Investigator: Greene County double-murder defendant not initially considered a suspect

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 @ 1:54 PM

Richard Wilson
(Richard Wilson)

Key evidence is being challenged by the defense in the murder case against Brett Merrick, who is charged along with his brother in the January murders of two Greene County residents.

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Merrick, 24, appeared in Judge Stephen Wolaver's courtroom today as the prosecution called on the investigators to testify regarding their initial interview with the defendant. 

That interview happened Jan. 24, the same day investigators arrested Brett's brother Dustin Merrick on suspicion of murder and searched his home. 

RELATED >>> Key evidence challenged in Greene County capital murder case

Brett Merrick was arrested later that day, after he was interrogated on video at the Xenia police station for what prosecutors estimated to be six and a half hours. 

Both brothers are charged with aggravated murder and could face the death penalty if convicted in the fatal shootings of William "Skip" Brown and Sherri Mendenhall, whose bodies were discovered Jan. 15 at the duplex where they lived in separate apartments on East Enon Road near Yellow Springs. 

RELATED >>> Greene County double-homicide case going to grand jury

Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Seth Hagaman was the first to be called to testify. Hagaman testified that he was called in to assist the Greene County Sheriff's Office in the investigation. He led the first interview with Brett Merrick. 

Hagaman asserted that Brett Merrick voluntarily went to the police station for the interview and he was considered a "witness" at the time and not a suspect, which is why he was not read his Miranda rights. 

Hagaman told the courtroom that Brett Merrick had every opportunity to end the interrogation and leave, but he chose to speak without the presence of a lawyer.

SEE WHO’S IN JAIL: Greene County Jail inmates 

Hagaman said he interviewed the defendant for approximately one hour and 45 minutes and during that time he came to the conclusion that Brett Merrick was lying about his brother's whereabouts on the day in question. 

Defense Attorney Dennis Lieberman hammered Hagaman with questions as to at what point did Brett Merrick become a suspect. 

"I viewed him as a witness in the sense that I was told Dustin Merrick could offer Brett as his alibi for where he was on the night of the murder," Hagaman responded. "That's why I wanted an opportunity to talk to him fresh without the two of them having a chance to interact." 

Lieberman asserted that the investigators could have interviewed Brett Merrick before or after Dustin's arrest and not simultaneous to his arrest. 

The prosecution planned to call two more witnesses to the stand. Wolaver is expected to rule on the motion to suppress at a later date. 

Judge Michael Buckwalter could decide as early as next week on a motion to suppress evidence in Dustin Merrick's case, which was filed based on the defense's claim that investigators obtained the alleged firearm that was used in the slayings through a warrantless seizure. 

Both brothers are being held in the Greene County Jail, each in lieu of $5 million bond. While the judges will need time to decide on various motions filed by the defense teams, Brett Merrick's trial is scheduled to be in March 2018 and Dustin's trial is scheduled to begin in November.

Beavercreek voters to decide same school tax rejected in May

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 4:17 PM

Beavercreek City Schools is returning to the Nov. 7 ballot with the same proposal that voters narrowly defeated in the spring special election.

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The proposed 6-mill substitute emergency levy would permanently replace an emergency levy that is set to expire in 2018. If passed, the tax would not raise costs to property owners but continue at the current rate of $210 a year for property valued at $100,000, according to the district. 

The tax would generate approximately 13 percent of the district's daily operating revenue, paying for utilities, bus fuel, classroom supplies, technology and personnel.

MORE >>> Beavercreek school levy will return to voters in November after loss 

Substitute levies came into being in Ohio in 2008 and since then 20 public school districts have secured that revenue source with voters' approval. 

Instead of producing a fixed-dollar amount each year like an emergency levy regardless of new construction, a substitute levy's tax rate doesn't change, but the levy's annual revenue can increase as new homes get built and occupied. Under the current tax, property owners' tax bills gradually decrease as new homes get built and occupied.

You can find out more about the proposal by reading the district’s one-sheet graphic, which is posted on the district’s website.

Kettering police investigate break-in at Cricket store

Published: Thursday, September 07, 2017 @ 2:51 AM

Capt. Jeff Kunkleman with Troy PD talks to NewsCenter 7's Steve Baker about the break-in that happened at the MetroPCS store early Monday morning. If you have an information about the break-in, please contact Troy police at 440-9911.

UPDATE @4:51 a.m.

Kettering police said it’s possible a break-in at a Cricket store is connected to similar breakins overnight.

Sgt. Brad Lambert said police were already checking for break-ins in the city after a Metro PCS in Huber Heights and a Rent-a-Center in Riverside were broken into.

>> RELATED: Break-ins at Huber Heights, Riverside keep police busy

Lambert said break-ins come in spurts, and if one break-in is reported, there usually end up being several.

“When it does happen, it typically happens in multiple jurisdictions in one night,” he said.

After being alerted of the break-ins in Huber Heights and Riverside, Kettering police were checking area cell phone stores for any criminal activity and came upon the break-in at the Cricket store. 

“We had an officer sitting and watching the store. He left to do something else, and an office came 10 minutes later and the store had been broken into,” Lambert said.

Employees are in the store taking inventory to determine what was stolen. 

Rocks were thrown through the front windows at all three break-ins.

UPDATE @4 a.m.

A Cricket employee is in the store working to determine if anything was stolen or damaged.

A rock was thrown through the front window, according to our crews on the scene.

>> Gunmen rob AT&T store with numerous customers inside


Kettering police are investigating a reported break-in at a Cricket store.

The break-in was reported around 2:40 a.m. at the store in the 2200 block of Patterson Road.  A window was reportedly smashed in.

Huber Heights police are also investigating to break-ins early this morning. It’s unknown if the incidents are related.

This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.

George Lang’s Ohio statehouse appointment: What’s really going on?

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 11:38 AM

            West Chester Twp. Trustee George Lang, pictured talking with Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic on Sept. 7, was sworn in on Sept. 13 as the 52nd Ohio House District representative. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE
West Chester Twp. Trustee George Lang, pictured talking with Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic on Sept. 7, was sworn in on Sept. 13 as the 52nd Ohio House District representative. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/FILE

Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., received unanimous support from the Ohio House members that voted to seat him as the 52nd Ohio House District representative, succeeding former lawmaker Margy Conditt.

Conditt resigned on Sept. 8 in order to spend more time with family. She left just nine months after being elected to a third term in the Ohio House. Lang was one of seven to seek the appointment.

RELATED: George Lang officially sworn in as representative for 52nd District

Here’s what we know now about the appointment:

1. Who didn’t vote?

Not including the Lang, or his predecessor, there were 65 members of the Ohio House eligible to vote to appoint Lang. One was absent, but those remaining were at the Statehouse and some did not cast a vote — including the three lawmakers that represent a portion of Butler County. They include:

  • Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville
  • Ohio Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville
  • Ohio Rep. Larry Householder, Glenford
  • Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown
  • Ohio Rep. Al Landis, R-Dover (who was absent on Sept. 13)
  • Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton
  • Ohio Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana
  • Ohio Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason

Retherford said he was not on the House floor because he took a last-minute meeting on a piece of legislation he is drafting. He wouldn’t say what the piece of legislation concerned but said when he arrived on the Ohio House floor he missed the vote and would have supported Lang.

“George is a friend of mine and I have known him for a long time,” said Keller, who lost out on the Butler County GOP’s endorsement but beat the endorsed candidate in the 2016 primary.. “I simply feel that the voters of Butler County need to be the ones to choose who they wish to represent them. The will of the people should always come before the will of any political party or party leadership. The voters are the ones to whom we answer. I trust the voters.”

Zeltwanger represents mostly Warren County, but does represent a small portion of Middletown. He, and the others, could not immediately be reached for comment.

RELATED: Some Republicans fuming over perceived sexist question

2. West Chester Twp. trustee race

Because of Lang’s appointment, he had to resign his seat as West Chester Twp. trustee. Since he resigned more than 40 days before the Nov. 7 election, voters will pick who will serve out his final two years on the board of trustees.

Since the full terms for West Chester Twp. trustees Lee Wong and Mark Welch will also be on November’s ballot, the entire board of trustees will be up for election.

Within the first couple hours of Lang’s resignation, two people had pulled petitions. As of Monday, seven have pulled petitions and one had filed. They include:

  • Lynda Caldwell O’Connor
  • Lawrence Richard Brown
  • Randy Dale Simmons
  • David W. Corfman (filed)
  • Larry A. Whited (filed)
  • Christy Ann Miller
  • Jillian Kelley (filed)

The filing deadline for candidates to fill Lang’s unexpired term is at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Butler County Board of Elections will have to operate on a day it would normally be closed.

The filing deadline date was set because Lang resigned on a Wednesday (Sept. 13). If Lang would have resigned after the West Chester Twp. Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12, the filing deadline would have been on Friday, Sept. 22.

3. First legislative actions

As soon as Lang was seated as the 52nd Ohio House member, he cast his first vote. House Bill 133, among other things, exempts those from state and municipal income taxes on income received by an out-of-state disaster business or qualifying out-of-state employee for work repairing public utility or communications infrastructure damaged by a declared disaster.

The bill received unanimous support in the Ohio House and moves on to the Ohio Senate.

This was also the first bill Lang signed on as a co-sponsor.

4. Scientology connection questioned

Before he was sworn into the 52nd Ohio House seat, Lang was asked by his fellow Butler County Republicans if he was a Scientologist.

Lang denied he was a Scientologist.

He was asked the question because he spoke several years ago at the opening of a Church of Scientology center Northern Kentucky.

RELATED: George Lang: I’m not a Scientologist … but what if I was?

5. Committee assignments

As of Monday, Lang has not been assigned to any committees, said Brad Miller, spokesman for Speaker Cliff Rosenberger.

Miller said the speaker was considering a review of the overall committee assignments, which it is “not uncommon for there to be changes made throughout a general assembly.”

Miller said the speaker’s office is checking with Lang on his primary interests, and there’s not a timeline as to when Lang’s committee assignment could be set.

Conditt was assigned as vice chair of the Community and Family Advancement committee and a member of the public utilities and criminal justice committees.

Man accused of sex act in mother-baby unit of hospital has previous convictions

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 9:31 AM

Employees claimed they saw man performing sex act on himself in lounge area

A man with at least four previous arrests for public indecency was arrested again after police said he was caught performing a sex act on himself in the mother-baby waiting area at Kettering Medical Center in front of children.

Joseph Jordan, 45, was arrested by Kettering police at the hospital after two employees at the hospital witnessed him performing the sex act on Sept. 15, according to a statement of facts.

OTHER NEWS: Grieving mom says baby’s ashes mishandled by funeral home, files suit

“Also present in the waiting room were other visitors and their children,” the statement read.

Jordan had previously been trespassed from the hospital property and in January 2016 he was convicted of performing a sex act on himself in the main lobby of the hospital, police said.

In December 2014, Jordan was travelling with a Christmas caroling group in Centerville when he exposed himself to a woman in the group while they were driving to deliver Christmas cookies to members of a local church. He pleaded guilty to a public indecency charge in that case.

In 2016, Jordan was convicted after he was caught performing a sex act on himself in the cafe area of Dorothy Lane Market on Far Hills Avenue in Oakwood.  He also has a previous conviction in Xenia on the same charge, according to court records.