This is Part 6 of a six-part series looking back at just a few of the key stories in the pages of the News Journal throughout 2022.
Serious crash on US 68
UNION TWP. (Nov. 3) — Two people died in the head-on crash on US 68 Wednesday afternoon.
The Wilmington Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating the two-vehicle crash that occurred at approximately 4:14 p.m. on US 68 south of Center Road and north of Orchard Road.
A 2000 Chevrolet Blazer operated by Eric Ford, 32, of Sabina, was traveling south on US 68.
A 2017 Freightliner semi-truck, operated by Dustin Morrison, 29, of Dayton, was traveling north on US 68, according to a news release from the OSHP.
Ford’s SUV traveled left of center and struck the front of the semi-tractor. Both vehicles traveled off of the east side of US 68.
After traveling off the roadway, the semi struck a utility pole and jackknifed.
Ford and his passenger, Robert Graves, 51, of Sabina, were both pronounced deceased at the scene.
WCS renewal, BLS tax issue both defeated
WILMINGTON (Nov. 9) — Wilmington school district voters rejected the 1-percent tax renewal for the third time, 3,413-3,054, while in Blanchester the schools’ income tax also failed, 1,201-1,078 in unofficial Tuesday night totals from the general election.
Blan’s village earnings tax referendum was failing by a 4-vote margin, 612-608.
In Clinton County, all three Republican incumbents ran unopposed: Commissioner Mike McCarty (11,508 votes), Auditor Terry Habermehl (11,418), and Treasurer Kyle Rudduck (11,444).
Turnout was 51.2 percent of registered voters.
Locals prepare for HoliDazzle
WILMINGTON (Nov. 16) — The HomeTown HoliDazzle, presented by Main Street Wilmington, returns on Saturday with plenty of festive activities for all ages. But before the festivities begin, local volunteers will make sure the downtown area is properly ready.
Annen Vance and about 30 participants will start their community clean-up at 8 a.m. by signing in at the municipal building parking lot (69 N. South St.). The clean-up process will start at 8:30 a.m. There the volunteers will be broken up into groups and each group will tackle one of five different zones.
The HoliDazzle events will begin at noon with Santa Shark Christmas coloring at 100 W. Main St. Starting at 3 p.m., food vendors will open at the mural parking lot next to the General Denver, the Santa Express train ride will begin on Mulberry Street, Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive at the Peoples Bank, and kids will be able to make ornaments and get a picture with the Grinch and his friends.
At 4 p.m., the Wilmington High School Chorale and Wilmingtones will perform at the Clinton County Courthouse. At 5 p.m., music continues at the Murphy Theatre with the Community Band concert. Roving carolers will begin making the rounds at 5:30 p.m.
The main event starts at 7 p.m. when the HomeTown HoliDazzle Illuminated Parade begins its route at the Clinton County Fairgrounds and will end around Lincoln Street.
WCS addresses controversial club
WILMINGTON (Nov. 25) — A notice circulating on Facebook about the “After School Satan Club” indicates it will hold seven events, once a month, starting on Nov. 28 and ending on May 15 at Roy E. Holmes Elementary School.
In a release, Wilmington City Schools Superintendent Jim Brady indicates this is not a school-sponsored activity and does not endorse it — along with “any other religious groups offering after-school activities on our campuses” — something the club also indicates on an apparent letter it released.
“Recently a local resident and taxpayer of Wilmington City Schools completed and submitted the required application for the Satanic Temple through the facility use agreement process, and provided the necessary documentation, and were approved,” said Brady in the release. “The district does not and is not legally allowed to discriminate against any groups who wish to use our facilities, including religiously-affiliated groups. The District has approved these types of groups in the past, one example being the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism program. The Good News Club has met after school at Holmes Elementary School for years.”
According to Brady’s release, the After School Satan Club intends to meet at public schools where the Good News Club also operates.
Man sentenced for vehicular homicide
WILMINGTON (Nov. 30) — A Blanchester man has been sentenced to prison time for his role in a fatal car accident.
On Monday, Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John “Tim” Rudduck sentenced Thomas Watkins to no less than six years and no more than nine years in prison. Watkins, 53, of Blanchester, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated vehicular homicide in October.
The charge stems from an accident that occurred in July that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Douglas Ross III, also of Blanchester.
According to the accident report from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Watkins was driving a 2001 Dodge Durango northeast on Shawnee Trace Road in Blanchester/Marion Township with Ross in the passenger seat. Watkins drove off the roadway to the left, struck a ditch, and overturned into a soybean field.
Ross was ejected from the vehicle and he was transported to UC Medical Center in Cincinnati via CareFlight. Ross died of his injuries three days later.
The report describes Watkins as having “glassy bloodshot eyes and appeared to be impaired” and “Watkins had a rigid body posture and was very fidgety.”
Watkins admitted to using meth earlier in the day, according to the report. He initially said someone else was driving but later said he was the operator.
Murder suspect gets new trial dates
WILMINGTON (Dec. 2) — On Thursday, Clinton County Common Pleas Court Judge John “Tim” Rudduck set a new five-day murder trial for Ravae Cook to begin Feb. 27. The previous trial — scheduled for eight days — was to commence on Nov. 14, but was continued via a request by Cook’s attorneys on Oct. 26.
Cook, 24, currently incarcerated at the Clinton County Jail, was indicted on 11 charges in Clinton County Common Pleas Court. These include three counts of alleged murder, one count of alleged aggravated murder, and one count of alleged aggravated robbery.
Cook is one of two suspects involved in a shooting in Clinton County that left one dead and another wounded. The incident was described by law enforcement as “a ruse for a robbery” which resulted in a gun battle.
The Feb. 19 incident in the Midland (Westboro) area “involved an alleged purchase of a vehicle from Facebook Marketplace that was likely nothing more than a ruse for a robbery,” Clinton County Sheriff Ralph Fizer Jr. stated in a news release. “Based on evidence gathered at the scene, it is believed that the transaction involved a substantial amount of drugs in exchange for the vehicle as well as the likelihood that individuals on both sides of the incident were engaged in a gun battle.”
Upon arrival, deputies located two shooting victims — CJ Jones, 18, of Chillicothe, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and his 17-year-old brother, who was treated for a leg wound by Blanchester EMS before being flown to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.
The second suspect, 21-year-old Willie Stuckey of Cincinnati, faces a second-degree murder charge.
Two teenagers killed in SR 73 crash
CLINTON COUNTY (Dec. 8) — A two-vehicle accident on State Route 73 claimed the lives of two Clinton-Massie High School students Tuesday evening, according to the Wilmington Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP).
The OSHP preliminary investigation showed that at approximately 6:07 p.m., a 2005 Scion Hatchback, driven by Rosalinda Mendoza, 18, of Clarksville, was heading westbound on State Route 73 near Williams Road when she lost control of her vehicle and drove off the right side of the roadway. Her vehicle then reportedly continued back onto the roadway and traveled left of center.
The Scion was struck by a 2022 Honda Passport traveling eastbound.
Mendoza and her passenger — 15-year-old Prezzleigh Goldie — were pronounced dead at the scene, according to OSHP.
The Honda Passport was driven by Alayna Carson, 23, and the front passenger was Natalia Guerrero, 17. They were transported to Green Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Assisting at the crash scene was the Chester Township Fire Department, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and Clinton County Coroner’s Officer
The crash remains under investigation.
Haley announces candidacy for mayor
WILMINGTON (Dec. 14) — Pat Haley, former sheriff and commissioner in Clinton County, has announced he will be running in the May Republican primary election for mayor of the City of Wilmington.
Haley, who is married to Brenda Freeman Haley, served two four-year terms as county commissioner from 2010-18. His law enforcement career began with a stint with the Wilmington Police Department prior to joining the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office. He was elected as sheriff and served two four-year terms from 1980-88.
Current mayor John Stanforth, a Republican, is serving his second term in the position of mayor. His term expires Dec. 31, 2023.
“My professional qualifications are well suited to execute the duties of this office. I understand the need for sound fiscal policies, strong law enforcement, personnel management, sensible taxation, traffic management, and the need for transparency in government. None can be taken lightly, and must be given the day-to-day attention they require,” Haley told the News Journal.
Dangerous weather causes havoc
CLINTON COUNTY (Dec. 27) — The weather outside was frightful but emergency personnel couldn’t take a break from helping locals over the holiday weekend.
Ohio experienced subzero temperatures and even colder wind chills. This resulted in roads becoming extremely dangerous to drive on.
Sgt. Donald Rack of the Ohio State Highway Patrol told the News Journal the Patrol responded to over 170 calls. Thirty-three were reported accidents, while 144 were officers responding to disabled vehicles or vehicles that drifted off the road.
One accident emergency services responded to was a multi-vehicle accident over the Clinton/Warren County line near I-71 North for a “multi-vehicle accident.”
Rack also advised there were no fatalities or serious injuries.
“This was about as normal as we expected especially with the weather,” he said. “Most of the accidents were due to sliding off the road and the extreme cold. A lot got stuck in the roads due to the snow drifts.”
Stanforth seeks reelection as mayor
WILMINGTON (Dec. 30) — Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth has taken out a petition to run again for mayor and, so far, will face former sheriff and county commissioner Pat Haley in the Republican primary on May 2, 2023.
Stanforth told the News Journal he’s proud of what has been accomplished in the past two terms and is excited about what’s to come.
“I’ve got an outstanding staff and we’ve got more to do,” said Stanforth. “They’ve done a great job.”
Stanforth told the News Journal that some of the accomplishments he’s most proud of include selling water to Fayette County for the upcoming Honda plant, the Rombach Avenue project, and the downtown safety project.
He also cited both the city fire and police departments reaching their staffing levels, and he commended the work of the police and the courts.
He said he hopes to continue the work the code enforcement has done and help break ground on a new sewage plant.