DeWine: Pike County murders ‘very hot’ case

Published: Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 1:11 PM


            Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader, left, discusses the ongoing investigation into the unsolved killings of eight family members in southern Ohio on April 22, 2016, at a news conference attended by Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office is leading the investigation, on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. Reader and DeWine both said they believe individuals may be holding back information out of fear of self-incrimination over their own, unrelated drug crimes. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)
Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader, left, discusses the ongoing investigation into the unsolved killings of eight family members in southern Ohio on April 22, 2016, at a news conference attended by Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office is leading the investigation, on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. Reader and DeWine both said they believe individuals may be holding back information out of fear of self-incrimination over their own, unrelated drug crimes. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the Pike County murders are a “very hot” case, though it remains unclear how close investigators are to making an arrest.

DeWine said he believes “some decent progress” has been made in the year since the murders in Pike County. His comments were made during a radio interview with WHIO’s Larry Hansgen on Miami Valley’s Morning News.

MORE: Pike County Murders: ‘There will always be a scar on this town’

“We know a lot more today than when the murders took place, I can tell you that,” said DeWine, without specifics due, he maintains, to protecting the integrity of the case.

DeWine acknowledged, though, there are likely persons with information who aren’t being honest with investigators.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt … there are people who know things they are simply not telling us,” DeWine said. “Anyone who has information and is afraid to give it to us because it might implicate them in some growing of marijuana or some sort of involvement in drugs, we want to assure them our focus is not on that.”

MORE: Rhoden family makes plea for information

DeWine’s comments came before his office released a video of Rhoden family members seeking information in the case. He said the video is “gut wrenching.”

Juror’s emergency halts Miami County child rape case verdict

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 1:05 PM
Updated: Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 10:16 AM


            Charles Hiser, right, seated at the defense table in Miami County Common Pleas Court earlier this year. STEVE BAKER/STAFF
Charles Hiser, right, seated at the defense table in Miami County Common Pleas Court earlier this year. STEVE BAKER/STAFF

A Miami County jury’s deliberations in the child rape trial of Charles Hiser of Troy were interrupted today by a family emergency of a juror.

The juror left the deliberations, and Judge Christopher Gee told the 11 remaining jurors attempts were being made to contact an alternate juror to join the deliberations. The jury had deliberated 4.5 hours Thursday and around 90 minutes today.

Gee told jurors in Common Pleas Court they could not deliberate further until an alternate joined them.

EARLIER: Mistrial declared in case against man accused of child rape

“I know it is going to be frustrating for all of you to retire to the jury room and not be able to do the work you are here for,” Gee said.

Three alternate jurors had been seated in the event a problem arose with one or more of the 12 jurors who weree to decide the case. The alternate jurors were dismissed before deliberations began.

Hiser, 37, faces eight felony rape charges for alleged sexual contact and sexual conduct with a person under age 10 and then under age 13 between February 2012 and late 2016 in Piqua and Troy. He is being held on $550,000 bail.

A trial in October ended in a mistrial after some jurors said they had seen or heard about media accounts of the case.

Jurors, in a written question sent to Gee after around 3.5 hours of deliberations Thursday, asked what would happen if they were unable to agree. They were told there was no specific time line for deliberations and the focus should be on trying to reach a verdict, if possible.

One defense witness, Hiser’s wife, testified earlier Thursday before closing arguments and deliberations. Stacy Hiser testified she did not observe anything inappropriate or suspicious about her husband.

EARLIER: Victim says sex abuse happened more times than she could count

In closing statements, Janna Parker, assistant county prosecutor, said the girl may have said she assumed why the sexual acts began and could not provide specific dates and times for alleged c acts, but that is not unusual for sexual assault victims.

“There were no assumptions as to what happened between her and the defendant. She was very clear it happened too many times to count,” Parker said.

Public defender Steve Layman said there was not an objective fact finding process followed in the investigation by police, who he argued displayed a lack of effort.

“Charles was assumed guilty from moment of disclosure. Why didn’t they dig deeper?” Layman said.

He questioned why corroborating evidence was not sought about allegations that he said could have been fabricated.

Parker said the girl’s account, if believed by the jury, told the story. “She is worth listening to,” she said.

The Christmas Killings: Dayton’s worst crime spree

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 5:30 PM

The Christmas Killings: Dayton’s worst crime spree

In December, 1992, downtown Dayton was filled with holiday decorations and activities. There was the Christmas tree lighting on Courthouse Square and across the street, the Dayton Arcade had reopened temporarily with pop-up shops and eateries for the holiday season. As people shopped and celebrated, they would have never imaged what was about to happen.

A band of teenagers were looking for trouble. Laura Taylor, Marvallous Keene, Heather Matthews and Demarcus Smith called themselves "The Downtown Posse." They were estranged from their families and looking for trouble. 

>> MAP AND TIMELINE: The notorious ‘Christmas killings’ of 1992

"Let's get some drama in our lives," Taylor, a 16-year-old runaway, said to the group. 

On Christmas Eve, they began the worst crime spree in Dayton history. The first victim was Joseph Wilkerson. The girls lured their way into his Prescott Avenue home promising sex, and the 34-year old General Motors worker was shot and killed. The posse then partied in Wilkerson's house over the next three days. They ate his food and drove his cars while he lay dead in a bedroom. 

>> PHOTOS: Infamous killing spree shook the community 25 years ago

That same night, they shot Danita Gullette, 18, who was using a pay phone outside a neighborhood market in West Dayton. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police said Gullette was robbed of her gym shoes, jacket and book bag. 

"All she said was, 'Don't shoot me' and they shot her anyway," said Rhonda Gullette, the victim's sister. "She gave them everything that she had. I just wish that they would have spared my sister." 

Danita Gullette, 18, was killed while she stood at a pay phone on Neal Avenue in 1992. Her murder was part of a spree over the Christmas holiday weekend in Dayton that left 6 dead and injured two. COURTESY OF GULLETTE FAMILY

On Christmas day, the body of 19-year-old Richard Maddox was discovered in a car. He had been shot in the head. Detectives later found out that Maddox was the former boyfriend of Laura Taylor. Jeffrey Wright was also shot that day outside a home on Yuma Place. Despite, 4 bullets, he survived. 

The posse went into the Short Stop Mini Mart on December 26, and shot Sarah Abraham who was working in a family business that holiday weekend. The 38-year-old mother died 5 days later in the hospital. A store customer who was shot, Jones Pettus, survived . 

At first, Dayton homicide detectives did not know that these crimes were all connected. 

"Really the first thing that made the connection for us was the ammunition," said retired Dayton Homicide Detective Doyle Burke. "Then you start to worry and you figure out that we've got a person or persons that are probably not going to stop." 

Burke said they had no idea who they were looking for. 

"The fact that it was truly stranger on stranger crime, which is the most difficult homicide to solve…there was not even a motive," Burke said. 

Later on December 26, former Dayton Police Sgt. John Huber, spotted a stolen car on Kumler Avenue. At the time, he did not know that he was stopping Dayton's spree killers. 

"They all cooperated and put their hands up. I was later to find out from the detectives that Laura Taylor told Marvallous Keene to shoot me and he wouldn't.," said Huber. 

After the four members of the posse were behind bars, Taylor got a visit from a local minister who was concerned that she was only sixteen and accused of such terrible crimes. During their visit, Taylor told him about two more victims. Police found the bodies of Wendy Cottrill, 16 and Marvin Washington, 19, in a city-owned gravel pit on Richley Avenue. Taylor said they were shot because the group thought that they would snitch to the police. 

Keene confessed and was sentenced to death. After 17 years of appeals, he was executed in 2009. The other three got life prison sentences. During a prison interview in 2000, Heather Matthews explained why she got into in the crime spree. 

"I wanted to be like them. I wanted to do what they was doing," Matthews said. 

Detective Burke said that once the killing started, he believes they were all willing participants. 

"They enjoyed it. They lived it. It made them somebody," Burke said. 

Rhonda Gullette admits that even after 25 years, the holidays are very difficult. 

"I grieve for my family but I continue to grieve for the other victim's families and also the people who are incarcerated," said Gullette. "Anybody's life can either go to the left or the right, so I do, I think about them very often." 

Gullette said the murder of her sister had a huge impact on her life. The crime led to the break-up of her engagement, the loss of a child and her mother. 

"Six years later my mother passed away prematurely," said Gullette. "My mother passed away at 51-year's old and she passed away because of grief. My mother absolutely died of a broken heart." 

Gullette is now an advocate for victim's rights and is working on her master's degree. She said she gets through the holidays by serving her church and feeding the homeless. 

John Huber, retired from the Dayton Police Department, is the Public Safety Director at Sinclair Community College. Doyle Burke is Chief Investigator for the Warren County Coroner and has written a book about the homicide cases that he has investigated, including this one. 

A book called, "The Christmas Killings," was written by retired Dayton Police Officer Steve Grismer, Detective Dennis Murphy and Dr. Judith Monseur. Both books will be published early next year.

Kettering murder case: 3 to testify about Fairmont teen’s killing

Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 6:44 AM

Friends gathered in Oak Park Monday night.

Three people believed to be in the car driven by a Fairmont High School student last year when he was fatally shot are being ordered to testify against the 17-year-old facing murder charges in adult court.

Subpoenas have been issued for one teenage male and two teen females who court witnesses have said were in Ronnie Bowers’ car when the 16-year-old was shot while fleeing a confrontation on Willowdale Avenue Sept. 4, 2016, shortly after AlterFest.

RELATED: Judge restricts media access in Kettering homicide case

Kylen Gregory of Kettering faces murder charges in the holiday weekend shooting of Bowers, whose death two days later from a gunshot wound to the head was ruled a homicide, Montgomery County Coroner’s Office staff have testified.

Kettering’s first gun-related homicide since 2007 resulted in Gregory being indicted in August on two counts of murder, four counts of felonious assault with a deadly weapon and two related charges, court records show.

RELATED: How Kettering 17-year-old came to be tried as adult

The next court date is set for Dec. 28, when the subpoenaed Kettering teens who were with Bowers are scheduled to testify, court records show.

Gregory is being held in Montgomery County juvenile detention on a $1 million bond.

RELATED: 3 Supreme Court rulings on local cases alter fates of juveniles statewide

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Woman evicted days before her 94th birthday, jailed when she refuses to leave, police say

Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017 @ 9:21 AM

Woman Evicted and Jailed Days Before Her 94th Birthday, Police Say

93-year-old Eustis woman was in jail Wednesday night after being arrested for allegedly refusing to leave her home at National Church Residences’ Franklin House after being evicted, police said.

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Juanita Fitzgerald was jailed just days before her 94th birthday on Friday.

According to a Eustis Police Department arrest report, Fitzgerald had been “made well aware the day prior of her being evicted (Tuesday).”

She was being evicted after falling behind on her rent, police said.

When officers arrived at the senior living facility in the 2400 block of Kurt Street, Fitzgerald was in the lobby.

“After several times telling Juanita to get her belongings and leave, she refused officers’ commands and stated, ‘Unless you carry me out of here, I’m not going anywhere,’” the report said.

Fitzgerald was warned that she would be arrested if she did not leave, but continued to refuse to move.

“Juanita still did not listen and refused to leave, stating again to ‘carry me out of here,’” the report said.

The 5-foot-tall, 100-pound woman purposefully slid onto the floor as officers tried to escort her from the building and allegedly resisted officers’ attempts to lift her up, investigators said.

Fitzgerald was eventually escorted to an officer’s patrol vehicle and taken to the Lake County Jail.

The officer noted that due to her age and possibility of injury, Fitzgerald was not handcuffed.

The Eustice police report said that Franklin House staff offered to help her move, but she refused.

She also refused assistance from the Department of Children and Families, The Homeless Coalition, Department of Elder Affairs and eight other agencies, officers said.

Fitzgerald was being held at the Lake County Jail in lieu of a $500 bond on a charge of trespassing.