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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. 

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"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.  

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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." 

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Dayton flight to Houston successful; could lead to two flights

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 8:16 AM

Officials at Dayton International Airport said they in the process of renovations and improvements that will help enhance the airport's visitor experience. It's part of a five-year plan.

The success of the newly added United Airlines route from the Dayton International Airport to Houston airport is expected to result in a larger aircraft next month.

The 2.5-hour, nonstop flight was offered on June 8 at the Dayton International Airport for the first time since 2011. It was one of eight airports to receive the nonstop flight recently, including the Akron/Canton airport.

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“We already know that the flight is successful because the first flight had over 70 percent load factor, which is very good for a first flight,” said Terrence Slaybaugh, director of aviation for Dayton and the airport.

Slaybaugh and United Airlines did not provide specific ticket sales for the flight, but Slaybaugh said United Airlines has an automated system that increases the size of aircraft if they see the sales support it, and the company has already scheduled a larger aircraft for July. That plane could double the seats available from roughly 50 to 100.

United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin confirmed that there is a larger aircraft scheduled for July and October because demand is expected to be high during those months.

The flight is currently departing and arriving to the airport once a day, but Slaybaugh expects that to change.

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“We expect it to go to two flights pretty quickly,” he said. “They’ll do it if they think it would work.”

He said since the flight leaves in the morning and arrives at night, a flight in the middle of the day would serve the airport best, and it’s his job to keep Dayton in the running for another flight since the other seven airports will also want a second flight.

“We will continue to review performance and determine opportunities for growth,” Guerin said.

Dayton Airport served a nonstop flight to Houston until 2011 via Continental Airlines before the company merged with United Airlines.

“We’ve been asking for (the flight) for five years,” Slaybaugh said. “The reason we didn’t get it sooner is that all the carriers have a shortage of aircrafts.”

One of the keys to the flight’s success is the connection it gives Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. Slaybaugh said Houston also serves as a gateway in connecting the rich aerospace activity due to Wright Patterson and manufacturing in southwest Ohio to that of the west coast.

“Customers are now able to make convenient connections to key destinations in the central and western United States via Houston,” Guerin said. “Additionally, our Houston hub is United’s gateway to Latin America and these new nonstop flights will connect to key business and leisure destinations such as Mexico City, Cancun, Los Cabos, Leon, and Puerto Vallarta.”

The nonstop Houston flight leaves Dayton at 7:08 a.m. and arrives in Houston at 8:46 a.m. The return flight leaves Houston at 7:53 p.m., returning to Dayton Airport at 11:29 p.m., according to Dayton airport’s website.

It’s been a year of changes for the Dayton International Airport with fluctuating passenger traffic and the loss of service from Southwest Airlines in June 2017, which negatively affected Dayton’s traffic numbers and average fare prices.

The Dayton airport now offers a total 17 nonstop destinations served by United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Allegiant Air.

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Auntie Anne’s offering fans chance to choose next pretzel flavor: Here’s how

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 8:15 AM


            (Photo by Philipp Guelland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Philipp Guelland/Getty Images)

Soft pretzel fans can start voting for the next Auntie Anne’s pretzel flavor today.

The company is once again holding its Pretzel Nation Creation contest, where customers can vote online for a new flavor. This year’s contest offers sweet options in celebration of Auntie Anne’s 30th birthday.

Narrowed down from more than 650 suggestions, customer can vote for 10 different flavors on www.pretzelnationcreation.com through June 25. The winner will be announced on June 26 and available in stores for a limited time this fall.

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“We can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 30th birthday than with a new flavor selected by pretzel lovers nationwide,” said Marcel Nahm, Auntie Anne’s vice president of marketing.

The options include:

1. Birthday Cake

2. Caramel Apple Crème Brûlée

3. Chocolate Coconut

4. Chocolate Covered Cherry

5. Cookies & Cream

6. Cotton Candy

7. Lemonade Cake

8. Pineapple Upside Down Cake

9. Red Velvet Cheesecake

10. Tiramisu

Last year, customers cast more than 1.3 million votes in the first Pretzel Nation Creation resulting in the Sriracha pretzel.

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Auntie Anne’s has more than 1,800 locations in 48 states and more than 25 countries, mostly in malls and outlet centers, but also in universities, airports, Walmarts, travel plazas, military bases, and food trucks. The closest Auntie Anne’s is at the Dayton Mall and there are 11 others in the Dayton and Cincinnati region.

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Local police dog struck, killed by car: ‘Play ball in heaven, my buddy’

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 8:08 AM

BATAVIA POLICE DEPARTMENT
BATAVIA POLICE DEPARTMENT

An off-duty K-9 officer in Batavia died after being struck by a vehicle on Monday.

A Batavia Police Department K-9 unit dog, Officer Kraft, was accidentally struck and killed by a car. Kraft was Batavia’s first police dog, according to the department.

“Kraft, you will be missed and your service to Batavia Police Department was greatly appreciated. Go and play ball in heaven, my buddy,” according to a statement posted by Batavia Police Chief Michael Gardner on Facebook. 

The police department will post more information about a memorial when details are finalized. 

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Trump orders new Space Force: ‘We must have dominance in space’

Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 4:10 PM

President Donald Trump holds up an executive order that he signed during a meeting of the National Space Council at the East Room of the White House June 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed an executive order to establish the Space Force, an independent and co-equal military branch, as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
President Donald Trump holds up an executive order that he signed during a meeting of the National Space Council at the East Room of the White House June 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed an executive order to establish the Space Force, an independent and co-equal military branch, as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump announced the formation of the Space Force, a new branch of the military, during a meeting Monday of his National Space Council at the White House.

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Trump said getting ahead in space is integral to the nation’s national security.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said during a speech at the meeting. 

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate, but equal. It is going to be something. So important,” he said.

Trump has previously mentioned his intention to create a Space Force. 

The president also signed an initiative called “Space Policy Directive -3, National Space Traffic Management Policy.” Among other issues, the document addresses the unfolding crisis and growing danger of space junk circling the planet.

National Space Council executive secretary Scott Pace said the policy addresses “the challenges of a congested space environment,” CNN reported.

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“If we’re going to expand the economy in space, we need to make sure it’s done in a sustainable way,” Pace said.

The policy will also help private space interests in “more rapid and more accurate information on where they can launch” as well as “flexibility in launch windows,” Pace said, according to CNN

 

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