2 guilty in firefighter’s death: ‘While we were planning a funeral, they were gambling in Las Vegas’

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 1:55 PM

Lester Parker and William Tucker found guilty in Hamilton firefighter murder trial

Nearly two years after a fire killed a Hamilton firefighter, homeowner Lester Parker and his nephew, William Tucker, were convicted of aggravated arson and murder and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

The jury of five women and seven men deliberated a little more than two hours before delivering the verdict Wednesday morning. The courtroom was packed with the family and fellow firefighters of Patrick Wolterman, who died on Dec. 28, 2015, when he fell through the floor of Parker’s burning home on Pater Avenue in Hamilton.

MORE: Tears, screams fill courtroom in Hamilton arson trial

Parker, 68, stood first with his attorney, David Washington, when the verdict was read. Then Tucker, 50, of Richmond, Ky., stood with his attorney, Tamara Sack. Neither defendant showed emotion when he heard the guilty verdicts.

Many in the courtroom cried, including Wolterman’s widow, Bre, and several family and friends. Parker’s wife, Bertha, and Tucker’s mother, Mae, also sobbed.

Parker was convicted of conspiring with Tucker to set his house on fire for insurance money and Tucker was convicted of setting the blaze for payment in pain pills.

Washington told Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Stephens before sentencing: “It’s a sad day, but we respect the process.”

MORE: Hamilton homeowner, nephew take stand in firefighter murder trial

Sack also expressed a similar sentiment. “We respect the verdict,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy case by any means.”

Both defense attorneys indicated they would file appeals. Parker and Tucker declined to make a statement before sentencing.

Bre Wolterman told the judge she was 31 when firefighters knocked on her door two years ago and told her her  husband Patrick had fallen through the floor. They couldn’t tell her if he would live.

“We had been married not even seven months,” she told Judge Greg Stephens. “These two men robbed me of my whole future. They not only took my husband from me they took my life away. We didn’t even have children, they took that away. I ask you to impose the maximum sentence on them.”

MORE: Experts testify about ‘burner’ phones, Facebook messages in Hamilton arson trial

Patrick Wolterman’s mother, Debbie, also addressed the judge before sentencing.

“I wish I could asked for leniency, I can’t,” Debbie Wolterman said. “While we were planning a funeral, they were gambling in Las Vegas. They have shown no remorse. It think the only thing they are sorry about is that they got caught.”

Cheryl Sullivan, Parker’s daughter, testified during the trial that she drove her parents to the airport on Dec. 27, 2015, for the couple’s trip to Las Vegas. She testified that she noticed things missing from the house that had been there on Christmas Eve.

“Some things were moved around, some things not where they were supposed to be,” Sullivan said, adding that angel figurines had replaced family photos in the living room and a “butler” statue was gone.

Prosecutors say Parker packed up items he held dear, including pictures of his two daughters, and removed them from the house before the fire.

Sullivan testified that her father handed her four envelopes with bills in them, including the mortgage and insurance, and told her to “hold them.”

Before boarding the plane, Sullivan said her father called her and told her: “The important papers are in the garage if something happens.”

Weeks later, when her parents moved to another home in Hamilton, Sullivan said she found a bag that her parents had taken to Las Vegas and in it were several framed family photos, including those that she and her sister had noticed missing from the Pater Avenue home’s living room.

MORE: Daughter of man on trial in Hamilton firefighter death testifies about missing items

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser also addressed the judge before sentencing.

“This was never a case where the state of Ohio suggested there be payback or vengeance for Patrick Wolterman,” Gmoser said, referring to an argument made earlier by a defense attorney. “He is indeed an American hero. He went into that house with the full understanding in his mind that he was was going to save a life — or lives — of occupants. Unknown to him, they were in Las Vegas.”

Gmoser said Wolterman lost his life for a few “lousy, miserable pills by a couple drug dealers and for gain.”

While the men were each convicted of two arson charges for igniting the house and for causing serious physical harm in the act, by law they could only be sentenced for murder because the aggravated arson led to the murder.

MORE: Woman tells jury she gave ride to Hamilton arson suspect for $300 in pills

Judge Stephens then sentenced the men with the mandatory sentence required by law — life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

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Feds: Postal worker on disability got $94,000, was in 35 motorcycle races

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 8:42 AM

Dayton-area postal worker on disability rode in 35 motorcycle races

A former Dayton-area U.S. Postal Service worker is alleged to have participated in 35 motorcycle races during an 18-month period in which he was disabled or on light duty, according to federal court documents.

Jerry French was indicted last week in Dayton’s U.S. District Court on counts of making false, fictitious and fraudulent statements to medical personnel and the postal service which led to Office of Workers’ Compensation Benefits of $93,971.42.

French is at least the eighth area postal worker to be alleged of federal crimes in the past few years.

RELATED: 7 other times regional postal workers have been in trouble with the law

Former West Carrollton postal worker Laticha Schroyer had pleaded guilty in a case where she was seen vacationing while injured, but she recently asked to withdraw her plea by bill of information.

No defense attorney is listed for French in federal court documents, and no dates have been scheduled in the case.

An indictment filed March 15 detailed how French allegedly injured his knee while falling on ice when he was delivering mail on Feb. 2, 2011.

French filled out a claim for disability pay and was off from work for a year until returning to one hour of limited duty per day, the indictment said.

The Department of Labor accepted French’s injury as a sprained knee in April 2011, according to court documents.

The indictment said French allegedly told two doctors that he could not perform most work duties, that his pain level was 8 out of 10 and that he was in pain 24/7.

WATCH: Video shows postal worker stuffing mail down sweatpants

A doctor amended his report to say an MRI indicated a meniscus tear and the Department of Labor approved an arthroscopic surgery, the indictment said.

The indictment said that in October 2011, another doctor performed the surgery and later submitted a report showing there was no meniscus tear and that the knee was normal.

On Dec. 1, 2011, French completed a medical history form at Kettering Medical Center in which he stated he had extreme difficulty doing tasks such as usual work, housework, hobbies, recreational and sporting activities, the indictment said.

RELATED: Postal worker pleads guilty to delaying, destroying mail

French said, according to the document, that he had “moderate difficulty” doing activities including putting on socks, doling light activities, getting in and out of vehicles and sitting for one hour.

The indictment said in March 2012, a doctor reported French’s pain representations were out of proportion to the pathology.

In July 2012, French told a third doctor that he could no longer ride motorcycles because of his knee injury, according to the indictment.

RELATED: Local postal worker pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $15,000

The document said in September 2013, a Department of Labor form he submitted limited him to zero hours for lifting weight, walking, climbing, kneeling, bending, stooping and operating machinery.

In October 2013, French was interviewed by special agents from the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, the document said.

During that interview, French said he was physically unable to work, go up and down stairs, kneel, ride or race his motorcycles, pass a National Hot Rod Association physical, fill his nitrous oxide tank, drive a manual car or put pressure on his left leg.

The indictment said that from May 13, 2011, to Oct. 23, 2013, agents of the Inspector General observed French “participating in approximately thirty-five motorcycle races and one car race at various racetracks in Ohio and Indiana.”

MORE: Read other stories from Mark Gokavi

The document also said agents saw French loading trailers, carrying equipment and moving metal tanks.

The indictment doesn’t explain why it was filed several years after the events and federal prosecutors didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

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Trial date set for Middletown man accused in fatal club shooting

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:59 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:59 AM

            Malcolm Franklin, charged with aggravated murder and felonious assault for allegedly killing Julian Johnson in May outside D&J Nite Spot in Middletown, appeared for a hearing Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 in Butler County Common Pleas Court with attorney Frank Schiavone, III. Schiavone has filed several motions to exclude evidence at trial. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Malcolm Franklin, charged with aggravated murder and felonious assault for allegedly killing Julian Johnson in May outside D&J Nite Spot in Middletown, appeared for a hearing Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 in Butler County Common Pleas Court with attorney Frank Schiavone, III. Schiavone has filed several motions to exclude evidence at trial. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

A trial date has been set for a man charged with the fatal shooting outside a Middletown bar in May.

Malcolm Franklin, 27, formerly of Louisiana, is charged with murder as well as three counts of felonious assault for gun violence May 30, 2017 at D&J Nite spot.

MORE: Police, father of Middletown bar shooting victim fear retaliation

Franklin was in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday with his attorney Frank Schiavone IV, where Judge Charles Pater set a trial date of Aug. 20.

Franklin allegedly shot Julian Marquis Johnson, 23, outside the Elliott Drive bar during the early morning hours. Three others were injured by gunfire, according to Middletown police.

MORE: Attorney want evidence from fatal Middletown shooting thrown out

Middletown police Detective Jon Rawlins testified during a preliminary hearing in Middletown Municipal Court that Franklin confessed to killing Johnson.

Defense attorneys filed motions to suppress statements Franklin made to police without an attorney present and the stop of his client after the shooting because there was no probable cause. After a hearing last month, that motion was denied by Pater.

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John Crawford shooting: Beavercreek wants separate trial from Walmart

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:57 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:57 AM

            Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams is shown in Walmart on Aug. 5, 2014, the day he shot and killed John Crawford III. Crawford was holding a BB/pellet rifle he took off a store shelf.
Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams is shown in Walmart on Aug. 5, 2014, the day he shot and killed John Crawford III. Crawford was holding a BB/pellet rifle he took off a store shelf.

The wrongful death civil rights lawsuit brought by John Crawford III’s parents against Beavercreek and Walmart has been scheduled for a February 2019 trial date, according to federal court records.

But the case could be split into two trials, if a federal judge grants a motion from the city of Beavercreek to separate the defendants.

RELATED: Deposition: Williams shot Crawford because he ‘was about to’ point a weapon

Dayton’s U.S. District Court Judge Walter Rice scheduled the trial for Feb. 4, 2019 — a day shy of 4½ years after Crawford, 22, of Fairfield, was shot and killed by Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams in Walmart.

Beavercreek police responded after lone 911 caller Ronald Ritchie said he saw a black man carrying a rifle and waving it at people, including children. Police said Crawford, who was on his cell phone, didn’t respond to requests by Williams and Sgt. David Darkow to drop the item — a realistic-looking BB/pellet rifle he picked up from an open box in the store.

RELATED: Beavercreek officer who shot John Crawford III back on ‘full duty’

Crawford’s attorneys said Crawford had less than a second to hear and respond to anything officers said. Williams was cleared by a Greene County special grand jury in September 2014, and a federal investigation ended in 2017 without criminal charges.

Beavercreek attorneys filed a motion to split the case. They argued that the Beavercreek defendants are facing civil rights allegations such as excessive force, the police department’s supervision, training and control of its officers in circumstances requiring the use of force.

RELATED: Feds won’t charge Beavercreek officer in Walmart shooting

The Beavercreek attorneys said the Walmart defendants face state law claims involving issues of negligence and premises liability concerning the packaging, storage, shelving and safeguarding of pellet rifles.

“Due to the vastly different sets of facts supporting the claims against these sets of Defendants,” Beavercreek attorneys wrote, “severance of the claims and separate trials are appropriate.”

Rice has not ruled on the motion.

MORE: Read other stories from Mark Gokavi

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Driver convicted in 55-mile police chase up Interstate 75 sentenced

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 6:37 PM

            David Nehmer, 27, of Paw Paw, Michigan was sentenced to 30 months in prison. CONTRIBUTED
David Nehmer, 27, of Paw Paw, Michigan was sentenced to 30 months in prison. CONTRIBUTED

A Michigan man who led state troopers on a 55-mile chase from Piqua to Allen County in November was sentenced Monday in Miami County Common Pleas Court to 30 months in prison.

David Nehmer, 27, of Paw Paw, Michigan, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer and six months in jail for driving while under the influence. The sentences will be served concurrently in the penitentiary. Nehmer’s driver’s license was also suspended for five years.

TRENDING: Officers descend on Dayton neighborhood following multi-city chase

Nehmer was arrested in the early morning hours on Interstate 75 near Bluffton. The pursuit began in Piqua after troopers received a report of a vehicle driving on its rims.

The pursuit of Nehmer — wanted on warrants out of Michigan — included speeds of more than 120 mph, troopers said.

Janna Parker, an assistant county prosecutor, said Nehmer was on parole in Michigan at the time of the chase that included what she called “insanely fast speeds” on tire rims. She said Nehmer put not only himself but multiple police officers and countless motorists at risk.

Judge Christopher Gee sentenced Nehmer, calling the pursuit “a horrific and very dangerous chase.” Gee said Nehmer was fortunate no one, including him, was injured.

“This kind of behavior cannot be condoned in any way,” Gee said.

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