By CHUCK MARTIN
News Staff Reporter
- Sgt. Robert “Kit” Morgan
MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher has asked the Mount Vernon Police Department to not use Detective Sgt. Kit Morgan on any felony investigations while BCI is conducting its investigation into actions by Morgan and Chief Mike Merrilees. The request also covers the period of any disciplinary action.
To read more about the investigation, see today’s edition of the Mount Vernon News available on newsstands.
A Mount Vernon News investigation of the Mount Vernon Police Department’s impound lot uncovered a “deal” that left a Mount Vernon man feeling taken advantage of by someone who took an oath to serve and protect him — and the citizens of Mount Vernon.
A Mount Vernon business man claims he has lost money since 2010 when Mount Vernon Police Chief Mike Merrilees took him off the wrecker rotation after a debate over who had the rights to a motorcycle left in storage for almost two years.
If an employee becomes aware of dishonest or illegal activities occurring in their company, they can blow the whistle on the activity and the perpetrator. But, in telling a higher authority of the misdeed, they can put themselves in a tough position.
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation, in conjunction with the Ohio Ethics Commission, has opened an investigation into Mount Vernon Police Chief Mike Merrilees and Sgt. Robert “Kit” Morgan regarding allegations of misconduct.
It’s not that the purchase of parking meters and parts by Mount Vernon Police Chief Mike Merrilees and then Cpl. Robert “Kit” Morgan at a city auction was illegal or against city policy, it was what happened next that continues to leave the perception that Merrilees and Morgan put their own self-interest ahead of public trust.
A News investigation into the personnel file of Police Chief Mike Merrilees shows a rather unremarkable career with few accolades and evaluations that state his superior officers found him to be highly intelligent but lacked motivation.
FREDERICKTOWN — TouchPointe Marriage & Family Resources welcomes two local professionals, Kyle Kershner and Scott Gatton, in an advisory capacity to the non-profit organization’s Board of Directors. Kershner is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and owns Sojourners Counseling Services, at 102 E. Gambier St. in Mount Vernon. Gatton is a licensed independent social worker with BHP of Central Ohio at 8402 Blackjack Road in Mount Vernon.
“Their expertise and experience is invaluable to the volunteers that serve as mentors and teachers within the TouchPointe organization,” said Dan Humphrey, executive director.
TouchPointe Marriage and Family Resources is located in Fredericktown and serves a three county area. TouchPointe is a non-profit organization that strives to help create healthy marriages, healthy families, and healthy communities.
For more information regarding the services provided by TouchPointe call 740-485-5408 or visit www.touchpointe.org
The K-9 Companion 4-H Club, under the direction of advisor Betsy Easterday, recently spent time mulching flower beds at the Knox County Humane Society. Participants included Amy Easterday, Kale Coe, Makenna Coe, Emily Derikito, Hadley Ramirez-George, Aiden Ramirez-George and Jackson Kidwell.
According to Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher, the Grand Jury returned eleven indictments on Monday, including importuning charges against two men who allegedly sent emails and text messages to “minors” asking for sex. The minors were really personas adopted by a Sheriff’s investigator, and both men were arrested by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office at locations in Mount Vernon where they had pre-arranged to meet the minors.
Leo L. Jones, 42, Mount Vernon, allegedly sent text messages to a “12 year of boy” asking the boy to have oral and anal sex with him, on June 10. Thatcher said Jones’ importuning charge is a felony of the second degree, carrying a mandatory prison term of at least two and not more than eight years, because Jones has a prior conviction for a felony sex offense. Jones was also indicted for disseminating matter harmful to juveniles because he allegedly photographed his genitals and sent a photo to the boy.
Anthony J. Ferritto, 44, traveled from Chagrin Falls to Mount Vernon on June 4, allegedly to have sex with a “15 year old girl.” Ferritto is charged with importuning and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles because he allegedly photographed his genitals and sent a photo to the girl.
Jones and Ferritto are currently being held in the Knox County Jail. Bond hearings will be held later this week. Deputy Dan Bobo investigated the Jones and Ferritto cases. Deputy Bobo received training for Internet persona investigations from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Stephen S. Randrup, 34, Mount Vernon, faces charges of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles for allegedly taking photographs of his genitals, and then giving the photos to a 14 year old girl, on November 7, 2012. Mount Vernon Municipal Court records show that Randrup was convicted of misdemeanor public indecency charges last week.
Dwayne E. Nethers, 31, Fredericktown, is accused of aggravated arson in connection with a fire at his residence, on June 5. Investigator Jason Whaley, State Fire Marshall’s Office, concluded that the fire was incendiary in nature having allegedly been started in two, unconnected areas of the residence by igniting accelerants with an open flame. Thatcher said Nethers’ family was present in the residence at the time of the alleged arson.
Three people face heroin charges in connection with alleged drug activity at a North Gay Street residence, in March. Joshua T. Jacobs, 29, Aubry M. Leasure, 30, and Raymond L. Williams, 43, allegedly sold heroin to a confidential informant, on March 5, 7 and 8. All three are charged with trafficking in heroin and possession of heroin. Jacobs and Leasure were also charged with permitting drug abuse for allowing the North Gay Street residence to be used for the alleged drug activity. Detective Doug Turpen, KCSO, investigated the cases.
Jeremiah W. Mason, 31, Mount Vernon, is accused of aggravated possession of drugs for allegedly possessing 14 Oxycodone tablets, on April 8. Thatcher said Patrol Officer Beth Marti, Mount Vernon Police Department, found the alleged drug during a search incident to Mason’s arrest on a petty theft charge.
Mother and daughter Elizabeth L. Dowalter, 34, and Carole L. Schneider, 56, both of Mount Vernon, are accused of illegal use of supplemental nutrition benefits (“food stamps”) for allegedly using an Ohio Direction Card illegally. On May 23, Dowalter was booked into the Knox County Jail for a community control supervision violation. Court records show that Dowalter was convicted of theft of drugs in April, and she is accused of using heroin while on supervision for that charge. During the booking process, Jailers allegedly found a Direction Card in Dowalter’s possession displaying another person’s name. Schneider also allegedly possessed the card. Detective James Ferenbaugh and Lieutenant Gary Rohler, KCSO, investigated the case.
Timothy W. Dugger, 29, Mount Vernon, was indicted on felony assault charges for allegedly breaking the finger of a 46 year old female acquaintance, on May 16. Thatcher said Dugger and the alleged victim were having an argument in her residence. Patrolman Tim Arnold, MVPD, investigated the case.
Arraignment hearings in the cases are scheduled for June 28 at 9 a.m., before Common Pleas Court Judge Otho Eyster.
The Mount Vernon Police Department and fire department were called to the scene of a car that crashed into a house at 209 E. Chestnut St., shortly before 11 a.m. today. The driver of a Mercury Sable failed to stop at Chestnut Street while traveling northbound on McArthur Street, crossed the sidewalk, a flower bed and came to rest in the sunroom of the home. There were people in the home at the time of the accident, all exited the house without incident. The unidentified driver was being attended to by paramedics when the News was on the scene. Traveling westbound on Chestnut Street was Chuck Blake of Fredericktown. He told the News the rear of his Toyota Tacoma was clipped, but he was not harmed. No other details were available.
Several East Knox FFA members received their state FFA Degrees. From left, are, Austin Warner, Austin Hinson, DanRoten, Winnie Hinson, Luke Wells, Dylan Baker and Jake Jessee.
HOWARD — At the 85th annual Ohio FFA Convention held May 2 and 3 in the Celeste Center at the Ohio Expo Center, East Knox High School seniors Austin Warner, Dylan Baker, Jake Jessee and juniors Luke Wells, Winnie Hinson and Dan Roten received their State FFA Degrees. This is the highest degree that an FFA member can receive on the state-level and is earned by only about two percent of the state membership. To receive this award the members had to complete the 14-page degree application, then submit it to the county and district level before the final evaluation at the state level.
Requirements for the degree include earning at least $3,000 from entrepreneurial projects or working at least 1,000 hours and earning a minimum of $4,000 from job placement projects, serving as an FFA officer or committee member, participating in FFA career development events on the state-level, completing school and community activities, having a satisfactory grade point average and having at least 93 percent attendance at school.
Baker’s SAE projects include job placement at Lynn’s Mower, Stockberger Farms and Keegon Diesel, as well as various home improvements. He served as the 2012-2013 East Knox FFA Student Advisor, was a member of the 3rd place State Rural Soils CDE Team, 3rd place State Ag Mechanics CDE Team and was an officer on the Parliamentary Procedure Team. He has attended the State FFA Convention, Washington Leadership Conference, State 212/360 Conference and District Officer Training. Baker has played baseball and has completed many hours of community service projects. Dylan will be attending the University of Northwestern Ohio in the fall, majoring in agriculture diesel and class 8 diesels and trucks.
Austin Hinson’s SAE projects include market steers and various home improvement projects. He was a member of the 14th place State Tractor Trouble Shooting CDE in 2012 and was a member of the 4th place State Forestry CDE Team. He was an officer on the Parliamentary Procedure Team. He attended State FFA Convention and District Officer Training. Hinson has played and lettered in football and completed many hours of community service. He will be attending Owens State Community College for John Deere Tech in the fall and will continue working for John Deere.
Jake Jessee works at Wilson Farms as a farmhand and welder and has completed many home improvement projects as part of his SAE. He was a member of the 3rd place State Rural Soils CDE team that represented Ohio in the National Contest in Oklahoma this year. He was a member of the 3rd place State AG Mechanics Team, competed in the State Outdoor Power Equipment CDE, State General Livestock CDE and State Meats CDE. Jessee attended the State and National Conventions, District Officer Training, served as vice president of his 4-H Club, and completed several hours of community service projects.
In addition to completing home improvement projects, Austin Warner’s SAE includes working at LBJ Drilling and operating his own wood cutting business. He has attended the State COLT Conference, District Officer Training and State Leadership Night. Warner has competed in Urban Soils CDE and Parliamentary Procedure. He played four years of varsity football and will continue to work at Kokosing Construction after graduation.
Winnie Hinson’s SAE projects include market steers and home improvement. She is currently serving as the 2013-2014 East Knox FFA President and served last year as Reporter. Winnie was on the 6th place State Food Science CDE Team, competed in various speaking events advancing to the State and was an officer on the Parliamentary Procedure Team. She attended State COLT Conference, State FFA Camp, Washington Leadership Conference, State and National FFA Conventions, District Officer Training, State Leadership Night, and many FFA Banquets. Winnie has Served as Treasurer in her Sports Medicine lab at KCCC, played softball and basketball, 4-H member and has completed many hours of community service. Winnie plans to attend college pursuing a degree in athletic training.
Working at Conard Hill Farms, Grassy Dell Farms, raising dairy feeders and completing home improvements projects, have been part of Dan Roten’s SAE. He has attended Washington Leadership Conference two years, COLT Conference and State and National FFA Conventions. Roten is currently serving his second term as East Knox FFA vice president. He was a member of the 3rd place State Urban Soils CDE Team that competed in the National Contest and was also on the 4th place State Forestry CDE Team. Roten is in Metal Fabrications at KCCC.
Luke Well’s SAE projects include raising 25 acres of corn where he completed the entire process from renting to planting to harvesting and marketing. He served as the 2012-2013 East Knox FFA President and is the current Student Advisor. He has competed in 5 top 10 State Career Development Events and one National Event. Wells has attended many leadership events including State and National FFA Conventions, Washington Leadership Conference, 212/360 Conference and State Leadership Night. He plans to continue providing his leadership and knowledge to push the East Knox FFA program to be its best.
MOUNT VERNON — Farmers in Delaware, Knox, Marion and Morrow counties are eligible to participate in a special Farm Tire Drop-off Event scheduled for Saturday, June 29, in Knox County. This event is sponsored by the DKMM Solid Waste District, in cooperation with the Knox County Offices of the Commissioners, Health Department and Soil & Water Office.
Reduced rate fees have been established, as follows, for dropping off tires: Tires up to 36 inches in diameter, $4 each; tires 37 to 60 inches, $10 each; and tires 61 inches and larger, $15 each.
Preregistration for the event is mandatory, as each participant will be assigned an appointed time to drop off tires. Farmers may call the DKMM Solid Waste District at 740-223-4150 with the number and sizes of tires they plan to drop off and to learn the drop-off location.
Registration is limited to farm families. No dealers or agri-businesses will be permitted to participate in the drop-off.
Farmers not able to participate at this time are eligible to attend a farm tire drop-off scheduled for Marion County in August.
Call Nancy Nemeth at 740-223-4150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Registration deadline is Friday.
MOUNT VERNON — If you’ve been wondering about those purple ribbons around Public Square, down South Main Street and across Mount Vernon Avenue toward South Division Street, it is because purple is the official color of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. Each year communities prepare for Relay For Life by holding “Paint the Town Purple” events as an opportunity to raise awareness about Relay For Life.
The American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Knox County will take place Friday and Saturday. The participants of this team event raise money to combat cancer and increase awareness of the disease.
The Relay For Life event, Survivors Lap and reception and Luminaria Ceremony will be held at the Mount Vernon High School Football Field and Track, 300 Martinsburg Rd.
The schedule of events includes:
Cancer Survivor Recognition, Friday at 6 p.m. — Cancer survivors from the Knox County area are invited to walk the first lap of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life event to celebrate life. Each registered cancer survivor will receive a Survivor T-shirt to wear while walking the track. There is no cost to participate. Cancer survivors should call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-2272345 to register. Families and friends are welcome to attend.
Luminaria Ceremony, Friday at 10 p.m. — The American Cancer Society will conduct a Luminaria Ceremony to recognize those touched by cancer in Knox County. Individuals or companies can make contributions in memory of those who have lost their fight with cancer and in honor of those who have survived or are still fighting. Each will be recognized by a lit luminaria candle. Luminaria contributions can be made by calling the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.
Fight Back Ceremony, Saturday at noon — The ceremony will call for participants to pledge to take action to save a life from cancer. Call Andrea Perlman at 1-888-227-6446 for more information.
For more information on Relay For Life, to register for the Survivor Lap or contribute to a luminaria, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.
MOUNT VERNON — In a move to deliver better service to his clients in Mount Vernon and Knox County, Michael R. Finneran, known as “The Ad Man,” will now represent Newton Manufacturing Co., a promotional products distributor based in Newton, Iowa. Finneran has sold promotional products for 18 years.
Finneran appreciates the loyalty that his clients have shown over the years and particularly through this transition that became official on June 1.
“I invite businesses old and new to experience a new level of customer attention and satisfaction through my association with a recognized industry leader,” said Finneran. “I have already experienced the refreshing difference, and I know they will, too.”
Newton Manufacturing Co. is ranked as one of the promotional product industry’s Top 40 distributors by the Advertising Specialties Institute. The company provides a variety of services to support representatives across the country, like Finneran, and their customers. The employee-owned organization has operated in the same location since its founding in 1909.
“Mr. Finneran has been active in this field for many years and we welcome the opportunity to have a representative of his caliber of experience and expertise on board” said Robin Hand, Newton Manufacturing Company’s vice president of sales. “We look forward to serving with him in the Mount Vernon area.”
COLUMBUS — The first “Public Safety Leadership Academy” class graduated 30 law enforcement leaders today after 11 weeks of accredited, college-level training through a partnership with The Ohio State University – John Glenn School of Public Affairs. The training was hosted at the Patrol’s Training Academy and was offered at no cost to agencies by using casino tax revenue that was distributed to the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services for the purpose of supporting law enforcement training efforts.
During Fridays’s ceremony, Director Thomas P. Charles, Ohio Department of Public Safety and Colonel John Born, Patrol superintendent provided remarks and Mark Weaver, President and Founder of Communications Counsel, Inc., addressed the graduates.
“Investing in Ohio’s future leaders is critical to the safety and security of our state,” said Director Thomas P. Charles, Ohio Department of Public Safety. “The Public Safety Leadership Academy is an investment in Ohio’s law enforcement leaders so they may go forward in their careers and continue to lead others.”
Local graduates included Chief Clifford Bigler, Utica Police Department; and Chief Nick Garver, Frazeysburg Police Department.
Graduates received 10 semester hours of academic credit, along with a certificate in Senior Leadership through The Ohio State University – John Glenn School of Public Affairs. The specialized curriculum completed by the graduates was part of a carefully managed course with content in the areas of leadership and ethics; interpersonal and organizational communication; public management; organizational culture and ethics; human resources management; budgeting; and organizational behavior in law enforcement.
In addition, graduates also attended enrichment nights, which were executive level development seminars presented by distinguished speakers from both the government and private sector, on such topics as leadership lessons learned while under adverse conditions, inspiration and courage and stress management.
Graduates spent a week in Washington D.C. attending the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum law enforcement course, learning about various leadership styles from Marine Corp Base instructors and visiting other important sites that helped shape our Nation’s leaders.
As part of a community outreach effort, graduates spent time volunteering with the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, passing out food and loading trucks. They also volunteered time with Lower Lights Ministries working with children in the Franklinton area of Columbus, working on houses and serving dinner at Rachel’s House.
MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Board of Realtors recently presented a $500 check to Project Lifesaver (PLS) of Knox County. PLS is a public safety program designed to locate missing persons who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism or other related conditions or disorders.
The program involves placement of a transmitter bracelet on the person which is then traced via a receiver if the person becomes lost.
The realtors’ donation will help defray the cost of the transmitter bracelet for families who cannot afford them. The bracelet which comes with a year’s worth of batteries and a battery tester costs $350. For those unable to afford the $350 fee, there is a sliding fee schedule based on income.
Donations are also used to fund the purchase of additional radio receivers so there will be one in each Knox County community.
The Station Break Senior Citizens Center and the Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities are coordinating the distribution of Project Lifesaver bracelets in Knox County. To purchase a Project Lifesaver bracelet, contact The Station Break at 740-397-2417 or email the director at Kelly@stationbreak.org or contact the Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities at 397-4656 or by email at email@example.com
Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent to: The Public Health Partnership of Knox County, 121 E. High St., Mount Vernon, OH 43050. Indicate on your check that it is for Project Lifesaver.
For more information, contact PLS Coordinator Ann Fisher at the Knox County Health Department at 392-2200, ext. 2274.
MVMS students made quilts for children with serious illnesses. Pictured are, from left, Daniel Hill, assistant principal Sherry Miglin, Dillan Henderson, principal Gary Hankins and Laura Cromley of Quilts for Kids. Not pictured, student Logan Kelling who also completed a quilt.
MOUNT VERNON — This year, a handful of students in Sabrina Pugh’s Family and Consumer Science class at Mount Vernon Middle School reached out to help children with serious illnesses.
Laura Cromley, a liaison between Quilts for Kids and The Flying Horse Farms in Morrow County helped Pugh get the project started.
The students first learned how to use a sewing machine and then, with the help of teacher aide Lydia Kennedy, pieced the quilts together, added the batting, backing and then machine quilted the blankets.
The three completed quilts will be given to campers at the Flying Horse Farms during their week of camp. Each camper receives a quilt for comfort at camp and then to take home with them.
By SAMANTHA SCOLES
News Managing Editor
MOUNT VERNON — Two men died Friday night after an accident that sent the vehicle they were in airborne before striking a tree.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Zachary Bailey, 23, Bradford, was traveling westbound on Yauger Road and went off the left side of the road, overcorrected, drove off the right side of the road, went airborne and struck a tree near the entrance of Wolf Run Regional Park. Bailey was wearing a seat belt; his passenger, Benjamin Brown, 25, Mount Vernon, was not.
Both men were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. The incident remains under investigation, but OSHP believes alcohol is a contributing factor in the one-car crash which happened at about 11:23 p.m. Yauger Road was closed to traffic while the scene was investigated.
How do you feel about the Mount Vernon Police chief and a sergeant remaining on the job while being investigated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office?
“They ought to be able to still be on the job. They’re getting paid, so they should be able to do their job.” — Penny Tindall, Mount Vernon
“I believe it’s better if they were on paid leave until they find out more about the situation. They would be more free to speak that way.” — Walter Butler, Mount Vernon
“I feel maybe they should be suspended while being investigated. They have a right to be investigated before convicted.” — Becky Matulich, Mount Vernon
“They should take the proper steps to do what is right.” — Larry Bertiaux, Mount Vernon
“It ought to be like all other places. They should follow protocol. They should be suspended but not with pay until the issue is resolved.” — Ed Brown, Mount Vernon
“It’s important to know all the facts before a final decision is made. They should be able to stay on for now.” — Pat Law, Utica
The MVSA Sting 14 & Under team won its Mid-Ohio Select Soccer League division this season with a 10-1-2 record, then finished in second place in the season-ending tournament. Team members are, front row from left, Emily Russell, Alex Foster, Jackson Heffernan, Holly Johnson and Alexa Skal; Back row, Max Feller, Dimitris Giakoumas, Adam Donadio, Evan Cagle, Nick Ries, Keely Bainbridge and coach Manny Kladias.
The MVSA Sting 11 & Under team recently won the Mid-Ohio Select Soccer League tournament. Team members are, front row from left, Gabe Pierce and Noah Eddy; Second row, Misha Feller, Carter Lasater, Edward Aguilar, Alex Mullins, Emily Depolo, Ashley Parsons, Charlie Aguilar and Sam Kuhn; Back row, asst. coach Stacy Culbertson and head coach Chris Allen.
Cody Rayburn of the Mount Vernon FFA recently placed ninth overall in the Northwest region of the Ohio FFA Skills Classic Career Development Event. His events were wildlife identification where he placed fourth and assembly of a selected project.
Detectives and deputies from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office have arrested Leo L. Jones, age 42, of Mount Vernon, on a felony importuning charge. Jones had been communicating online with what he thought was an underage male allegedly asking the boy to engage in sexual activity with him. The young male was actually a Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy. Jones was arrested when he arrived at the Mount Vernon location for the pre-arranged meeting . Additional charges are pending. The case remains under under investigation.
MOUNT VERNON — Judge Otho Eyster handed down sentences today in five felony cases. According to Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher, Douglas L. Morris, 51, Mount Vernon, was sentenced to prison for 17 months for driving under the influence of alcohol for the eleventh time in twenty years. Morris’ driver’s license was also suspended for life. Trooper Gary Lewis, State Highway Patrol, arrested Morris after a traffic stop, on January 15.
Casey A. Swope, 31, Howard, was convicted of trafficking in heroin for selling heroin to a confidential informant, on May 3. Swope was sentenced to an 11 month prison term. Detective Corporal Matt Dailey and Detectives James DeChant and Craig Feeney investigated the case.
Mark M. Talbott, Jr., 26, Columbus, was convicted of breaking and entering for breaking into an unoccupied house on Baird Road, on November 13. Talbott was sentenced to 75 days in jail and a three year term of community control supervision. Talbott will serve an 11 month prison term, if he violates his supervision. Deputies Scott Baker and Wayne Noggle, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, investigated the case.
Joshua J. Stygler, 35, Fredericktown, was convicted of improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle. Stygler was sentenced to a three year term of community control supervision, including a three day jail sentence. He will serve an 11 month prison term, if he violates his supervision. Thatcher said on October 26, Sergeant Justin Hurlburt, State Patrol, stopped Stygler for a traffic violation on South Gay Street. Suspecting he was driving under the influence of alcohol, Hurlburt administered field sobriety tests which Stygler failed. A .45 caliber handgun in the glove box of Stygler’s vehicle at the time of the traffic stop was also forfeited to the State Patrol as part of his sentence. Stygler was convicted of drunk driving in the Mount Vernon Municipal Court, according to Thatcher.
In May 2011, Erica N. Cotter, 32, Mount Vernon, was convicted of possessing methamphetamine and sentenced to 30 days in jail and a three year term of community control supervision. Cotter was sentenced to an additional 90 day jail term today for violating the terms of her supervision. Thatcher said Cotter tested positive for marihuana and methamphetamine, last month.