1. Berger re-elected
Much of the year focused on the direction of Lima’s future as longtime Lima Mayor David Berger and Allen County Republican Party chairman Keith Cheney dueled through the electoral process to become the city’s leader for the next four years.
Lima’s mayoral election was the No. 1 story of 2017, as decided by newsroom staff at The Lima News.
Berger argued the city had its best economy in 40 years, with large-scale projects such as the downtown Rhodes State campus, a $42 million sewer project and a grade separation near Lima Memorial Health System as reasons he deserved another four years in office, to see those projects through.
Cheney countered with concerns about safety, blighted housing and what he classified as a business-unfriendly climate.
2. Opioid impact
Opioids continued to cast a deathly pall over the region, as the area saw instance after instance of opioid and heroin overdoses, some leading to death. Mixtures of heroin, fentanyl and Carfentanil made these illegal drugs even more dangerous.
There were 28 unintentional drug overdose deaths in Allen County through Friday of 2017, down slightly from the 31 in 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Health. In the nine-county region, the death tally was 99, down from 2016’s 107. Still, it’s well above its average of 43.6 from 2007 through 2014, when the numbers started rising.
The region is in the midst of trying different things to address the problem. Many area law enforcement personnel now carry a nasal spray to revive victims of an opioid overdose. Mercy Health-St. Rita’s, Coleman Professional Services and the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties united to create an opioid withdrawal management program. There’s even an increased need for foster care due to the opioid crisis.
3. Three sheriffs
Allen County officially had three sheriffs in 2017 after an unusual series of events.
Sheriff Sam Crish was unopposed and re-elected in November 2016 despite a pending FBI investigation that included a raid on his downtown Lima office on Sept. 7, 2016. Crish previously acknowledged he had a gambling addiction and received treatment. On Jan. 10, Crish turned in his resignation, effective Jan. 31.
That opened the door for experienced Chief Deputy Jimmy Everett to take the role of interim sheriff on Feb. 1. Less than a week later, the 62-year-old Everett died unexpectedly of natural causes on Feb. 7.
On Feb. 8, the commissioners appointed 20-year employee Matt Treglia, 45, as the interim sheriff. Later that month, the Republican Party selected Treglia to fill out half of the term, with a special election needed in 2018 for the remaining two years of the term.
4. Celina tornado
An EF-2 tornado ripped through Celina on Sunday, Nov. 5, intensifying as it went along Market Street. At least eight people were injured, but there were no fatalities.
The storm ripped roofs off businesses and uprooted trees. Several buildings were damaged or destroyed, including C-Town Wings and Dollar General.
The worst damage came at Crown Equipment Corporation, which began working to restore the plant after the storm shut it down.
5. Home explosion
Jim Mauk flipped on his master bedroom light switch Oct. 23, starting an accidental home explosion involving the exterior propane system at his Slabtown Road home in Bath Township. Firefighters dug through the rubble for an hour to find Jim and Fran Mauk, who were in critical and serious conditions, respectively, following the incident.
The couple made a remarkable recovery from the incident. Fran was released from the hospital Nov. 15, with Jim leaving Dec. 1 to stay at their daughter's home.
6. Sex trafficking case
Seven people were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a regional human trafficking ring. According to court documents, the group used a website to promote escorts and then took two underage girls across state lines to have sex.
Lorenzo Young, 31, of Lima, received a life sentence for his role. Aundre D. Davis, 35, of Lima, got a 30-year prison sentence. Randy Thompson, 36, received a 24-year sentence, while Megan Hitt, 29, of Lima, received more than 17 years in a federal prison.
Shemeric Cook, 30, received a 12-year prison sentence. Precious Russell, 20, got a nine-year prison sentence. Jacqueline Young, 54, faced a four-year prison sentence for obstructing the investigation.
7. Ex-band director
Former Allen East band director Dennis Dellifield, who spent 44 years with the district, faces numerous charges on his alleged attempted use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The 68-year-old’s trial, which will be decided by a judge instead of a jury, is scheduled for Jan. 2, and he could face up to 22 years in prison.
According to documents, Dellifield requested a photo of a boy to fit him for a condom. He allegedly told officers he visited websites for research for a book he was writing on teenage leadership, investigating the correlations of teenage sex.
8. Ross McWay murder case
A jury found him guilty in August, and a judge immediately sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
McWay previously killed a man in 2001 and served 13 years in prison for that crime before his release.
9. Child’s death
Christopher Peters will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole after his October sentencing in the November 2016 death of 15-month-old Hayden Ridinger. Coroners said the young boy suffered blunt force trauma.
The boy’s mother, Valarie Dean, pleaded guilty in December to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. She faces up to five years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 24.
10. SWAT shooting death
Keith Burkholder, 57, of 218 W. Michigan Ave., Lima, was shot and killed in August during a raid by the Allen County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team and West Central Ohio Crime Task Force. Officials said Burkholder confronted the SWAT team with a firearm. They said they recovered suspected drugs, money and firearms at the home.
An Allen County grand jury cleared the two officers in the case, Deputy Barry Friemoth and Deputy Josh Bayer, who’d joined the SWAT team in March, saying they followed appropriate procedures.