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Indian Hill mansion fire case heading for trial

Published: Sunday, August 20, 2017 @ 2:00 PM

            More than 80 firefighters worked Jan. 10, 2014, to put out the blaze that swallowed a 10,000-square-foot residence in Indian Hill. BRYCE ANSLINGER/WCPO
More than 80 firefighters worked Jan. 10, 2014, to put out the blaze that swallowed a 10,000-square-foot residence in Indian Hill. BRYCE ANSLINGER/WCPO(BRYCE ANSLINGER / WCPO)

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott has set aside up to 20 days for an Oct. 10 jury trial that could unravel some of the remaining mysteries from a 2014 fire that destroyed an Indian Hill mansion and spawned a $60 million lawsuit.

Homeowners Jeffrey and Maria Decker are trying to force Chubb National Insurance Co. to cover damages from the fire of undetermined origin at 9645 Cunningham Road. The damage claims have been revised downward since the lawsuit was filed in 2015.

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The Deckers are now seeking $15.3 million in “contract damages” from their claim, plus $30.5 million in punitive damages. They argue Chubb’s aggressive fire investigation caused humiliation and emotional distress.

Chubb filed a counterclaim to recover more than $700,000 paid to the Deckers as advance payments on the insurance claim, which it later denied, alleging the Deckers made false statements and concealed facts about the fire.

Judge Dlott has filed a 47-page trial preview outlining legal issues and disputed facts that remain in the case. The document also provides a witness list that includes Joel Gemunder, former CEO of Omnicare Inc., who considered buying the Decker’s house several years ago.

Arnold Barnett, former chairman of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, could also be called as a witness. Chubb is trying to keep Barnett from testifying about Chubb’s investigation of a past insurance claim. The Deckers view it as evidence of “bad faith conduct” by Chubb.

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The jury is also expected to see the video deposition of James Stafford, the founder and former owner of Stafford Jewelers. He was found dead on the Deckers’ property in November 2016, five months after he told Chubb’s attorneys that Decker was trying to sell his Indian Hill home before it caught fire.

“It was just too much house for him,” Stafford testified.

According to the deposition, Decker was a Stafford Jewelers customer and partner in a real estate venture with James Stafford. Stafford testified that Decker once confided that he spent $5.5 million to build the home and was trying to sell it for up to $12 million. Chubb had the house appraised at $5 million.

The Deckers are seeking $10.7 million in damages for the dwelling itself and more than $2 million for its contents, including $29,000 for jewelry, $23,000 for furs and $5,700 for fine arts.

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One of the big remaining disputes in the case involves Chubb’s use of cell phone records to support its allegation that Jeffrey Decker “was in the area of his residence, not at his alibi location” just 16 minutes before the fire was discovered by a neighbor.

Decker’s attorney Gary Franke claimed in a December filing that “Chubb employees in Philadelphia” admitted in a deposition that Decker’s “actual location could not be determined.”

The Deckers hired their own expert, who said Chubb’s method of analyzing call records “can only establish that an individual was within a 21.75 mile radius of a cell phone tower, well within the radius-area consistently asserted by Mr. Decker as to his whereabouts.”

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Summer feeding program helps children eat a free meal

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 7:17 PM

Children that struggle to eat during the summer months now have a summer school feeding program that gives them places to go to get food.

The Summer Food Service Program, sponsored by the State of Ohio, is coming to Trotwood starting June 4 to help feed students while school is out for the summer, according to News Center 7's Caroline Reinwald. 

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Employees in the Trotwood-Madison High School kitchen are working through the summer to make plates to feed students throughout the summer months. "We have roughly 30 employees that range from bus drivers within the district, food service personnel within the district, and some of the educational staff within the district," said Jim Putnam, Supervisor of Nutrition Services for Trotwood-Madison Schools. These employees help feed between 600 and 1,000 children a day - at 16 different Trotwood locations.

Children under the age of 18 can go to specified sites for a free meal, which are normally open Monday through Friday and last about 45 minutes. Children are seen more when their family starts running out of food stamps. "We actually do see that quite a bit. The numbers tend to go up towards the end of the month and then once you get towards the beginning of the month it tends to drop off when benefits are available," said Putnam. 


1 in 5 children in the the Miami Valley are unsure where their next meal is coming from - and some even go hungry, especially during the summer months. During the school year, they get food from the cafeteria and the "School Backpack Programs." There are at least 65 summer food service programs across Montgomery County, and more than 1,600 in the state of Ohio. 

For a full list of those specific food sites around the Miami Valley, and more information on how you can get your student involved in these programs throughout the summer months, visit

Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to

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5 things to know about flesh-eating bacteria in Florida waters

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 7:00 PM

Flesh Eating Bacteria Facts Myths and Precautions

The Florida Department of Health has a warning for Florida residents and tourists about a deadly strain of flesh-eating bacteria.

Federal health officials have said Vibrio vulnificus infections have increased each year since 2000.

As scary as that sounds, though, the likelihood of contracting the bacterium is still pretty small.

“You are more likely to die in a car accident on the way to (a) restaurant than from Vibrio,” says University of Florida microbiology professor Paul Gulig.

Here are five things to know about flesh-eating bacteria in Florida:

1. It’s the fish, not the water – Most people who die from the bacteria contracted it from eating raw or under-cooked seafood, especially shellfish, like oysters, rather than from swimming in the Gulf. Swimming in salt water with an open wound increases your chances of getting it, but that shouldn’t keep the vast majority of people from getting in the water.

2. Now is the time to be vigilant – Peak season for Vibrio is during the warmer months, between May and October. The warm weather breeds the bacteria, and people are more likely to be swimming in the water and consuming seafood while on vacation or enjoying the scenery. 

3. It’s extremely rare, and extremely deadly – According to the CDC, in 2014 there were about 90 total infections of Vibrio in the U.S., including 35 deaths. By comparison, the flu kills between 3,300 and 49,000 people every year. That being said, the bacteria is life-threatening. Vibrio kills one in three people who become infected.

4. It’s not really flesh-eating, it just looks that way – The only bacteria that are officially classified as “flesh eating” belong to the streptococcus A family. Vibrio is called “flesh eating” because it invades the blood stream and causes skin lesions that are similar to streptoccus A. 

5. Your risk is pretty low, even if you’re sick – Most people who are truly vulnerable to Vibrio already have a weakened immune system, and suffer from other ailments, like chronic liver disease. There is no evidence of person-to-person transmission. Just to be safe, though, health officials say you should clean any open wounds after you’ve gone swimming in the ocean. 

Florida beach (File photo)

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Storms push out of area to end severe thunderstorm watch for region

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 3:26 AM
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 7:01 PM

A line of strong to severe storms will move through the Miami Valley this afternoon.

>> LISTEN: Cloudy with a chance of Podcast: A podcast for weather fans 

UPDATE @ 7:02 p.m.: A severe thunderstorm watch  continues for Clinton County until 9 p.m.  The watch is dropped for elsewhere in the region as storms have pushed out of the area.


  • Scattered storms -- some strong -- moving out of the area
  • Humidity drops for midweek
  • Calmer weather the rest of the week

>> 5-Day Forecast


THIS EVENING: Storms are moving out of the area near or shortly after dark. Temperatures will fall back to the 70s.

TONIGHT: Showers and storms will exit, with partly cloudy skies and lower humidity filtering into the area. Temperatures will fall back to the upper 50s overnight. 

>> WHIO Live Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

WEDNESDAY: Skies will become mostly sunny with more comfortable conditions and lower humidity. Not as muggy for the afternoon with sunshine and highs in the upper 70s. 

THURSDAY: A great day with it being dry from start to finish. Plenty of sunshine with highs in the low 80s. 

>>County-by-County Weather

FRIDAY: Another dry day with temperatures heating up again in the mid-80s. Expect sunshine and very few clouds. 

SATURDAY: Sun and clouds for the day that’s expected to muggy and very warm. Highs reach in the middle to upper 80s. A passing shower or storm is possible. 

SUNDAY: Muggy and warm with a chance of scattered storms. Highs will be in the middle 80s.

MEMORIAL DAY: Partly cloudy skies expected for the holiday with a chance of hit-or-miss storms. Highs will signal a very warm day, topping out in the middle to upper 80s.

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Florida man at playground uses vulgarities to tell kids where babies come from

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 8:41 AM

Florida Man Arrested For Screaming Vulgarities At Playground

A Florida man was arrested Sunday after he allegedly climbed on a piece of equipment at a playground and began yelling, using a vulgar description to tell children where babies came from, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

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Otis Dawayne Ryan, 30, was taken into custody on a charge of disorderly conduct. The incident took place at Clearwater Beach and was witnessed by a police officer who was in the area, the Times reported.

According to an arrest report, Ryan approached tourists and made inappropriate comments in an effort to get their male partners to confront him, the Times reported.

"I watched (Ryan) walk over to the busy playground area and climb to the top of one of the children’s toys that was being occupied by children between the ages of 4 and 6," an officer wrote in the arrest report. "He then started shouting from the top telling the children that babies come out of women — and used a vulgar term in doing so.”

According to court records, Ryan was adjudicated guilty and was fined $118. He was ordered to stay away from the park and then was released from custody, the Times reported.

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