MercyPets aims to help alleviate child hunger

Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 @ 10:26 AM

Washington Post photo by Marvin Joseph.
HANDOUT/Marvin Joseph
Washington Post photo by Marvin Joseph.(HANDOUT/Marvin Joseph)

A new organization launched by Rev. Satish Joseph from the Immaculate Conception Church aims to assist in child hunger, by taking a portion of the money you would spend on your pet and putting that same amount toward fighting child hunger.

“I decided to make a commitment, because there was no limit to to what I would spend on Tutu,” Joseph said, referring to the dog he received as a Christmas gift in 2010.

LOCAL NEWS: Kettering murder case: 3 to testify about Fairmont teen’s killing

Joseph said he worked with the Dayton Foundation to launch MercyPets and in less than a week the organization has raised $20,000 for hungry children.

The mission of the non-profit group is to inspire pet lovers to commit donating a matching percentage of their pet expenses to help fight child hunger.

“If everybody gave one percent of what they spent - one percent - that would add up to $61 million,” Satish said.

For more information on how you can help visit mercypets.org

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Fire destroys barn in Shelby County

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 11:34 PM

A fire destroyed a barn Friday evening near Houston in Shelby County.

The blaze was reported sometime around 4 p.m. in the 2100 block of Patterson Halpin Road.

(Kathy Dapore Greve / Contributed)

Crews from multiple fire departments were called to the scene.

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

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Union residents planting bushes find suspicious device; bomb squad called

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 4:30 PM
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 8:45 PM

Bomb Squad

UPDATE @ 8:45 p.m.

Residents planting bushes came across a suspicious device, which prompted the Dayton Bomb Squad to respond to their home.

The device found in the backyard of a Laurelgrove Drive home was described as a homemade firework buried for possibly a decade, police said.

The device was detonated in the area of Valley View Drive.

FIRST REPORT

The Dayton Bomb Squad is on the scene at a home on Laurelgrove Drive in Union this afternoon.

The incident has been going on since at least 2:45 p.m., according to a witness.

Police seem to be centering their investigation in the backyard of a home in the first block of Laurelgrove.

We’re working to learn more.

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New details: Ousted teacher let student spend night at her home

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 6:41 PM

Trotwood teacher finds job in jeopardy after unapproved field trip

Khalilah Forte, the Trotwood-Madison High School teacher whose contract was non-renewed Thursday night by the school board, had been reprimanded in March for allowing a student to spend the night at her home, according to documents in her personnel file obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

An April 4 letter from district Treasurer Janice Allen says high school Principal David White wouldn’t recommend renewing Forte’s contract for next school year. White based his decision on, “concerns regarding your professionalism. This includes conflicts with peers as well as concerns regarding your relationships with students outside the classroom,” the letter says.

EARLIER: Trotwood board votes not to renew teacher’s contract

The March 7 reprimand letter from White addresses a female student spending the night at Forte’s home. It suggests the issue has come up before.

“I have spoken to you prior to this incident about students being at your home when school is out for the day or on weekends,” White’s letter reads. “This is a violation of district policy.”

Forte signed that reprimand but wrote in at the bottom, “I’m signing this statement and I am not in agreement with the reprimand …”

Also in Forte’s file is a six-page letter marked received April 3, in which Forte describes her efforts to help the struggling 18-year-old female student in question, who she said had been left alone in Trotwood when her mother and siblings moved to Indiana.

RELATED: Trotwood names Olverson interim superintendent 

Forte wrote that she told multiple school officials that she was considering taking the girl in, saying some of them encouraged it and none of them said it would be a violation.

Forte, who has taught business classes at Trotwood-Madison High School the past two years, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. Her personnel file doesn’t include any district discipline for “conflicts with peers” as mentioned in the non-renewal letter.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Forte repeated claims that she was being disciplined for taking a few dozen students on a college visit trip last month that the district didn’t sponsor. The personnel file doesn’t include any mention from the district about the trip.

RELATED: State test results key factor in Trotwood schools’ future

“I’m guilty of loving kids. I’m guilty of wanting education for each one of my kids in the district,” Forte said at the school board meeting. “I’m guilty of feeding kids. I’m guilty of wanting to expose them to a world of possibilities.”

Several students and community members spoke up on Forte’s behalf at the meeting.

School district officials have said they won’t discuss the details of personnel decisions, with school board President Denise Moore repeating that statement Thursday night.

Staff Writer Sean Cudahy also contributed to this report.

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Pike County murders: 8 deaths, 2 years, no answers

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:18 PM
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:18 PM

New family monument at gravesite the only real change in unsolved murder of eight family members

Two years after the eight-person massacre in Pike County, investigators are providing fewer details than ever before in the case, marking the second anniversary without the lengthy, emotional press conference and plea for tips that highlighted the first.

The unsolved murders took place April 22, 2016.

» Pike County murders: ‘There will always be a scar on this town’

» Pike County murder victims: A closer look at the 8 who died

This week the three sites where members of the Rhoden and Gilley families were killed appeared unchanged from the early days of the investigation. As if frozen in time, toys, trash, appliances and abandoned vehicles remain spread about the properties and front porches of trailers that are no longer there - having been hauled away and stored as part of the investigation.

A billboard seeking information remains posted 300 feet from the Pike County Sheriff's Office two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County. The crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Those trailers are now housed in a large pole barn built last year by the county for just shy of $100,000.

PHOTOS: Pike County crime scenes unchanged after two years

About 20 miles south — past the former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon and across the Scioto River from the state prison in Lucasville — rest five members of the Rhoden family. The grass on their plots has grown past the straw first placed over the newly dug earth. New grave stones share their names and poem on the back of the family’s headstone captures a community’s grief.

“You never said, ‘I’m leaving,’ you never said goodbye, you were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why.”

Dana Rhoden, her daughter Hanna and son Chris Rhoden, Jr. were killed in their mobile home at this location on Union Hill Rd. in 2016. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Busy summer, quiet winter

Finding the killers remains the top priority of Attorney General Mike DeWine, a candidate for Ohio governor. This week, DeWine said he remains hopeful the case will be solved. If unsolved by the general Election Day, the case will become a daunting challenge for one of the two men seeking to become his successor.

One year ago, the investigation appeared active. DeWine and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader called reporters to DeWine’s high rise Columbus office in April 2017 for a long interview about the investigation. For a time, it seemed investigators were inching closer to solving the case. 

In May, authorities arrested James Manley, the brother of victim Dana Manley Rhoden, on charges of evidence tampering and vandalism after allegedly destroying a GPS tracker placed on his car during the investigation. 

Then, in June, “DeWine annouced he was “laser focused” on members of the Wagner family, a family in Kenai, Alaska who formerly lived near the Rhodens in Ohio. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other agencies executed search warrants at their former residence. 

And then, quiet.  

A Pike County judge dismissed the charges against Manley so that evidence could be presented to a grand jury. There have been no announcements since of any grand jury action. Manley’s attorney, James Boulger, and Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk did not respond to requests for comment.

“I have nothing I can say about that,” DeWine said when asked about Manley’s case.

Dana Rhoden, her daughter Hanna and son Chris Rhoden, Jr. were killed in their mobile home at this location on Union Hill Rd. in 2016. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Meanwhile, the Wagners, appeared to still be in Alaska as of December, when, according to Alaska court records, Edward Jacob “Jake” Wagner, 25, pleaded no contest to a speeding ticket issued in Soldotna, about a three hour drive south of Anchorage. Wagner fathered a daughter with Hannah Rhoden, one of the victims, but DeWine has not named him or three other family members — George “Billy” Wagner, his wife, Angela, and their other son, George — as suspects.

» Who are the Wagners? Pike County murders investigators want to know

The Wagners “continue to be saddened by the loss of the Rhodens,” John Kearson Clark Jr., the family’s attorney, told this newspaper this month. “Especially with each passing year, and yet the case is not resolved.” 

Aside from Hannah Rhoden, 19, the dead included her father Christopher Rhoden Sr., 40; his ex-wife, Dana Rhoden, 37; their sons, Christopher Rhoden Jr., 16, and Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden, 20; Frankie’s fiancee, Hannah Gilley, 20; and relatives Kenneth Rhoden, 44, and Gary Rhoden, 38.

“Despite what has been said and alleged, the Wagners were on friendly terms with the Rhodens,” Clark said by email. “Therefore, the Wagners had no reason to wish them harm. The Wagners wish the investigative authorities would expend their efforts in finding and holding the true killer(s) accountable. Only then will the Rhodens’ deaths be vindicated.”

Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

In other media interviews Clark implied that DeWine was targeting the Wagner’s in order to make it appear progress was being made in the case.  Asked this month if DeWine is still “laser focused” on the family, his spokesman said “the AG’s comments from last year stand.”

But DeWine himself, in an interview, declined to say. 

“I’m really not going to talk about who we’re focused on,” DeWine said. “I can just saw we’re moving on the case and we’ve made progress, but I don’t think it would be beneficial to resolving the case to say who we’re focused on and who we’re not focused on.”

DeWine, sheriff still hopeful

Investigators across several agencies have spent an untold number of hours on the case since relatives discovered their slain family members. DeWine, the state’s top law enforcement official, emerged quickly alongside Sheriff Reader as the public faces of the investigation. The pair offered press conferences and interviews in hopes of encouraging someone to come forward with the information that would lead to solving the crimes.

Reader did not agree to a request for an interview this month.

“I have decided that out of respect for the victims, the family, friends, and for the integrity of the ongoing and active criminal investigation, I will not be doing any interviews or taking any questions concerning the multiple homicide that occurred in Pike County, Ohio on April 22, 2016,” Reader emailed the newspaper. “I remain very confident in the investigative staff.”

DeWine last year told this newspaper he hoped to solve the case before leaving the attorney general’s office.

“It’s a hypothetical, I certainly would hope we would have the case solved by then, but we have professionals that are working on this case,” DeWine said. “We have professionals that will remain with the attorney general’s office and that will remain with BCI. We hope we don’t get to that point. We hope we solve it before then.”

Pike County Sheriff's Office in Waverly. Two years after the murder of 8 Rhoden family members in rural Pike County, the crime remains unsolved. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

AG candidates face major task

Because officials have characterized the case as the largest criminal inquiry in Ohio history, the two candidates to become Ohio’s next attorney general - DeWine leaves office in January - face the decision of whether they would continue to consider solving the Pike County murders as the office’s number one priority.

“Anyone who would predict this nine months before taking office, without seeing the evidence and understanding the posture of the investigation at that time, is a fool, or a poltroon, or both — and not fit for the office of attorney general,” said Dave Yost, the Ohio auditor and Republican candidate for attorney general, in an email.

“Of the publicly available information, the only thing I can say I would have done differently is that I would have released the coroner’s report without litigation,” Yost said, referencing lawsuits that were filed by the news media to obtain the unredacted reports.

Yost’s Democratic opponent, Steve Dettelbach, held his cards even closer.

“I’ve spent two decades as a prosecutor,” Dettelbach, the former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Ohio, said by text message. “I don’t and won’t politicize an important murder investigation.”

Pike County murders: 8 deaths, 2 years, no answers

Taylor: ‘Unconscionable’ case unsolved

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, DeWine’s Republican primary opponent in Ohio’s governor race, criticized the former Greene County prosecutor’s handling of the case, which she called “a terrible tragedy for an entire family and community.”

Taylor said BCI “is failing on many fronts,” citing a Dayton Daily News investigation last month examining the drug testing backlog at the agency’s lab, an issue unrelated to the Pike County deaths. A spokesman for BCI defended DeWine’s leadership at the agency, calling Taylor’s criticisms “another mistruth.”

“While I’m certain that law enforcement officers on the ground are working hard to solve this case, I’m concerned about the leadership coming out of the Attorney General’s office,” Taylor said in an email. “When this horrific crime was committed in Pike County, there was Mike DeWine in front of the cameras acting like real police, but two years in it is unconscionable that justice has yet to be served.”

DeWine campaign spokesman Ryan Stubenrauch said Taylor “should be ashamed.”

“Attempting to use one of the worst mass murders in Ohio’s history as a political attack while the case remains under investigation is horribly disrespectful to the victims, their families and to the law enforcement officers who are working hard to bring those responsible for this heinous crime to justice,” he said.

CONTINUING COVERAGE

In more than a dozen trips to Pike County during the past two years, Dayton Daily News reporters and photographers have followed the murders from the crime scenes, courthouse and Statehouse. The newspaper’s coverage of Ohio’s largest criminal investigation in history is made possible by your subscription.

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