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$1M bond for Dayton mom accused of killing children

Published: Thursday, May 18, 2017 @ 10:40 AM
Updated: Thursday, June 01, 2017 @ 7:52 AM

UPDATE@3:57 p.m.:

A judge on Thursday set bond at $1 million for the Dayton mother facing a possible death penalty trial for allegedly killing two of her children by shooting them in the head.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Dennis Krumholtz entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Claudena Helton, 30, during her video arraignment. Helton didn’t speak during the proceeding.

PREVIOUS: Helton faces death penalty specifications

Helton is being held in Montgomery County Jail before a trial on aggravated murder charges with death penalty specifications. A scheduling conference was set for June 15.

Helton’s 8-year-old daughter Khmorra and 6-year-old son Kaiden were both found shot in their heads in May before dying three days later at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

RELATED: Helton tied to second molestation report

Defense attorneys Anthony VanNoy and Kimberly Melchor stood beside Helton in jail and stood mute on the charges, prompting Krumholtz to enter the not guilty plea for Helton.

Helton was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder of a person younger than 13 along with gun specifications and aggravated circumstances that make Helton eligible for the death penalty.

RELATED: Police say mother said she shot kids to ‘save them from the evils of the world’

VanNoy — who indicated he may ask for a mental health evaluation of his client — has asked prosecutors to provide a bill of particulars, which would define the nature of the offense(s) charged and the conduct of Helton.

Among the 10 specific things VanNoy asked for is any written or recorded statements of Helton, any written summaries or oral statements made by Helton to prosecutors or law enforcement officers and other evidence from the case.

RELATED: Dayton police chief says, ‘This is one of the hardest’

A complaint and affidavit filed by a Dayton police detective said Helton told police she acted against her children “to save them from the evils of the world.”

An email was sent to the Supreme Court of Ohio advising them that the case includes death penalty specifications, according to court documents.

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Police said Helton was naked when she was arrested and had made her 11-year-old daughter help drag the other children’s bodies outside after the shooting.

“The death penalty is not something we ask for in many cases; we use it very sparingly,” Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said Tuesday. “We reserve it for the most horrific and most shocking crimes, gut-wrenching crimes. This case meets those specifications and qualifies under the Ohio law.”

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DAYTON — UPDATE @ 8:44 a.m.

A not guilty plea was entered for Claudena Helton, accused of killing two of her children. Bond was set at $1 million. 

Her next court date will be June 15. 

Claudena Helton stood mute at her arraignment on aggravated murder charges. 

Prosecutors announced on Tuesday that Claudena Helton is currently facing death penalty specifications on her murder charges.

EARLIER REPORT

The Dayton mother accused of shooting two of her children in the head is scheduled to appear in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court today.  

RELATED: Police: Mother said she shot kids to ‘save them from the evils of the world’

Claudena Helton, 30, is facing several charges including aggravated murder and assault charges, according to online court records.

PREVIOUS: Helton tied to second molestation report

  • Khmorra Helton, 8, and her 6-year-old brother Kaiden Helton were found shot in the driveway of their Lori Sue Avenue home on May 18 
  • Helton has been indicted on charges that include two counts of aggravated murder of a person younger than 13 
  • Helton is eligible for the death penalty

Khmorra and Kaiden died at Dayton Children’s Hospital three days after they were shot.

RELATED: Dayton boy, allegedly killed by mom, claimed he was molested by school janitor

“The death penalty is not something we ask for in many cases; we use it very sparingly,” Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said. “We reserve it for the most horrific and most shocking crimes, gut-wrenching crimes. This case meets those specifications and qualifies under the Ohio law.”

RELATED: Police respond to shooting scene, neighbors react

Helton was naked when she was arrested and made her 11-year-old daughter help drag her other children’s bodies outside after the shooting. She is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court and is in Montgomery County Jail on a $1 million bond.

RELATED: Dayton police chief says, ‘This is one of the hardest’

Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl, who attended Tuesday’s press conference, earlier said it appeared there were some mental health issues in play in what he called a horrific, brutal, irrevocable crime.

“When you look at what someone does, so many times I think we see the more bizarre nature of the act itself, people want to say, ‘Well, there’s something wrong with them,’ ” Heck said. “But that’s not what we’re talking about.

“We’re talking about whether someone is legally insane and therefore not responsible for their actions. Under the law, until proven otherwise, the defendant is presumed sane and competent to stand trial.”

Defense attorney Antony VanNoy said he was disheartened that prosecutors felt they had to rush an indictment with death penalty specifications.

VanNoy said there are questions as to whether Helton could knowingly waive the various speedy hearing, indictment and trial guarantees. He said Helton’s competency may have to be determined before the case gets much beyond the arraignment stage.

“It’s a tragedy,” VanNoy said. “Everyone I’ve talked to — neighbors, friends, family — all say that she’s always been someone who’s tried to be a good parent. But there may be some things that went on more recently that would suggest that she was not in the right frame of mind when this happened.”

Heck said prosecutors and police had to move quickly because Helton hadn’t agreed to any time waiver.

“These charges and specifications are filed now in order to simply preserve the right to ensure justice for these young children,” Heck said. “That’s what’s so important, given the situation that we have now.

“We want to ensure justice, on behalf of the community, on behalf of Chief Biehl and the Dayton police department, on behalf of my office, that we ensure justice is given to these victims.”

VanNoy declined to comment on any cases in Helton’s criminal record. Helton at least twice has filed claims that her now-deceased son had been molested; neither case resulted in a prosecution.

Helton is the second active Montgomery County Common Pleas Court defendant to be indicted on death penalty specifications. Muhammad Shabazz Ali is awaiting trial, accused of shooting to death three people in 2016 - Tammy Cox, 53, Michael D. Cox, 25 and Jasper Taylor, 74.

If her case gets to trial, Helton would be the first woman to face a death penalty case trial in the county since China Arnold.

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Arnold had trials in February 2008, September 2008 and May 2011, ultimately being sentenced to life in prison after being convicted for murdering her 28-day-old daughter Paris Talley by placing her in a microwave and “cooking” her in August 2005.

VanNoy said he plans to meet with his client at least one more time before deciding if he will file to request Helton’s competency to be examined.

“We don’t believe that our client could have made a decision to harm her children in this fashion,” VanNoy said. “We believe there’s something else going on.”

Heck said Helton is “entitled to receive the death penalty” for killing her children.

“This is truly a horrible, gut-wrenching case,” Heck said. “The defendant — the person who had the responsibility and the person we look to to guard, safe-guard, take care of the welfare and protect these children — basically caused their death.”

Helton’s case has been assigned to Judge Dennis Langer.

West Liberty school shooting suspect pleads not guilty by insanity

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 10:16 AM
Updated: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 10:28 AM

The suspect in the West Liberty-Salem High School shooting has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Ely Serna, through his attorney Dennis Lieberman, filed the plea by motions this week in Champaign County Common Pleas Court.

RELATED: Judge orders competency hearing for West Liberty shooting suspect

Serna has been accused of bringing a shotgun to school on Jan. 20 and firing six shots. Another student, 17-year-old Logan Cole, was shot twice in the chest and survived.

Deputies have alleged Serna also shot at a teacher and then randomly shot at classrooms before he was detained by school staff.

READ MORE: ‘Cole’s Pack’ greets West Liberty school shooting victim

Another student was grazed by a shotgun pellet but not injured.

Lieberman also filed a motion to dismiss the case in adult court and transfer the case back to juvenile court. A juvenile judge moved the case to adult court earlier this month.

Stop sending EMS to respond to overdose calls, Ohio councilman says

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 12:22 PM

Frustration over the amount of money and public safety services being devoted to drug overdoses led to one Middletown, Ohio, city council member asking if it was possible for the city to not respond to such calls.

>> Read more trending news 

Saying the city needs to think outside the box, Middletown City Council member Dan Picard asked if it was possible for EMS to not respond to overdose calls.

Noting people with cancer don’t get free chemotherapy from medics, nor do people having heart attacks get a free heart bypass in an EMS run, Picard asked if there was a law that requires the city to respond to overdose calls.

MORE: Middletown on pace to double 2016 drug overdose numbers

The city is on pace to spend $100,000 for Narcan when it was budgeted $10,000 for the entire year, according to City Manager Doug Adkins.

Adkins said the city could privatize EMS services, or not have them at all. He said he would seek an opinion from the city’s law department.

Picard, who recently told the Journal-News he is not running for re-election in the fall, suggested issuing a court summons to a person who overdoses and ordering them to complete community service to work off the costs of the EMS run and Narcan.

He said arresting those who overdose only adds more costs to city taxpayers and strains the city jail and court system.

According to Adkins, most of those who overdose are transients and are not residents of the city.

“I want to send a message to the world that you don’t want to come to Middletown to overdose because someone might not come with Narcan and save your life,” Picard said. “We need to put a fear about overdosing in Middletown.”

MORE: Heroin ‘eating’ Middletown’s public safety services

Related

Batman thwarts would-be thief

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 10:41 AM

A police officer dressed as Batman stopped a would-be thief in Texas on Saturday after the man attempted to nab four DVDs from a Walmart store, including the Lego Batman movie.

>> Read more trending stories

“You cannot steal my movie,” Forth Worth police Officer Damon Cole joked to KDFW. “Come on.”

Cole was off-duty and dressed as Batman for a kids’ safety fair Saturday when he was alerted to a man who was attempting to shoplift four DVDs, KDFW reported.

“I stopped him as Batman,” Cole wrote in a tweet after the arrest. “He asked me for a selfie as Batman.”

Cole told KDFW that he travels the country in his off time, dressing up in superhero costumes and visiting sick children.

“I do that to give them inspiration and hope to keep fighting,” he told the news station.

In a tweet Monday, Cole wrote that Saturday marked the first time in his 17-year career that he’s arrested someone while dressed as Batman.

“I swear I can't make this stuff up,” he wrote.

Authorities gave the shoplifting suspect, who was not identified, a citation because the DVDs he attempted to nab were valued at less than $100, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Related

Pike County murders: 5 things to know about latest developments

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 6:59 AM

The case of the Pike County murders became more complex this week with investigators asking the public to focus attention on one family.

Four members of that family — the Wagners — are now believed to be in Alaska, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Here are five things to know about the latest developments in the case:

MORE: Alaska pastor says Ohio family attended church Sunday

1. There are no named suspects

DeWine hasn’t named suspects in the case. He has, however, asked the public to focus attention on four members of the Wagner family.

Investigators want more information about Edward “Jake” Wagner, 24, George Wagner IV, 25, George “Billy” Wagner III, 46, and Angela Wagner, 45. All are uncharged.

“We’re not really labeling them,” DeWine said in an interview with this newsroom. “But we are saying we want to have the public focus on these four individuals.”

MORE: Who are the Wagners? Investigators want to know

Wagner family “interactions, conversations, dealings, or transactions … which could be personal, business, or otherwise” are of interest to investigators, with specific emphasis on “vehicles, firearms, and ammunition,” the attorney general’s office said.

2. The Wagners are believed to be in Alaska

DeWine said the Wagners are believed to be living in Alaska.

Kelly Cinereski, pastor at Resurrection Bay Baptist Church in Seward, Alaska, told the Daily News the Wagner family attended his son’s church Sunday a couple hours west in Kenai. The pastor has not seen them personally during the Wagners’ latest trip to the Alaska, but said the family brought trailers.

MORE: Alaska, Ohio police ‘inundated’ with Pike County murders tips

Cinereski said he believes the Wagners are moving to the area — located a winding three-hour trip southwest of Anchorage — something they have been planning to do much of the decade-plus he has known them since he headed a church in Minford, Ohio. Over the past 11 years, the Wagners have come up three times to visit and fish.

3. A grandmother said the family has nothing to do with the murders

Investigators searched the Wagner family’s current and former Ohio property — including grandmother Fredericka Wagner’s Flying W Farm — last month.

Jake Wagner fathered a daughter with Hannah Rhoden. Rhoden was one of the eight people murdered in the massacre from the Rhoden and Gilley families.

“They have nothing,” Fredericka Wagner said Tuesday in a Dayton Daily News interview. “Their searches have turned up zilch. Nothing. And they aren’t going to either because Jake had nothing to do with it.”

MORE: Pike County murders: Searches prompt more questions

Besides Hanna Rhoden, those killed in the attack were her father, Christopher Rhoden Sr.; her mother, Dana Rhoden; her brothers Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden and Christopher Rhoden Jr.; Frankie Rhoden’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley; a cousin, Gary Rhoden; and Kenneth Rhoden, Christopher Rhoden’s brother. They ranged in age from 16 to 44.

4. Investigators might have a lead, an expert said

Experts said DeWine’s language likely means investigators have a lead in the case, but need more information before making arrests or naming suspects.

MORE: 3 recent developments in Pike County murders case

“Obviously, they have a lead from somewhere,” said Timothy Shaw, a former FBI special agent. “What you do is you get tips,” but then investigators must corroborate them.

DeWine’s office has not responded to Shaw’s comments.

5. There is a $10,000 reward for information

Ohio authorities ask those who have information in the case to call the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at 740-947-2111. Authorities said information provided will remain confidential, and a $10,000 reward is still in effect.

Read more Pike County murders coverage:

» Pike County murders: ‘There will always be a scar on this town’