LIMA — The region saw its share of disappointment and hope in 2018.
A former top lawman faced federal charges of extortion and soliciting bribes. Three people faced sentences in the death of a 76-year-old woman. A 96-year-old woman lost her life when her home exploded.
Yet the year saw reasons for optimism too. Lima’s tank plant is due for an influx of 400 jobs and part of a special project with the military. The Lima Police Department finally put body cameras out on the street.
Here is The Lima News’ ranking of the top 10 local news stories of 2018, as chosen by reporters and editors of the newspaper.
1. Feds charge Crish
Nearly 21 months after raiding his office, federal prosecutors charged former Allen County Sheriff Sam Crish in June with six counts, including extortion, soliciting bribes and lying the investigators.
“The conduct described in these charges is as egregious as it is audacious,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman when the charges were announced. “Demanding bribes from drug dealers, gamblers and John’s arrested in a prostitution sting reads like something out of a bad movie.”
Crish previously acknowledged he had a gambling addiction.
Since announcing the charges in June, the case moved slowly. The lead prosecutor on the case, Noah Hood, recently moved to the Eastern District of Michigan, putting Gene Crawford in charge of the case. This week, federal Judge James Carr signed a motion continuing the case until at least Feb. 1, with no objections from the defense.
Crish remains free on $50,000 bond. His travel is generally limited to Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, although the court did allow him to visit his mother in California earlier this month before she died.
Investigators said the case completely focused on Crish, with no other sheriff’s office employees under investigation.
Alvin Winston, FBI assistant special agent in charge of the investigation added, “It is a bittersweet day when we charge someone who was sworn to uphold the law. He was one of us.”
2. Nursing home death
Phyllis Campbell, 76, had a history of trying to leave Hilty Home in Pandora. Early in the morning of Jan. 7, she left the place entrusted to care for her, went out a door at the facility and stayed outside for nearly eight hours in temperatures below zero before someone found her death from hypothermia.
Three employees of the nursing home faced criminal charges in the death.
Nursing aides Destini Fenbert, 20, and Rachel Friesel, 37, both of Pandora, received sentences of five years’ probation, 60 days in the county jail and 100 hours of community service after they pleaded guilty to forgery and gross patient neglect.
A jury found Megan Schnipke, 32, a former licensed practical nurse at the facility, guilty of forgery and gross patient neglect. Her sentencing is scheduled for Friday.
3. Lima’s body cameras
All street-level officers for the Lima Police Department began wearing body-worn cameras Nov. 19, answering calls that the technology will clarify interactions between officers and the public.
It took 18 months to select and purchase the $485,000 system, WatchGuard, which includes body-worn cameras that easily sync with each other as officers arrive on scene. That gives the public and law enforcement multiple views of the same issue.
“It’s a great tool for the Lima Police Department,” Ptl. Justin Halker said. “It’ll be an eye opener to see what the LPD deals with everyday.”
The LPD also released its policy for how the cameras should be used, including the input of organizations ranging from the prosecutor’s office to Crime Victim Services to the Black Ministerial Alliance and NAACP.
4. Big year for the JSMC
The year could be described as a turnaround year for the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. Lima’s tank plant, once considered for mothballing, now has several exciting projects on its plate.
General Dynamics Land Systems, the operator of the government-owned factory, plans to hire 400 people between the first quarter of 2019 and mid-2020. The extra workers are necessary as the JSMC ramps up for continued Stryker vehicle upgrades and upgrades to 135 Abrams tanks. The defense bill earmarked nearly $2 billion for the JSMC.
Then in December, GDLS revealed the JSMC will help build the prototype of the Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle. The military ordered 12 prototypes for $335 million, including 12 Lima-built turrets. The medium-weight, large-caliber combat vehicle will go head-to-head with a prototype from BAE Systems, and the Army will select a final prototype in fiscal year 2022 after demonstrations and evaluations.
5. Building department debate
Back in March, the Allen County commissioners met with Lima Building Department officials, expressing concerns the contracted department wasn’t living up to expectations. Officials met with people from Miami County to discuss a regional building department out of that county to handle the evaluation of commercial building plans.
The issue appeared to be at rest by April, until earlier this month. Commissioners acknowledged they never stopped considering Miami County taking over for the services Lima provided.
Since then, each side points fingers about whose fault the miscommunication might be. The commissioners clarified they haven’t made a final decision yet, but that hasn’t stopped the Lima Building Department from sharing endorsements of its work.
No timeline has been expressed on when to expect a decision.
6. Failed Allen County sales tax
In January, the Allen County commissioners unveiled what they wanted to do with a 0.2 percent sales tax increase, which tey’d put on the May ballot. It would pay for maintenance and structural costs for aging county-owned properties, they said, raising $3.5 million annually over a 10-year period.
In May, voters said otherwise, with 51.6 percent of voters rejecting the proposal. An analysis found the issue failed worse in more rural areas, where some opponents said the issue didn’t do enough to repair roads and infrastructure.
Once the levy failed, the county acknowledged it may borrow money as it went to “Plan B.” The county also proposed a license fee to help repair roads.
7. Jordan for speaker?
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, actively campaigned to become the next Speaker of the House in Washington prior to the November election, hoping to replace retiring Speaker Paul Ryan.
Once the Republicans lost control of the House in the November election, Jordan turned his attention to becoming the minority leader.
That, too, failed, with his fellow Republican representatives choosing Kevin McCarthy instead. Jordan lost, 159-43, in the closed-door meeting. He did maintain his seat, though, dismissing a challenge from Democrat Janet Garrett, who provided a spirited challenge, including YouTube videos of her debating a puppet of Jordan. Jordan was selected as the ranking member of the powerful House oversight committee.
8. Body in sleeping bag
An Ohio Department of Transportation working mowing along Interstate 75 south of Findlay discovering a body in a sleeping bag on Oct. 1.
The body was identified as David D. Carter Sr., 39, of Melvindale, Michigan, who had been missing for several days. Additional remains were found elsewhere along I-75, closer to North Baltimore. Police in Melvindale had a person of interest in custody.
9. Hospitalized girl after fair
A 10-year-old girl suffered what doctors described as a “spinal stroke” after riding the Orbiter ride at the Allen County Fair on Aug. 19.
Kylie Richards began experiencing dizziness and a headache after exiting the ride. She ended up at a Columbus hospital with limited movement in her extremities. The family didn’t think there was a malfunction, just that the girl was very small, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture performed a supplemental inspection and found nothing wrong. She remains paralyzed from the waist down and unable to walk.
“My opinion is that it was just a freak accident,” said her mother, Mandy Triplett.
10. House explosion
An explosion rumbled in the morning hours of Sept. 13, ending 96-year-old Gladys Ward’s life and leaving only her basement intact at 2260 N. Phillips Road, Harrod. The remainder of her property was strewn about as far away as several hundred yards away by the force, which also damaged nearby homes.
The state fire marshal’s office closed its investigation earlier this month, saying the house was full of propane gas, but they couldn’t determine what ignited the explosion.