Three months after the Oregon District mass shooting, News Center 7’s I-Team has uncovered new information about the shooter, Connor Betts, and his violent past.
As our investigation continues, so does the growing debate over the law allowing Betts’ juvenile criminal records to be wiped clean.
Days before the FBI said Betts had obsessions with violent ideologies and mass shootings, News Center 7 talked to people from his past who said Betts’ behavior worried them.
But any paper trail or red flags from his juvenile record were expunged.
Betts was able to buy two guns legally.
He had violent behavioral issues dating back to middle school, but law enforcement didn’t know about that by the time the shooting happened.
That’s because his juvenile court record was wiped clean.
Betts’ friend, Ethan Kollie, is still in jail in connection with the FBI investigation.
Federal agents said Kollie did not know about Betts’ Oregon District plans.
But they claimed that Kollie bought Betts the body armor, a drum magazine and a gun part he used the night of the shooting.
News Center 7’s John Bedell dug deeper into Betts’ past and uncovered new information about the times he reportedly became violent in the months leading up to the hit and rape lists he made in high school.
Chynna Ellenburg started going to school with Betts in seventh grade.
The next year was the first time she said she witnessed him turn violent.
“Eighth grade there were some things that happened that kind of made it very clear that he was not someone that I wanted to align myself with,” she said. “And I kind of stopped talking to him unless I had to.”
Betts and Ellenburg were at a cast party in 2009 for their eighth grade spring musical at a restaurant in Sugarcreek Twp.
After Betts got up from the table, Ellenburg’s stepsister took his seat.
“He comes back and he says, ‘No, you need to move because that’s my spot.’ My sister looked at him and said, ‘No, you know I have something to ask Chynna. You know I’m not moving,’” Ellenburg said. “So he put his hands around her neck and started choking her.”
She said Betts didn’t really say anything during the incident.
“Basically just that she needed to move and that after I got him away from her, he kind of glared at me while we were leaving,” Ellenburg added.
The family never pressed charges against Betts, she said.
Another classmate, Mat Terry, described Betts as “pure evil.”
A few months after the cast party, in August 2009, Terry was at the annual Lions Club festival in Bellbrook.
Terry told New Center 7’s John Bedell that Betts was following him and his group of friends all night.
“One of the people I was with finally asked me, said something, you know, said it was creepy,” Terry said. “So I went up to him and tried to get him to leave us alone, to go away, and that’s when Connor pulled out a razor knife out of his pocket, like a replaceable — all the guys in construction. He held it about 8 to 10 inches away from my throat and just glared at me.”
Terry didn’t report the incident to police, but he said Sugarcreek Twp. detectives interviewed him about the knife incident in the principal’s office at Bellbrook High School just a few weeks later.
It was the day Betts made his hit and rape list at the school.
Terry said the girls he was with the night of the knife incident were on the rape list.
“I actually had to fill out a police report after the hit and rape list came out,” he said. “My name had got brought up into Connor’s violent tendencies and violent past.”
Ellenburg remembers the rape list, too. She said one of her friends was on it.
“I asked her ‘Why do you think he put you there?’” she said. “And he had approached her and said he wanted to go on a date with her and she turned him down.”
Terry said that he was subpoenaed by Greene County Juvenile Court to testify at a trial for Betts in late 2009.
But then he got a follow-up letter from the court saying the trial was off because Betts took a plea deal.
News Center 7 filed public records requests with Sugarcreek Twp. police and Greene County Juvenile Court for any documents tied to Betts.
Both agencies responded to those requests with the section of Ohio law dealing with juvenile records expungement.
That means there was no official paper trail documenting any red flags in Betts’ past when the Oregon District shooting happened.
Now, a bill was proposed in Ohio that would raise the age when a person could have their juvenile records wiped clean.
“I don’t know what they charged him with as a juvenile,” said state Rep. Phil Plummer, former Montgomery County sheriff. “But if you have a kill list and a rape list, that’s certainly not normal behavior.”
Plummer wants juvenile records to be available to law enforcement and courts for a longer period of time.
“Because if you look at the background of a lot of these mass shooters, they have juvenile records,” he said.
The former sheriff is co-sponsoring a bill that wouldn’t allow juvenile records to be expunged until age 28 — up from the current 23.
The only exceptions in Ohio to the current law are convictions for murder, aggravated murder and rape.
None of those convictions can ever be sealed or removed from a juvenile’s record in the Buckeye State.
Currently, people can have juvenile records sealed six months after they’re off probation for a conviction.
Law enforcement and courts can see sealed records, but the public cannot.
When people have their juvenile court records expunged at 23 in Ohio, the records are destroyed. Not even police know about them.
Betts was 24 when he carried out the Oregon District mass shooting.
Dayton police said he was able to legally buy the two guns he had that night, including the one he used in the shooting.
“This fix isn’t just for him,” Plummer said. “It’s for many juveniles who have many felony records who shouldn’t be able to get a gun five years after they become an adult.”
Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi said he’s “strongly opposed” to Plummer’s proposal.
“I interview a lot of children who want to have their records sealed and expunged,” he said. “I’m offended by it. The whole purpose of this community and this society is to help children. And changing the age from 24 to 28, then when someone does it at 29, Phil’s going to ask to raise it to 32, you know. Come on.”
Capizzi argued children should be able to move on with their lives after being punished.
“I don't believe the difference would have changed what happened in the Oregon District,” he said.
But people like Ellenburg, who know about Connor Betts’ violent past firsthand, want something done so this kind of tragedy doesn’t happen again.
“I just want something to happen that changes it,” she said.
News Center 7 had joined a media lawsuit against Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools to force the district to release Betts’ school records.
The district has denied WHIO’s public records requests for those documents.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has sided with News Center 7 and other media outlets in the lawsuit, saying student privacy protections don't apply after the student's death.
But just last month, a judge denied WHIO's bid for Betts' records.
The media outlets involved in the suit can now appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.