A refusal to prosecute?

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 5:25 PM

Elizabeth Davis' family
Elizabeth Davis' family

Andrea Davis will likely never see any justice for her mother's brutal murder in 2006. 

"We've just been patiently waiting, having faith in our justice system," said Davis.  

Her mother, Elizabeth, was shot and killed in her Dayton home.  

"We had the believed killer's fingerprints in the house," said retired Dayton homicide Detective Dan Hall. 

Her friend, Felicia Goodson, ran next door for help. 

RELATED: Suspect in cold cases not indicted

"When she beat on the door and pleaded for someone to help her, he got up on the porch and shot and killed her," said Hall. "We had his fingerprints at that scene." 

Detective Hall arrested the suspect, identified as Velis Nelson. Hall went to the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office to try and get a murder charge on Nelson. 

"It was presented and refused by a 3-prosecutor panel," said Hall.   

Every detective in Montgomery County investigating a violent crime has to come to the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office to present their evidence to a panel of three prosecutors. It's that panel that decides if the case moves forward to a Montgomery County Grand Jury for a possible indictment on charges, or a no true bill, which means no charges. 

In the Davis-Goodson murders, at the time of Nelson's arrest, the case didn't go to a grand jury.

"I didn't really realize how much we didn't know," said Andrea Davis.  

RELATED: Vigil held on 10-year mark of double homicide

The case was idle for nine years, until 2015, when a cold case detective took the evidence back to prosecutors and a grand jury heard the case. The grand jury did not issue an indictment. The Davis and Goodson families were devastated.

Velis Nelson was a free man for a second time. One week later, Nelson was arrested in the shooting death of his cousin and later committed suicide in an Indiana jail. 

Davis felt if a grand jury had heard the case much sooner, near the time of Nelson's first arrest, when witnesses memories were more fresh, the outcome would have been different.

"It takes away the trust that I have in our system," Davis said. 

Now retired Dayton Police homicide Sgt. Gary White has worked on more murder cases in 20 years than anyone in Montgomery County. He said the 3-prosecutor panel works some of the time, but too often the panel is a roadblock to justice. 

Retired Dayton Police Sgt. Gary White and Detective Dan Hall

"Are you confident that there are killers, murderers walking around Montgomery County today who should be in prison?" I asked. "Yes, without a doubt," answered White.

In the late 1990's, Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck announced, "No criminal charges can be brought with the evidence available at this time." Heck was referring to the suffocation deaths of four children, all members of the Moreland family. 

Sgt. White and Det. Hall both said there was strong evidence in the case, including a partial confession from one of the older juvenile children in the family. They said that one person had access and was present at all four scenes.

"In my opinion, and in a lot of peoples' opinions, there was enough to take to a grand jury," said White. "The case was denied at a prosecutor panel." 

The four child deaths remain unsolved today. 

The unsolved murder of one of their own, haunts them too. In November, 1999, Dayton Police Officer Kevin Brame was shot and killed outside his estranged wife's home after returning their children to her house. 

Detective Hall said he is disappointed that no one has ever been charged in Brame's death. 

"I've struggled and fought with the prosecutors office to let a grand jury hear their testimony and was confident we had enough for an indictment. It needed to be tried in Montgomery County," said Hall. 

"I spent three years of my life working on that case, that case alone," said Hall. I asked Hall if he felt confident about who did this, he answered, "Yes, I know who the contractor is." 

Hall went on to say the longer cases like these languish, witnesses die, get killed in other crimes, or get frustrated when nothing has been done.

Hall added, "As a case proceeds through the court, it can get better when citizens see someone is in jail and they are more willing to help out. When they don't see that, they aren't going to help, they get scared." Hall also said suspects get more confident they may have gotten away with something.

I sat down with the Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck and Leon Daidone, Heck's lead prosecutor in the Violent Crimes Division.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck said there are respectful disagreements between his office and detectives, but they will always work to find common ground. He said he was surprised to hear criticism from the former detectives about trouble getting cases past his prosecutor panel and in front of a grand jury. 

"Give me the case. Tell me a case that we've had here in the last week, the week before," Heck said. 

In December 2016, Gregory Moses of Trotwood was shot and killed at a home on Haney Road in Harrison Township. 

Soon after, detectives arrested Deandre Dixon, who had been out of prison three years for shooting another man that survived. The new homicide case was presented to a 3-prosecutor panel but charges were refused and Dixon was released from jail. 

According to a statement emailed to me from Heck's office on February 23, 2017, Prosecutor Lynda Dodd stated "This was a homicide that occurred on December 3, 2016. The reporter's information you have is incorrect. Just two days after the crime, on December 5, 2016, a three prosecutor panel met with investigators and provided them with an extensive, detailed list of additional investigation that needs to be completed before a decision can be made. This case remains a pending and active investigation."

Shortly after this newsroom received the above email statement, Dixon was arrested again and charged with the murder of Gregory Moses.

I asked Heck for his reaction to Sgt. White and Det. Hall's statement that violent criminals are being sent back in to the community because of 3-prosecutor panel not approving charges. 

Heck said, "I've not seen that. We and my prosecutors take this job very seriously and they work with these officers everyday. We are always willing to sit down and talk to them to see if there is a better way of doing it." However, Heck said detectives cannot bypass the panel.

"The purpose of the prosecutor is not to just convict someone," Heck said. "The purpose is to do justice and make sure we have the evidence so we can charge that person with the highest degree the evidence supports and that we have the right person charged." 

Sgt. White said the frustration over 3-prosecutor panel refusals got so bad in 2006, he received approval from his Chief at the time to conduct a survey of all 26 police agencies in Montgomery County. White said 22 responded they too were dissatisfied and had similar stalled cases. White said 15 police chiefs in Montgomery County agreed to take part in a secret meeting at Dayton's Police Academy in 2006 to discuss the issue.

White said Heck was confronted by some of the Chief's and changes did take place, but for only about one year.

I asked Heck if he recalled being contacted by Chiefs in 2006 and he said he did not recall. 

Andrea Davis still questions why evidence in murder cases can't go straight to a jury jury like in other Ohio counties.

"There should be nothing in between a crime being committed and the grand jury," said Davis. "Let them do their job." 

California father continues Christmas tradition to honor late daughter

Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 3:13 AM

Christmas decorations.
Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group
Christmas decorations.(Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group)

For 19 years, a California man has decorated his home for Christmas and has invited community members to visit. The holiday display is a tribute to a daughter he lost in a plane crash.

>> Read more trending news

Bob Taylor oldest daughter died in the plane crash.

HOLIDAY BLISS

HOLIDAY BLISS For 19 years, one Vallejo father has opened his family's home to the community in hopes of spreading some holiday cheer, but the tradition came out of tragedy.https://wp.me/p5hgGs-2T95

Posted by KRON 4 News on Sunday, December 17, 2017

“She loved Christmas,” Taylor told KRON. ” I mean, that was her favorite time of the year and she loved to decorate.”

Taylor said his two other daughters got the idea to decorate the home in their sister’s honor. What began as a small tribute became something bigger.

The family’s Christmas display is extensive and takes more than three months to perfect, KRON reported. 

“I just tell everybody that I want it to be bright enough that she can see it from heaven,” Taylor told KRON.

President Trump declares today ‘Wright Brothers Day’

Published: Sunday, December 17, 2017 @ 2:20 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 17, 2017 @ 2:20 PM

Dayton held a massive, two-day extravaganza to mark the Wright brothers' return from a European exhibition on June 17-18, 1909.

It may not have the cachet of Christmas, but this Sunday is also a holiday.

It marks the 114th anniversary of the first airplane flight that Dayton brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made along a windswept beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In honor of the twelve second flight that ushered in the age of aviation, December 17 has been officially designated “Wright Brothers Day” for more than 50 years.

RELATED: Wright brothers anniversary marked

President Donald Trump issued an official proclamation on Friday to mark this year’s holiday by honoring “the two American pioneers from Dayton, Ohio, who first achieved powered flight, one of the most remarkable triumphs of the 20th century.”

“More than a century after conquering flight, the Wright brothers continue to motivate and inspire Americans, who never tire of exploration and innovation,” it said. “This great American spirit can be found in the design of every new supersonic jet and next-generation unmanned aircraft. Their revolutionary legacy lives on in each airplane take-off and spacecraft launch. On Wright Brothers Day, we celebrate their extraordinary contribution to the strength and success of our Nation.”

- Story by Sabrina Eaton, Advance Ohio Media

Aggressive dog mauls poodle to death in Dayton

Published: Sunday, December 17, 2017 @ 10:27 AM
Updated: Sunday, December 17, 2017 @ 8:10 PM

Beloved poodle killed by neighbor's aggressive dog

Within 12 hours, a 73-year-old Dayton woman lost her daughter to illness, and then her best friend, 9-year-old poodle Rosie, to an attack by an aggressive dog.

Joyce Ford let out her three dogs, Rosie, Louis and Missy, around 6:45 a.m. Saturday into the fenced-in backyard of her home in the 200 block of Smith Road in Dayton.

Shortly after, she and her son, Shawn Montague, said they heard a lot of barking outside.

“We looked out the window and we saw a great pit pull that was trying to break up under neath the fence. The dog actually got up underneath the fence, grabbed the dog and ripped the dog to pieces,” Montague said. “It was a terrible thing to see.”

Montague and his mother tried to save Rosie, but to no avail. He grabbed the dog’s tail and flung it, but it wouldn’t dislodge.

“My mom got a screwdriver and tried to stab the dog in the back and the screwdriver broke,” he said. “The other dogs were trying to attack the pit bull so I tried to grab them up so they wouldn’t get attacked, too.”

When he saw the dogs insides spilled out, he turned to his mother and told her to go inside, that her dog is gone.

Witnesses helped to get the dog secured and chained to a pole.

This is a difficult time for his mother, Montague said.

“Right now, she’s making arrangements to bury my sister and on top of that she loses her best friend ... and then, the way it happened. I didn’t want to her to witness it but when she saw it, it was devastating,” he said.

When Dayton police officers arrived, they found the pit bull chained to a fence post with “blood on the pit bull’s mouth, jawline area and on the chest area, where there was a white patch of fur,” according to an incident report. It also stated the dog barked at a small child who came outside a nearby residence and “began to aggressively bark towards the child and tried to break loose from the chain.”

According to a Dayton police report, a 27-year-old woman at the house where the pit bull lives said the dog belongs to her ex-boyfriend but that she lets the dog stay at her home. 

That dog and the deceased poodle were taken by police to the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center.

Director Mark Kumpf said the pit bull is being held at ARC pending the Dayton police investigation and location of its owner.

No one has been cited in the incident.

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com.

Power fully restored at Atlanta airport, city says

Published: Sunday, December 17, 2017 @ 3:05 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 17, 2017 @ 7:50 PM

Dayton travelers affected by power outage at Atlanta's airpoprt

UPDATE @ 12 a.m.:

Atlanta city officials said power has been fully restored at the airport.

UPDATE @ 11:42 p.m.:

Power has been restored to some of the Atlanta airport, including concourses A, B, F and T, according to city officials.

UPDATE @ 10:51 p.m.:

Delta has announced plans to cancel approximately 300 flights Monday due to Sunday’s power outage at the Atlanta airport, the company said in a statement.

The airline is urging customers to check Delta.com or the Fly Delta mobile app for the status of their flight.

The company said the cancellations are designed, in part, to allow the operation to best reset Monday.

Photos: Power outage paralyzes Atlanta airport

UPDATE @ 7:50 p.m.

About six hours after a power failure began at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, officials said a fire likely caused the outage.

Mayor Kasim Reed has tweeted: Power at Concourse F is back on. If you are in another concourse, please remain there. We have an additional update on when full power will be restored from.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

But while a fire caused extensive damage to an underground electrical facility, the cause is still not confirmed, officials with Georgia Power told The AJC.

UPDATE @ 6:53 p.m.

Georgia Power said it expects to have electricity restored by midnight to the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

It’s not clear how flyers will be able to get to their destinations on Monday.

UPDATE @ 6:25 p.m.

Five hours after a power outage began at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the scene was the same: a swirling mass of people in an aimless pattern trying to get cellphone signals in a darkening airport.

All flights were canceled and baggage was being held in a secure area for future pickup at the airport, Rick Crotts, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor who was stuck on a plane for hours, said.

Photos: Power outage paralyzes Atlanta airport

Delta Air Lines, which has its headquarters at the airport, said more than 450 flights were canceled, which affected flyers in Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus.

Atlanta Airport Outage

Canceled flights at the Dayton International Airport included Delta Air Lines Flight 2337, supposed to leave at 6:33 p.m. and Delta Flight 1161, scheduled to depart at 2:18 p.m. for Atlanta, as well as Delta Flight 2337 from Atlanta to Dayton, scheduled to arrive at 5:53 p.m. according to the airport’s Flight Tracker.

At the John Glenn Columbus International Airport, three flights headed to Atlanta were canceled, including Delta Flights 758 and Southwest Flight 2363, both leaving at 5:15 p.m.; and Delta Flight 1646 that was scheduled to leave at 7:25 p.m. Delta Flight 1645 from Atlanta, scheduled to arrive in Columbus at 8:36 p.m., was canceled.

Three Delta flights to or from Atlanta were canceled at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Southwest Airlines reported about 70 Atlanta departures were canceled, the Associated Press reported.

In Georgia, five hours after the airport power outage began, Atlanta police arrived to help.

“We are aware of the situation and are assisting with crowd control and helping to manage traffic around the airport,” police spokeswoman Officer Lisa Bender told the AJC.

In Atlanta, passengers sat stranded in parked planes on the tarmac as officials offered few updates and no insight into the cause of the outage.

UPDATE @ 4:15 p.m.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport announced the FAA has ordered all flights grounded that were headed to Atlanta. Some flights are being diverted.

ATL is directing passengers to follow their airlines’ social media channels for flight information.

EARLIER

Delta flights at the Dayton International Airport to and from Atlanta are delayed because of a power outage at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The airport is holding all inbound flights until at least 4 p.m. and departure delays are averaging nearly an hour and a half, according to FlightAware.

>> President Trump declares today ‘Wright Brothers Day’

Two Dayton flights to Atlanta are delayed and one inbound flight from Atlanta is delayed. Click here to track flights. 

There also are three flights to Atlanta that are delayed at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

In Columbus, four arrivals from Atlanta are delayed. Also, three departures to Atlanta are delayed and one is canceled.

Flyers should check the official FAA website for air traffic control updates.

Rick Crotts, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor aboard a flight that had arrived at the airport around the time of the power failure, is among passengers still waiting aboard their flights to reach a gate. 

Crotts' flight has been waiting for more than an hour, and the pilot reported that several planes are positioned before them for passengers to disembark. 

Crotts said his Delta Air Lines pilot told passengers a construction crew cut a power line, causing the outage, but an airport spokesman, Andy Gobeil, said officials still weren’t sure. 

>> SpaceX capsule back at space station with pre-Christmas haul

“We have not determined what caused it,” Gobeil said. Atlanta fire officials and others are “trying to determine how long it will take to get everything up and running.” 

Georgia Power officials confirmed they are aware of the problem, but didn’t have additional information. 

Flyers have reported chaotic conditions at the airport since the power failure.

Inside the airport at Concourse D, Olivia Dorfman told The AJC by phone she was about to board a flight home to Indiana when the power went out. 

“Maybe 10 minutes later a buzzer went off in the background — that has been going on for over an hour and every so often bright lights flash in the ceiling,” Dorfman said. 

Near the D9A gate, she said smoke filled the area and at different times airport workers tried to herd passengers toward the smoky area and away from it. 

“This has been very bizarre,” she said. “No one seems to know what they’re doing.”

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com.