Spirit Airlines pilot’s suspected overdose draws national attention

Published: Friday, March 17, 2017 @ 5:08 PM

Federal Aviation Administration officials said the medical certifications of the deceased Spirit Airlines pilot from Centerville who died of a likely drug overdose were up-to-date but have not said why the agency’s publicly-available database used by crash investigators suggests he was unable to fly any aircraft in the United States.

The four children of Brian Halye, a pilot, and Courtney Halye found the couple dead in the bedroom of their Centerville home Thursday in Montgomery County Coroner’s Office Director Ken Betz called a “probable accidental drug overdose.”

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Betz said examinations on the couple have been completed, but a final determination on the cause and manner will take six weeks until toxicology reports are completed. Since Jan. 1, Montgomery County has had 155 accidental drug overdoses, Betz said.

The case attracted national media attention Friday.

Officer John Davis, Centerville Police spokesman, said, “I think maybe just where it occurred, and what occurred, has drawn some attention to that. I know that the speculation as to Mr. Halye’s employment has also drawn attention to it. That’s not the focus of our investigation at this time.”

Investigators have not given any indication the Spirit Airlines pilot used drugs prior to his death. Brian Halye’s last flight for the company before his death was March 10, a Spirit Airlines spokesman said.

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Questions remain about why a federal database did not show up-to-date information on Brian Halye.

Aviation safety expert Shawn Pruchnicki of Ohio State University told the Dayton Daily News the database is one of the tools used by the National Transportation Safety Board during investigations of air disasters.

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The FAA told the Dayton Daily News on Thursday that Brian Halye had a valid first-class medical certificate allowing him to fly. But the agency could not definitively answer why the public database of airmen indicated the certificate expired more than four years ago.

The Dayton Daily News has filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request for Brian Halye’s medical certificates.

Pilots must hold valid medical certificates in order to fly. The Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which he held, requires a first-class medical certificate, which must be updated every 12 months for a pilot under the age of 40. Brian Halye was 36.

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The FAA database lists Brian Halye’s medical certificate date as September, 2011, more than five years ago. No class of pilot is allowed to go that long without a medical exam. Asked Thursday to double check, Cory said Brian Halye’s certificate was up-to-date, with it due to expire this fall.

“I’m not sure why the online database does not have that information,” Cory said in an email to the Dayton Daily News on Thursday. “The system could be in the process of update.”

The database is updated each federal working day at midnight, according to the FAA’s website.

Cory said she asked another FAA employee on Thursday to check Brian Halye’s medical certification. The employee, a medical doctor, Cory said, “went into the airman’s file and looked it up.”

“The online database is one of many that we have,” she said Friday. “It is a very basic listing of name and certificate. It is separate from an in-depth medical file. It is not the only database we have.”

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Pruchnicki, a lecturer at OSU’s Center for Aviation Studies and a pharmacist, said he’s never had a problem seeing his medical certifications in the airmen database.

“I’ve always been able to pull up my own medicals to see,” said Pruchnicki, a former Comair pilot, after hearing about the FAA’s response to the newspaper. 

The newspaper has asked Spirit Airlines if it is conducting an internal investigation into Brian Halye’s death. The airline did not respond at time of publication.

Martin Rottler, also an OSU lecturer, said he did not expect “anything nefarious” was going on with the FAA’s records.

“They have several hundred pilot records that are in there,” Rottler said. “The carriers and the FAA have better records and far greater records than what you’ll find on the FAA database.”

Brian Halye had two children from a previous marriage, as did Courtney Halye. Her former husband, Jacob Castor, died in August 2007 from an accidental drug overdose, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

Two of the children attend Centerville schools. The other two attend Spring Valley Academy.

Spring Valley released a statement Friday that read in part: ” … we are doing all we can to provide all appropriate support for them and all their classmates who are affected by this heartbreaking loss. As a Christian community we take comfort in the promise of ultimate healing, restoration, and resurrection but at the moment we are deeply grieving with our students and their families.”

Wrongly convicted man released after 24 years in prison for murder

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 10:24 AM

A Pennsylvania man was granted freedom Tuesday after spending 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Shaurn Thomas, 43, beamed as he walked out of the Schuylkill County Correctional Facility in Frackville and embraced family members, including his fiancée. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Thomas’ freedom was granted Tuesday morning by a judge who threw out his conviction in the 1990 murder of a businessman in North Philadelphia. 

Prosecutors in the case agreed with Thomas’ defense team that the evidence brought forth at trial did not support his conviction, the Inquirer reported. 

“I felt the justice system was going to prevail sooner or later, and that somebody would hear my cries,” Thomas said during a news conference outside the prison. “And they heard them.”

The people Thomas referred to were lawyers from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, who took on Thomas’ case eight years ago. His lead attorney was James Figorski, senior staff attorney at Dechert LLP and a former Philadelphia police officer.  

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Thomas was convicted of the slaying of businessman Domingo Martinez, who was shot to death in November 1990 while taking a $25,000 check to be cashed. 

Thomas, then 16, had an alibi. He told authorities from the beginning that he was at a youth study center for juvenile offenders, dealing with the aftermath of an unrelated crime. 

Both Thomas and his mother said they were in court at the time of the murder, awaiting his initial appearance on an arrest the night before for a motorcycle theft, Dechert LLP said in a statement

The sign-in logs from the youth center disappeared before Thomas’ murder trial began. His alibi did not convince the jury, who found him guilty of Martinez’s murder. 

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1993, at the age of 19. 

Figorski, who represented Thomas pro bono, told the Inquirer that he was drawn to the case because he believed Thomas’ alibi. He worked with the Innocence Project to clear his client’s name. 

“Jim has never wavered in his support of Shaurn, and is responsible for uncovering astounding evidence of his innocence,” the Innocence Project said in a news release

The defense team began working in January with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Review Unit, which found the case file from the Martinez murder investigation. The file disappeared decades ago.

“In that file were 36 pages of witness statements taken days after the murder for which Shaurn would be arrested years later,” the Innocence Project said. “Those statements point to viable alternative perpetrators.

“Had that information been available at trial -- and had the story of Shaurn’s presence in court at the moment the murder was committed been told correctly -- prosecutors agreed the trial would likely have ended differently.”

Despite his release, prosecutors could choose to refile murder charges against Thomas, the Inquirer reported. They have until June 13 to make their decision. 

In the meantime, Thomas is adjusting to being back with his family. He told NBC10 in Philadelphia that he plans to leave the city.

“Philadelphia caused me too many heartaches,” Thomas said. 

His mother, Hazeline Thomas, said it was difficult knowing that authorities did not believe her or her son. She said her son never gave up on proving his innocence.

“I’m proud because he was innocent and he did something about it,” she told NBC10.

“Family, prayer, hope,” Shaurn Thomas said. “Keep writing. Keep fighting. Never give up.”

Customs officials capture pigeon wearing drug-filled backpack

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 2:24 PM



Andreas Koller / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Pigeons are historically known for carrying messages. The birds are now being used to carry more dangerous items.

Customs officials in Kuwait nabbed a pigeon this week that had been fitted with a makeshift backpack filled with pills close to the Iraqi border, according to the BBC

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The bird had a total of 178 pills of ketamine, which is often used as a club drug, the BBC reported. 

Customs officials said they are aware of pigeons being used to transport drugs, but “this was the first time they had caught a bird in the act,” according to the BBC. 

Dayton man arrested for smoking marijuana with 12-year-old boys

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 11:47 AM

Marvin T. Long
Montgomery County Jail

DAYTON — A city man is being held at the Montgomery County jail after two 12-year-old boys told police he smoked marijuana with them, according to a Dayton police report. 

Marvin T. Long, 38, is being held on two counts of corrupting another with drugs charges, according police.

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Dayton officers were dispatched to the 1600 block of Hearthstone Drive around 5:57 p.m. on Thursday for a drug complaint. 

The mother of the 12-year-old boys told police the smell of marijuana on her sons was extremely strong that day, according to police report.

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“…(one of the juvenile boys) stated they had gotten marijuana from Marvin in the past, but today they only smoked it once with him at his house,” wrote Dayton Police Officer Christine Hamilton. 

Long is also being held on three failure to appear charges, according to Montgomery County Jail records. 

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Woman with kids in the car arrested for OVI after crash

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 10:56 AM

Tashara Kenerly, 31, was arrested on OVI and child endangerment charges on May 25, 2017.
Montgomery County Jail

DAYTON — A 31-year-old city woman was arrested on Thursday after she crashed into a parked vehicle with two children in the car and police detected the odor of alcohol.

Tashara Kenerly is being held at the Montgomery County Jail on child endangerment and OVI charges. 

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Kenerly crashed into a parked vehicle in the 500 block of Delaware Avenue, according to a Dayton police report. 

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“She staggered when walking, could not follow direction and or find a identification card,” wrote Dayton Police Officer Christopher Smith. “She told us she had one beer.”

Kenerly failed coordination tests on the scene, according to police. She submitted to a blood sample at Grandview Hospital which was submitted to the Dayton police secured refrigerator to be submitted to the crime lab, according to the police incident report. 

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The children were placed with a family member, according to police.