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Brother could face death penalty in Warren County woman’s killing

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 12:55 PM
Updated: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 3:10 PM


            Christopher Kirby, 38, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.
Christopher Kirby, 38, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.

The adoptive brother of a South Lebanon woman beaten to death on Sept. 15 at her home has been indicted on nine charges, including her murder, and could face the death penalty.

Christopher Kirby, 38, was indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, grand theft and tampering with evidence.

Debrah Power, 63, of South Lebanon, was pronounced dead from head injuries Sept. 15 at her home in South Lebanon. Newcomer Funeral Home in Dayton is handling the arrangements.

Her husband, Ronnie Power, was also badly beaten in the attack and remained in serious condition, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said.

“It’s still to early to determine what type of recovery, if any, he’s going to have,” Fornshell said.

If convicted, Christopher Kirby could face the death penalty in connection with his sister’s beating death.

The grand jury “found probable cause that two capital specifications were satisfied, specifically (1) Kirby committed the aggravated murder of Debra Power as part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful attempt to kill two persons, and (2) Kirby was the principal offender in the aggravated murder of Debra Power while committing the offense of aggravated robbery. Therefore, Kirby could face the death penalty if he is convicted on the aggravated murder count, and either of the two capital specifications,” according to Fornshell.

RELATED: Warren County couple held on murder charges in relative’s beating

Kirby’s wife, Jacqueline Kirby, 30, is charged with tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property and misuse of credit cards, but not with the more serious murder, attempted muder and felonious assault charges.

“There was insufficient evidence as to her involvement,” Fornshell said Monday.

Both Debrah and Ronnie Power were beaten with a baseball bat that has been taken into evidence, the prosecutor added Monday.

MORE: 2 arrested in South Lebanon; Woman killed, man in critical condition

The Kirbys were living with the Powers and other people in the house at 59 W. Broadway in South Lebanon. Christopher Kirby was Deborah Power’s adoptive brother, according to Fornshell.

Christopher Kirby is accused of beating the Powers during a robbery undertaken to steal a purse and a cellphone, according to Fornshell.

Debrah Power had changed the pin numbers, suspecting the Kirbys were using them, Fornshell said Monday. The tampering with evidence charge alleges they threw away her purse and cellphone.

MORE: Indictment issued in Franklin stabbing

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Deborah Power was found under a blanket on Sept. 15 and “cold to the touch with blood underneath” by sheriff’s deputies called to a home just before midnight, according to a search warrant.

The Kirbys remained in the Warren County Jail and were scheduled for arraignment at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

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Police: No threat today at Fenwick High School

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 9:34 AM
Updated: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 1:15 PM


            Bishop Fenwick High School was on a “soft lockdown” this morning, meaning classes were conducted but no one was allowed to enter or leave the school, officials said. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Bishop Fenwick High School was on a “soft lockdown” this morning, meaning classes were conducted but no one was allowed to enter or leave the school, officials said. ED RICHTER/STAFF

UPDATE @1:15 P.M.:

There was no threat at Fenwick High School this morning, Middletown police have determined.

A former student entered the Ohio 122 school building to visit former teachers and was walking through the school at some point by himself, said Middletown Maj. David Birk.

“Some people who were unfamiliar with the former student became suspicious, but there was not threat at all,” Birk said.

INITIAL REPORT:

A Middletown high school is on lockdown this morning.

A notice from Bishop Fenwick High School this morning states: “Bishop Fenwick High School is currently on a ‘soft lockdown.’ This means that teaching continues in the building, but no one will be permitted in or out of the building until the lockdown is lifted. Everyone is safe in the building.”

Middletown Maj. David Birk said a student was acting suspiciously and the school called police. As a precaution the school was placed on lockdown. Birk said officers are on scene investigating and talking with those involved.

The school is asking for people to not call the school so phone lines can remain open.

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Prosecution opposes trial relocation in Carlisle dead baby case

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 11:21 AM

Brooke Skylar Richardson, the Carlisle teen charged with aggravated murder for the death of her infant found buried in the back yard, appeared in Warren County Court for pretrial hearing, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 in Lebanon. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Brooke Skylar Richardson, the Carlisle teen charged with aggravated murder for the death of her infant found buried in the back yard, appeared in Warren County Court for pretrial hearing, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 in Lebanon. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Prosecutors are asking Warren County Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda II to overrule a request for change of venue for the trial of a Carlise teen accused of killing her infant, then burning and burying the body in the backyard of her home.

In the response filed late Thursday, Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Steven Knippen said the request filed by Brooke Skylar Richardson’s attorneys two weeks ago is premature.

READ MORE: Defense seeks new venue for Carlisle cheerleader in buried baby case

In the motion for change of venue, defense attorneys Charles H. Rittgers and Charles M. Rittgers included a memorandum of support. That memorandum apparently was four pages long and contained specifics of the case. Last year, Oda issued a gag order prohibiting all parties involved in the case from making public statements about the case.

Brooke Skylar Richardson was in court Wednesday for a hearing

In his response to the change of venue motion, Oda said: “This case is not going to be tried in the press.”

The judge ordered the memorandum of support stricken from the change of venue motion.

The Rittgers then filed their response.

“The court’s order, which is now in the public sphere, is casting doubt as to the defense counsel’s sincerity, credibility, and truthfulness by indicating that the court is troubled by the defense memorandum,” the defense team stated in the motion.

Knippen said in the state’s position that The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled a change of venue is required merely because of a extensive pretrial publicity.

EXCLUSIVE: Prosecutor outlines challenges in buried baby case

“Any decision on change of venue rests in the sound discretion of the court,” Knippen said in the court filing.

The prosecution pointed to several “high profile” cases that have received substantial publicity and media attention, but have not required change of venue, including trial and two re-trials of of Ryan Widmer who is convicted of killing his wife, Sarah.

“Simply asserting that there has been pretrial publicity, as the defendant has done in this case, is not enough to demonstrate the defendant will suffer any prejudice. Rather a careful and searching voir dire provides the best test of whether prejudicial pretrial publicity has prevented obtaining a fair and impartial jury from the locality,” Knippen wrote citing a previous state court decision.

The prosecution concluding the change of venue issue should be decided during jury selection when the “effects of pretrial publicity, if any, on defendant’s right to a fair trial can be determined.”

MORE: Defense in Carlisle baby case asked judge to reconsider scrubbed motion 

A hearing is set for March 14, and Richardson’s trial is scheduled to begin April 16.

Defense attorneys have said Richardson did not kill her baby. The prosecution previously said the baby was born alive. Warren County Coroner Dr. Russell Uptegrove has said the cause of death may never be known due to the condition of the remains.

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Ohio’s bail system is based on someone’s ability to pay. Is that fair?

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 11:55 AM


            Scene from the Montgomery County Jail. A recent study found 35.4 percent of people in local jails have not been convicted of a crime, but are awaiting trial. In most cases, the study found, the inmates are being held because they could not afford bond. BYRON STIRSMAN/STAFF
Scene from the Montgomery County Jail. A recent study found 35.4 percent of people in local jails have not been convicted of a crime, but are awaiting trial. In most cases, the study found, the inmates are being held because they could not afford bond. BYRON STIRSMAN/STAFF

When Dayton native DaJuan Hume was a college student at Ball State University in 2004, he was arrested for a crime he says he did not commit.

By the time the charges were dropped, Hume had spent nearly two years in jail, lost his apartment and couldn’t afford the storage fees to get his vehicle out of the impound lot.

“I lost everything,” Hume said.

Ohio’s jails are filled with people who are there because they can’t afford to post bond or pay court costs. A study conducted by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction found 35.4 percent of local jail inmates have not been convicted of a crime, but are awaiting trial. In most cases, the study found, the inmates are being held because they could not afford bond.

RELATED: Bail reform needed, court administrator says

Hume’s experience came more than a decade ago, but it’s a big reason why he’s joined local efforts to reform the criminal justice system in Ohio, focusing first on bail reform. He argues that Ohio’s system of requiring people to produce cash to be released on bail amounts to jailing people for being poor.

The issue has gained traction in recent years because of overcrowded jails and arguments about unfairness. Last year the Dayton Daily News reported on the case of Markcus Brown, who spent nine days in jail after he was arrested after violating an RTA policy against wearing hoodies and saggy pants on the bus system’s property. His mother had to arrange a car title loan to pay for his bail.

Among those advocating for changes is Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who co-chaired a national task force on fines, fees and bail in 2016.

In a written statement issued with release of the group’s findings O’Connor said: “No one in America should be sent to jail, or threatened with jail, solely because they are poor. In too many instances, judges are ignoring fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, while local politicians treat the court system as an ATM for their spending priorities. This must change, and this task force is committed to taking steps to ensure justice for all.”

RELATED: Ohio looks to reform bail system

Not everyone is on board. Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer cautioned against making dramatic changes.

“Law enforcement officers already think there is not enough consequences for repeat offenders. So, we cannot lessen that. It could be very dangerous just letting people out because of poverty or whatever excuse they want to use,” Plummer said.

Dayton Municipal Court Administrative Judge Deirdre Logan said the current system allows a judge to permit release of a person after arrest while they are awaiting trial. Release could be ordered with a monetary bond, release with conditions or release with no conditions.

“The purpose of any bond determination is to guarantee the defendant’s appearance for the next court date and also to keep the public safe. Those are the two primary factors that must be considered when determining bond,” Logan said.

Plummer questions whether people will show up for trial if they have no financial incentive to do so, which would then lead to law enforcement tracking down those who don’t appear.

“When you just release them, they do not come back,” Plummer said. “We probably have to waste an hour of our time arresting them, bringing them downtown to the jail. Now you have a police officer off the streets who should be patrolling neighborhoods and protecting citizens. So it could bog down the first responders.”

RELATED: Man stopped for wearing hoodie, baggy pants is jailed for nine days

The same argument comes from bail bondsmen who make money loaning cash to people so they can bond out. If those people do not return for trial, it is the bondsmen who round them up and deliver them to court, according to Charles Miller, president of the Ohio Bail Agents Association.

“We are going to get those people and bring them back to the bar of justice,” Miller said. “What you are doing is putting more strain on the system now with a promise. There’s nothing else there when you go to no money bail.”

But setting a money bail for a defendant that they can’t possibly meet sets up inequities, reform advocates say, leading to a jail population that is determined by a person’s ability to pay.

“The reason why they are in jail is because they are poor,” Montgomery County Public Defender Rudy Wehner said. “They are given a money bond that they cannot possibly make.”

Judges in Dayton have begun to make changes while balancing the constitutional rights of the accused with the rights of victims and safety of the public. The Montgomery County Bail Review Committee initiated a study of local policies and procedures by a consultant, Public Performance Partners, which recommended the use of more assessment tools in deciding bond.

“While individual judges would retain the final say on bond, all judges would receive the same structured risk assessment on each defendant,” the report states. “This consistency would serve to reduce unintentional disparities in the level of bond set.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Three-time killer suspected of stabbing Ohio prison guard

Judge Logan said the court is moving away from a bail schedule based only on the crime that occurred and instead is shifting to the use of a risk assessment that looks at whether the charge is a felony or misdemeanor, a person’s criminal history and whether they are a potential flight risk.

“It should be individualized and the best practices that we are trying to come up with in Montgomery County is to make it consistent and efficient,” Logan said.

The judges also examined the previous bond schedules being used by the different jurisdictions throughout the county and replaced them with one uniform schedule.

“So if you get stopped for a DUI in Vandalia you are going to have the same bond as someone who gets stopped for a DUI in Dayton,” Logan said.

More changes could come from the Statehouse, where critics and proponents of bail reform have squared off over HB 439, proposed by Rep. Jonathan Dever, R-Madeira, and Rep. Timothy Ginty, R-Salem.

The bill allows courts to impose conditions rather than set monetary bail. It also requires courts to use a “validated risk assessment tool” before setting bail. If the bill passes, courts around Ohio would be required to collect data regarding the use of bail.

Much of what is contained in the bill was recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee On Bail and Pre-Trial Services formed by the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission. In its March 2017 report, the commission stated that only the accused who “pose the greatest risk to public safety and failure to appear” would be kept behind bars to “effectively utilize jail resources.”

So far the bill has received only a few initial hearings. According to the sponsors, a substitute bill is in the works and will be introduced soon.

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Police investigating attempted robbery in Middletown

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 11:09 AM

Middletown police are investigating a robbery attempt this morning at the AT&T store on Towne Boulevard. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Middletown police are investigating a robbery attempt this morning at the AT&T store on Towne Boulevard. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Police are investigating an apparent attempted robbery of a Middletown store this morning.

Several men in a vehicle stolen from Englewood pulled in and backed up several times about 9:55 a.m. in the parking lot of AT&T on Towne Boulevard, according to Middletown Maj. David Birk.

“Four of them got out and pulled their shirts over their heads and started toward the store,” Birk said. That is when the customers in the store and employees ran to the back of the store.

The men, who were also wearing gloves, then jumped back in the car and drove toward Hendrickson Road. Police are working with area police agencies to find the vehicle.

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