 once the sale is completed or within 30 days, whichever was earlier. The funds were to be applied to the water and sewer system. Rutland is to transfer property on New Lima to the county. The property may be utilized in the installation of the new sewer system in the village. Future restitution payments made in the case of former water and sewer clerk Laura Curtis will go to the county to be applied to the water and sewer system debt.
Now, less than a year later Dollar General has opened on the once disputed property, serving the Rutland community.
Several of the major criminal cases either filed or concluded in 2018 involved alleged sex offenses.
In January, Brice Hupp, 19, was indicted on two counts of rape involving a child under the age of 10. Hupp pleaded guilty to the two charges in October and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He must also register as a Tier III sex offender.
In March, Edward J. Holter, 56, of Pomeroy, pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging three counts of gross sexual imposition, each a felony of the fourth degree. The alleged offenses against Holter involved three separate victims who were employed on his farm over an eight-year time frame. In accordance with the plea agreement, Holter was sentenced to a five-year term of community control and must register as a Tier I sex offender.
The case against former corrections and probation officer Larry Tucker remains pending, with a trial date set for March 2019. Tucker is charged with a 28-count indictment for crimes alleged against 11 victims. Charges include: six counts of Sexual Battery, third-degree felonies; six counts of Kidnapping, first-degree felonies; five counts of Gross Sexual Imposition, fourth-degree felonies; five counts of Attempted Sexual Battery, fourth-degree felonies; four counts of Attempted Compelling Prostitution, fourth-degree felonies; one count of Theft in Office, a fifth-degree felony; one count of Soliciting, a third-degree misdemeanor.
Three people have pleaded guilty to charges from the March 2018 assault, kidnapping and sexual assault of a Meigs County woman. Merissa Starcher, Nathan Grimm and Brooke Watson each pleaded guilty to their roles in the incident in which the victim was reportedly beaten, punched, and hit with a ball bat several times by all involved. The victim also alleged being sexually assaulted. The victim was then reportedly blindfolded, placed into a car and driven to Putnam Drive next to Forked Run Lake. While in the car, the victim stated that her hair was cut but did not know by whom. Once they arrived to a pull-off spot on Putnam Drive overlooking the lake, the victim stated that she was drug from the car and shoved over a cliff which was several feet down where she sustained the severe injury to her arm.
Starcher was sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison for rape and kidnapping, as well as unrelated drug charges, and must register as a Tier III sex offender which requires registration for life. Grimm was sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping and attempted murder. Watson, who was the alleged “ring-leader” according to Prosecutor James K. Stanley, was sentenced to a total prison term of 22 years for charges of kidnapping, felonious assault, illegal conveyance of drugs onto the grounds of a detention facility and possession of drugs. She has since filed an appeal.
In December, a Columbus man who was previously sentenced to 32 years in prison on a range of drug charges was resentenced. After an appeal in his case, Jacques Goerges K. Daboni was brought back to Meigs County Common Pleas Court to be resentenced after the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that two of the charges would merge. Daboni was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Three people were killed in two fires in Meigs County in 2018.
In February, Oscar Dale Wilson, 61, of Langsville died as a result of smoke inhalation at a structure fire at a camper on State Route 325 in Langsville.
In late November, Harvey Smith Martin, 49, and Jeanette Lynn McDonald Martin, 45, were killed in a fire at a house on Old Dexter Road. There was reportedly a build up of propane in the residence which led to the explosion and fire.
Bodies/Remains Found in Middleport and Pomeroy
Two bodies were located in September, one in Middleport and one in Pomeroy.
The body of Airael Derifield was found along the river bank in Middleport after she had been reported missing days earlier. No cause of death has been released in the case.
The skeletal remains of Eric P. Humphreys were found in a wooded area near Flood Road in late September by a person hiking in the woods. Humphreys was originally reported missing in the fall of 2016 by family members. Foul play is not suspected in the case.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.