GUNS FOUND BY LITTER CREW LIKELY USED IN LOCAL SHOOTING
STARK COUNTY - Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s deputies say guns found by a Stark County litter crew likely include one used in the July 11th shooting near Port Washington. Chief Deputy Orvis Campbell says low-risk inmates found three weapons along I-77 where the three suspects drove by after one of them allegedly shot at a resident in his driveway off US 36. A pursuit ensued when the trio fled the scene and eventually crashed on Baum Road in Stark County. Campbell says the guns are being tested by the crime lab, and he says they could be key evidence in the case. Campbell says Stark County assisted in apprehending the suspects, but he says it was only by chance the litter crew was working where the guns were left. Campbell says the alleged shooter and front seat passenger is being held in Portage County for another case but faces an attempted murder charge locally, while the driver remains hospitalized and is charged with complicity. The third man has not been charged. All are believed to be from Chicago.
COUNCIL CALLS ON SCHOOL TO FIX EYE SORE
DENNISON - Officials say recent repairs to the Claymont Intermediate building on Third Street in the village have turned the historic building into an eye sore. Council Member Greg Didonato says the district’s decision to remove the pillars from the front of the building following roof repairs has angered many residents. Didonato says there are several ways to fund the pillars’ reconstruction without using district funds. Didonato says the changes have defaced the once historic landmark of Dennison. Didonato says he believes the district will lose community support if the pillars are not reconstructed. Superintendent John Rocchi did not immediately return WJER’s messages seeking comment on the issue.
EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM TO IMPROVE WORK CONDITIONS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Officials say taking proactive steps towards maintaining a healthy workforce will benefit employees as well as the city. Human Resources Manager Mary Kurtz says installing an Employee Assistance Program within the city would provide counseling services to all full time staff. Kurtz says it is the city’s job to help employees through a hard time. Kurtz says the program will also educate employers to be able to recognize warning signs and how to find solutions. Kurtz says the program is still in the developing stages and she says once installed, employees will be automatically opted in for about three-dollars a month.
SALES TAX TO APPEAR ON BALLOT
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The Tuscarawas County commissioners have taken action to put the sales tax renewal on the November ballot. Commissioner Belle Everett says the group held two public meetings to discuss the issue but had little participation. Everett says she wants voters to know the 1% tax accounts for $13 million of the county’s nearly $23 million General Fund budget every year. She says the budget is about to take a hit when the Medicaid sales tax revenue falls off. Everett says the county’s interest income has decreased significantly over the years while costs continue to rise. She says the sales tax allows the county more ability to distribute money to area municipalities. The board passed a resolution to have the board of elections put the issue on the November ballot. If passed, the tax would be in place for ten years.
CONGRESSMAN JOHNSON REFLECTS ON CONVENTIONS
DOVER - Southern Tuscarawas County’s congressman is looking ahead to November now that the conventions are over and both parties have nominated candidates for president. 6th District Representative Bill Johnson made a visit to WJER Radio Thursday as he tours the district to interact with constituents and attend meetings while congress is on recess. Johnson says he was following the happenings at the Democratic National Convention this week but disagrees with what the speakers had to say. Meanwhile, Johnson says one of his staffer’s Fitbit tracking devices indicated he walked about 45 miles over the span of the Republican National Convention last week for gatherings on cyber security, energy, VA healthcare issues, and more. Johnson says even while on the road he continues to receive daily updates on activities involving the house committees he serves on.
CITY BUYS NEW TANKER TRUCK
NEW PHILADELPHIA – The city’s fire chief says the city is upgrading a truck to make doing the job a little easier for firefighters. Chief Jim Parrish says council approved purchasing a new tanker truck this week using funds from the city’s fire protection contract with Goshen Township. Parrish says the nearly $322,000 vehicle is better equipped and more efficient than the current tanker. He says the current tanker has required costly maintenance for the last few years. Parrish says the old truck will be repurposed and used as a dump trunk for the city when the new tanker truck arrives.
VETERANS MAY BE MISDIAGNOSED
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Veteran Services officials say help is available for veterans who believe they suffered a traumatic brain injury and might have been misdiagnosed. Veteran Services Officer Jim Thornton says the agency believes many soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan may have suffered from a major combat event, and their condition was missed by other doctors. Thornton says the VA has seen a dramatic increase in brain injuries in the more recent veterans, despite the updated equipment and gear they are required to wear. Thornton says veterans who might have received a brain injury between 2007 and 2015 are asked to make an appointment with the local office to then be seen by a specialist. He says a positive diagnosis could lead to additional medical assistance and financial benefits.
ATTACK SURVIVOR RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL
NEWCOMERSTOWN - Authorities say the woman seriously injured as part of an attack that killed her mother is improving. Police believe 30-year-old Charles Plants used a hammer last Friday to kill his mother, 53-year-old Jane Davis, and severely beat his sister, 32-year-old Cynthia Smith, all of Newcomerstown. Police say Smith was initially in critical condition but has since been released from the hospital on Tuesday. Plants was apprehended following a manhunt Friday and remains in the Tuscarawas County jail for a probation violation from an unrelated case awaiting charges for the attacks. Police are still declining to discuss any motives in the beatings. The results of Davis’ autopsy are unavailable. The hammer has been sent to a crime lab for analysis.
LOCAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR PRAISES CONVENTION, CLINTON
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Local Democratic Party leaders say Ohio will play a big role in the upcoming General Election as the Democratic National Convention comes to a close. Tuscarawas County Democratic Party Chair Gail Garbrandt says northeastern Ohio has been well represented this week in Philadelphia, especially Tuesday when Hillary Clinton was awarded the nomination as Ohio’s oldest delegate, 93-year-old Ruby Gilliam of Carroll County, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Garbrandt says the convention is a good opportunity to sway voter opinions before November. Clinton will officially accept her party’s nomination tonight.
SUMMER SAFETY REMINDERS
DOVER - Tuscarawas County health officials are offering parents more advice to avoid summertime risks. Tuscarawas County Health Department health educator Patty Maag says about 800 kids drown each year in the United States, and that is also the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 4. Maag says it is up to parents to keep a watch on their young children at all times, even if a lifeguard is on duty, because drowning can be a quiet and quick death. Maag says the other threat to children is suffering a heat stroke when left in a car on a hot day, as the internal temperature can go up 19 degrees in 10 minutes. Maag says 24 kids died this way in 2015 in the United States compared to at least 23 already this year.
UPGRADES COMING TO LIBRARY BRANCH
SUGARCREEK - Visitors to the Tuscarawas County Public Library’s Sugarcreek branch will soon see some improvements at the site. County library Director Michelle Ramsell says the library is to undergo renovations beginning Friday that will provide additional room for computers and emerging technologies, increased floor space for club activities, and more. Ramsell says this comes as welcome news to many as Sugarcreek is the library’s busiest branch. Ramsell says the library is also asking for supporters to consider purchasing a square of carpeting for $20 apiece to cover the renovated area. The Sugarcreek branch will be closed from Friday through August 15th.
MAN INDICTED ON CHILD RAPE CHARGES
NEW PHILADELPHIA - A Tuscarawas County man faces multiple counts of rape for allegations of sexually assaulting children. 38-year-old Brian Mechelke of New Philadelphia is being held in the Tuscarawas County jail on $1 million bond. Assistant County Prosecutor Scott Deedrick says Mechelke faces five counts of rape and one count each of gross sexual imposition and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He has a no-bail hearing Friday. Judge Edward O’Farrell entered not guilty pleas on Mechelke’s behalf Tuesday.
JUDGE DENIES BAUGH’S RELEASE
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The suspect accused of shooting at Uhrichsville police will remain in jail. 50-year-old Kenneth Baugh’s defense attorney had requested Baugh be released on his own recognizance, but Judge Edward O’Farrell denied his release. Baugh is being held in the Tuscarawas County Jail for allegedly firing three shots, and missing, at a Uhrichsville police officer who was responding to a disturbance call about a man with a gun in June.
DEMOCRATIC COMMISSIONERS FOLLOW CONVENTION FROM HOME
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County’s two Democratic commissioners say they are paying close attention to their party’s national convention. Commissioner Chris Abbuhl says he was anxious to hear from Senator Bernie Sanders as well as presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. He says he is intrigued by the convention process as we prepare to elect a new president in November. Commissioner Belle Everett says she hopes the convention speakers remain positive and highlight the party’s strengths. Everett says she believes Democrats are more united as a party than Republicans. Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama take the stage in Philadelphia tonight, with Clinton accepting the party’s nomination Thursday.
OHIO SENATOR BACKS CLINTON
WASHINGTON - Ohio’s Democratic US Senator is explaining why he backs Hillary Clinton for President, as he prepares to speak at the Democratic National Convention. Senator Sherrod Brown says he is unsure exactly which day he will be addressing the delegates but wants to highlight trade and the economy. Brown says he is constantly striving to increase job opportunities for all. He says he is happy to take the stage in support of Clinton as he believes she is the best candidate for the Democratic ticket and to be the next President. Brown says he credits Republican National Convention organizers and authorities for having a safe event in Cleveland last week, and he hopes for similar results in Philadelphia this week.
MISDEMEANOR OFFENDERS COULD HELP PAY FOR POLICE EQUIPMENT
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Officials say they are looking into ways to help ease the cost of justice. Law Director Marvin Fete says a council committee will look into the possibility of diverting a percentage of minor misdemeanor fines towards purchasing expensive taser replacements. Fete says police rely on tasers for many dangerous situations. He says New Philadelphia police are faced with situations that could require a taser every day. Fete says the committee will review the suggestion before making a recommendation to council on whether to move forward with the plan.
SHOOTING SUSPECT WANTS RELEASED FROM JAIL
UHRICHSVILLE - The suspect accused of shooting at Uhrichsville police is asking to get out of jail. 50-year-old Kenneth Baugh is being held in the Tuscarawas County Jail on $500,000 bond as he waits for his case to be presented to a grand jury. Baugh’s public defender wants Baugh to be released from jail on his own recognizance for now, while prosecutors want Baugh to remain in jail under his current conditions of bond. Baugh is accused of firing three shots, and missing, at a Uhrichsville police officer who was responding to a disturbance call for a man with a gun in the Save-A-Lot parking lot last month.
SAW DUST FIRE CLAIMS SHED
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Firefighters say a shed at Carolina Stair Supply is a total loss following a Monday fire. Chief Jim Parrish says the blaze began in a hopper containing sawdust and quickly spread to the shed. He says no damage estimate is available, but the shed is a total loss. Parrish says the fire on Cookson Avenue SE was reported by a passerby traveling on US 250. No one was injured, but he says crews from Dover and Uhrichsville were called in because of the extreme temperatures.
LOCAL 4-H MEMBERS PREPARE FOR STATE FAIR
NEW PHILADELPHIA – Tuscarawas County OSU Extension Office officials say they are sending 120 4-H projects to this year’s state fair that begins Wednesday. 4-H coordinator Kiersten Heckel says the projects range from livestock to welding and even cooking with many kids qualifying in more than one category. She says those with animals show their entries while others meet one-on-one with judges. Meanwhile, retired Tuscarawas County 4-H program coordinator Ann Mumaw of New Philadelphia is being inducted into the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame. The state fair runs through August 7th in Columbus.
FORMER OSU PLAYER TO SPEAK IN PHILA
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The Ohio State Alumni Club of Tuscarawas County is bringing in a national champion to give a pep talk to area students before they head to Columbus for the fall semester. Antonio Smith, a 2007 OSU graduate who was a cornerback and member of the 2002 national championship football team, will speak at the club’s annual student send-off event Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Tuscora Park pavilion. Smith told WJER he plans to give the incoming freshman and returning students some words of encouragement. The public is then invited to meet Smith at 7:30 p.m., when there will be an opportunity to purchase autographed copies of his inspirational book “Waiting to Fail.”
DENNISON POLICE TO GET NEW VESTS
DENNISON - Dennison’s police chief says his officers will have new gear to keep them protected in the future. Todd Beeman says he is pursuing a grant to help purchase new bulletproof vests for the village law enforcement. However, Beeman says council has agreed to purchase the vests using village funds, even if the grant is rejected. Beeman says the nine new bulletproof vests cost about $6,000, which he feels is worth his officers’ lives.
DEATH INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY, ONE MAN IN CUSTODY
NEWCOMERSTOWN - Police are still releasing few details about what has been reported as a homicide in the village Friday afternoon. A press release from Chief Gary Holland indicates police were responding to a call for an injured person at a Nugent Street home at 1:11 p.m. Friday when they found a 53-year-old woman dead. A 32-year-old woman was also badly hurt at the home and taken to the hospital. A 30-year-old Newcomerstown man was apprehended when a manhunt in connection to the incident ended in a corn field off Delaware Road with assistance from the sheriff’s K9 unit about 2:45 p.m. Police are calling him only a “person of interest” at this time, but he is being held in the county jail for a probation violation. Police are still withholding all three names and their relationships. The press release does not say how the woman died and does not refer to the death as a murder, and police are declining to provide any additional information while the incident remains under investigation. However, the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s office described the man as a homicide suspect during the manhunt.
AREA WOMAN SERVES AS DNC DELEGATE
PHILADELPHIA - A Tappan Lake area resident is preparing for her first experience as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week. Randi Pokladnik, who has an environmental science background, says she plans to voice her thoughts against fracking while serving as a delegate. Pokladnik says she has seen five different schedules for the week and is unsure of her exact commitments, but she says she maintains allegiance with former nomination hopeful Bernie Sanders. US Senator Sherrod Brown is expected to speak at the convention about economic issues, trade, and trade enforcement. We will hear from Brown later in the week on WJER.
POPULAR TV SHOW FILMS AT TWO AREA SITES
ZOAR - Historic Zoar officials say they are anxious to watch an episode of HGTV’s House Hunters that features scenes from Zoar and Fort Laurens. Site Manager Tammi Mackey Shrum says a film crew taped in the area earlier this month while a Florida couple viewed homes in Bolivar, Canton, and Cleveland. Shrum says the pair wants to be in Ohio during the fall and winter seasons, and they hope to take in area attractions if they purchase a local home, so they filmed historic sites for supplemental footage. Shrum says she expects the airing to bring visitors to the valley to check out all of the local historical attractions once the episode airs in 2017. Shrum says the crews also got some footage during the recent Revolution on the Tuscarawas reenactment to supplement the episode.
GAS LINE REPLACEMENTS CONTINUE
DOVER - Officials say additional gas line replacement projects are already scheduled for next year. Service Director Dave Douglas says Dominion East Ohio is finishing work this summer on the east and west ends of town, and he says the south side of the city is set for work next spring. Douglas says the crews are removing steel pipes and replacing them with more efficient plastic lines. Douglas says Dominion has agreed to hold off on replacing lines on the Boulevard and Iron Avenue as those roads were just paved last summer. Douglas says Dominion began replacing lines about five years ago, and he says it could continue for many years to come as they work in communities across the state.
ISIS SYMPATHIZER SET TO CHANGE PLEA
CINCINNATI (AP) - A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for an Ohio man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group. A hearing for 22-year-old Christopher Lee Cornell will be Monday in federal court in Cincinnati. The hearing often signals a defendant is about to plead guilty. Previously, Cornell pleaded not guilty to charges, including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees.
ALLEGED MURDERER HAS SUSPICIOUS PAST
TOLEDO (AP) - Sheriff's records show that a man accused of abducting and killing an Ohio college student out riding her bicycle chased a pair of boys on their bikes two years ago. James Worley told deputies in June 2014 that he briefly chased the boys because he'd been worried about break-ins around his property west of Toledo. This week, authorities charged Worley with killing 20-year-old University of Toledo student Sierah Joughin.
TROOPER HIT BY CAR
CHARDON (AP) - The State Highway Patrol says a trooper was injured when he was hit by a car while he was outside his cruiser conducting a traffic stop in northeast Ohio. The patrol says the trooper was taken to a hospital for treatment after the crash around 11 a.m. Friday on U.S. 332 in Geauga County. The extent of his injuries wasn't immediately known.