Major drug offender trials delayed until April

LIMA — Two Lima men who prosecutors allege were at the center of a major drug trafficking operation will stand trial in April.

Eric Upthegrove Jr., 40, and Ronald Hesseling II, 43, were set to go on trial in Allen County Common Pleas Court next month after a mistrial was declared in Hesseling’s first trial in September.

But Judge Terri Kohlrieser continued both trials until April at the request of defense counsel — the latest delay in a case that has been pending since 2021.

Upthegrove, who faces more than 50 drug-related charges for his role in the alleged operation, removed his ankle monitor and fled ahead of what would have been his final pre-trial hearing in March. Authorities took Upthegrove into custody in July, and Kohlrieser revoked his bond.

Meanwhile, Hesseling’s attorney Anthony VanNoy withdrew from the case in September, citing the defendant’s inability to retain his services for a second trial, after a mistrial was declared due to a lack of jurors to reach a verdict. Three jurors asked to be excused early.

Upthegrove’s trial is now set for April 15, while Hesseling’s trial will be held on April 1.

No trial date has been set for the third defendant tied to the case, Nicoya Darby, who testified against Hesseling in September.