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Youth’s death in fire topped January news

December 20, 2012
From staff reports , The Herald-Star

A Steubenville High School freshman killed in a fire topped the news in January.

State fire marshal investigators believe the fire that killed Lee West, 15, at his 316 Virginia Ave. home on Jan. 31 started in the kitchen in the rear of the two-story, wood-frame house.

At the time, Shane Cartmill, state fire marshal spokesman, said the cause of the fire had not been determined, but investigators found no evidence of criminal intent, he said.

West, a student at Steubenville High School, was found in an upstairs bedroom.

Cartmill said investigators found two smoke alarms in the home, one upstairs and one in the basement. He said it is unknown if the detectors were in working condition.

Steubenville firefighters were called around 5:41 p.m. on Jan?31 and found heavy flames and smoke, especially in the rear of the home.

The firefighters initially were told nobody was inside the home but later were informed that up to three people may have been inside. Firefighters were able to account for two of the people outside the home.

Also in January, a Toronto man was lodged in the Jefferson County jail after allegedly luring and beating two young girls who were on their way home from school on Jan. 3.

Danny Nichols, 30, of 306 Carnegie Court was charged with two counts of felonious assault on a juvenile after police said he allegedly lured and beat two children in a daytime attack while the girls were on their way home from school, according to police Capt. Rick Parker at the time.

"(The juveniles) were walking home after being dropped off from the school bus near Carnegie Court," said Parker, adding the female victims were 12 and 13 years old. Parker said the suspect lured the two by telling them he was watching deer. Parker added the suspect began to assault the victims when they came near.

"He began to physically assault them," Parker said.

Parker said the 12-year-old managed to get away, while the suspect continued to assault the other girl.

"The suspect had the 13-year-old on the ground and continued to assault her," Parker continued. "The 12-year-old ran to call 911 and get help. (The suspect) then got up and picked up a few items he had dropped and left."

Nichols was sentenced by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. in July to three years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of felonious assault.

In other news in January:

Steubenville Council and the Jefferson County Commissioners reached a tentative agreement on Jan. 10 to abolish the inactive city port authority and create a new nine-member county port authority.

The deal reached at a special meeting of city council and commissioners would see the two political entities each appoint four members, with a ninth member to be appointed by the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission.

The city's appointees were to include a representative from the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, while the commissioners' were to include an appointee from the Steubenville Area Board of Realtors. Appointees will be limited to two full successive terms and cannot be elected officials.

"I want to keep this as non-political as possible. The Community Improvement Corp. will transition into the new port authority and the port authority will become the economic development tool of the county," said Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile.

"We are creating the county port authority to be the premiere economic tool. We hope to keep as many partners from the private sector as possible to continue their financial contributions to Partners in Progress," added Gentile.

The port authority meets every month, and the December meeting saw a significant shift of support from the Community Improvement Corp. to the port authority.

The county commissioners indicated they were willing to provide $100,000 in funding for the authority and cease future funding for the CIC.

A group of Toronto area citizens formed an exploratory committee on establishing a walking and bicycle route through the city.

At the time, organizers were hoping there's enough public support for establishing a pathway through the city to link with the Jefferson County Chamber's planned trails and greenways plan, unveiled last year. The committee, which includes George Komar, Bill Kulstad, Bob Bratt and Bob Merideth, said any proposal would need citizens' input and support.

"I think what we're looking for are streets in Toronto that are safe for bikers and walkers," said Komar at the time, adding the committee and plans are still evolving.

Committee members believed Toronto would be the ideal place for a biking and walking route, citing the city's long, flat streets and scenic river views.

"All over the county there are trails being developed," said Merideth, adding any proposed Toronto route would ultimately link with other trails currently in the planning stages.

The project moved forward, with Toronto establishing a pathway through the city.

Teddy L. Clark, 34, of 527 Clinton St. was indicted on charges of murder and tampering with evidence in connection with a fatal stabbing on Jan. 10.

James E. Daniels Jr., 53, of 990 McKinley Ave. walked into the city police station around 3 a.m. on Jan. 19, saying he had been assaulted. Daniels suffered a deep knife wound to the neck and was profusely bleeding. He lost consciousness at the police station but not before he gave officers some information. Daniels later died at a Pittsburgh hospital.

Daniels told officers he had been with an unknown man at a downtown bar drinking and gave the man a ride to Highland Avenue, where he was assaulted.

Police Detective John Lelless said at Clark's preliminary hearing in municipal court that he obtained video from the bar that showed Daniels and Clark talking at the bar and then leaving together.

Lelless testified that Clark's wife, Shannan, told him that her husband had called her and said, "I'm sorry. I did something very bad."

Lelless testified that Shannon Clark said her husband repeated the statement when he came home. The wife said her husband had blood on his coat, which he placed on a chair before washing blood off his hands at the kitchen sink, Lelless said. The coat was recovered by Lelless during a search warrant.

Lelless also said the wife said her husband told her that Daniels had propositioned her husband for sex and he lost it and stabbed Daniels. The knife used in the stabbing hasn't been recovered.

Clark's trial is scheduled for February.

City Police were searching for clues and a suspect in the Jan. 22 shooting death of Demeatrus Benjamin, 24, outside his 1302 Pennsylvania Ave. home.

Police were called around 4:46 a.m. on Jan. 22 to a reported shooting. Officers found Benjamin outside the home, dead from gunshots.

At the time, Police Chief William McCafferty said witnesses reported hearing seven shots. It isn't known at this time how many times Benjamin was hit with bullets. Shells casings were found at the scene, McCafferty said.

His body was transported to the Cuyahoga County coroner's office for an autopsy. McCafferty said it isn't known if there were any witnesses to the shooting. City officers, Jefferson County sheriff's deputies and troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol searched the neighborhood after the shooting. McCafferty said it appears the shooter was waiting for Benjamin to come home. The chief said there are no suspects or motive in the shooting as of this month.

The treasurer of a Toronto organization was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on Jan. 4 in connection with alleged embezzlement of funds.

Maureen A. Robins, 36, 211 N. Third St., Toronto, was indicted on single counts of theft and forgery.

The Jefferson County Prosecutor's Office in January stated Robins took nearly $8,000 in cash and cashed in a certificate of deposit worth more than $5,000. The alleged embezzlement, which occurred during a two-year period, was from the Red Knight Women's Club, which raised money for youth sports activities in Toronto.

According to Chief Randy Henry, the charges were pursued after City Police conducted an investigation into theft of funds from the organization by some officers, including Robins and Brandy "Bink" Blanton, club president.

Blanton, 32 , 710 Trenton St., Toronto, had admitted her guilt to police for the alleged theft, Henry said.

As of December both had taken plea deals offered by the Jefferson County prosecutor.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department investigated the armed robbery of a bank on Second Street in Bergholz on Jan. 28.

The sheriff's department reported the robber, who was bearing a silver handgun, fled into an alley behind the Bergholz branch of Huntington Bank with a bag of money containing a dye pack that exploded as he ran. The packs are timed to explode after money has been taken, leaving the cash and robber marked with the dye.

Sheriff's deputies said the robber left a trail of dye and cash behind him in the alley.

Indian Creek High School students continued to support Justin Cummings, the 15-year old student involved in the Jan. 15 accidents on state Route 151 near Smithfield, and his family through school fundraising activities.

Cummings suffered lower body paralysis after being ejected from the vehicle when it lost control and slid into a guardrail. He was one of six students involved in two accidents.

Steubenville-based Louis Berkman Co. announced it was putting Follansbee Steel up for sale, citing "sustained unfavorable business conditions" as the culprit. The company had 36 workers.

Officials in Washington County, Pa., celebrated Oklahoma-based Mathena Inc.'s decision to locate in the 147-acre Starpointe Industrial Park, located just off U.S. 22 near Florence, Pa.

Mathena, which supplies surface control equipment the oil and gas industry uses in the well-drilling and completion phases, paid $175,000 for the 3.1-acre pad-ready site, where it constructed a 7,200-square-foot building.

In January a patient at Trinity Health Systems was the first in Ohio, and just the fifth in the U.S., to have an INCEPTA, the world's smallest and thinnest cardioverter defibrillator, implanted in him. The device, used to treat heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest, was implanted in a patient being treated for ventricular arrhythmias by Dr. Maninder Bedi, a Trinity electrophysiologist.

Weirton Medical Center celebrated the opening of its new advanced cardiovascular lab, a $1.3 million upgrade officials said means patients will get faster, more efficient cardiac care. The new system has the ability to capture clear images quickly, while also reducing the risk of complications. The new system, an Allura Xper FD20 X-ray system from Philips, enables physicians to capture and view detailed 3D images of a patient's cardiac vasculature, allowing for faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment of cardiac disease while at the same time exposing patients to less radiation than many other available systems.

State Del. Tim Ennis, D-Brooke, was appointed on Jan. 4 to fill the Brooke County Commission seat held by the late Bernie Kazienko, who died on Dec. 5, 2011, following many years of public service, including as sheriff and county commissioner.

Ennis resigned from his seat in the state House of Delegates, which he had served for nearly 18 years, and Phil Diserio of Follansbee was appointed to serve the remainder of his term. Ennis was elected to the commission seat and Diserio, to the state Delegate position, in November.

Steubenville Council members unanimously approved two new appointees to the city's parks and recreation board in January.

Ken Peterson and Jim Emmerling were appointed to fill vacancies on the recreation board created when Kenny Davis was elected councilman at large and Willie Paul won the 5th Ward council seat.

Davis and Paul resigned from the parks and recreation board in December.

The JB Green Team started a search for a new executive director in January. The board of trustees approved language to advertise for the executive director position that became vacant in December when Jack Cera stepped down from the leadership post of the solid waste authority following his appointment to the Ohio House of Representatives.

Board member Mark McVey was appointed as interim executive director and indicated he will apply for the job. The trustees officially reorganized for 2012 and re-elected Favede, a Belmont County commissioner, as chairperson; Cathy Davison, Steubenville city manager as vice chair person; and Bruce Misselwitz, administrator of the Jefferson County Health Department, as secretary.

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