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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Sep. 20, 2017


Christopher M. Peters is on trial in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent writer

As expected, testimony began Tuesday in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court in the trial of Delphos resident Christopher M. Peters.

Peters is charged with aggravated murder, felonious assault, and endangering children in connection with the November 15, 2016, death of 15-month-old Hayden Ridinger.

The boy’s mother, Valerie Dean, 25, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering children. She’s scheduled to stand trial in December.

Van Wert County 9-1-1 dispatcher Rodney Smith was the first to take the stand Tuesday. He testified that Dean was upset and crying when she called emergency responders to the Old Lincoln Inn Apartments on Lincoln Highway, after finding her son non-responsive and not breathing. Jurors also heard a recording of the 9-1-1 call and saw photos of the crime scene.

The manager of the Old Lincoln Inn then took the stand and explained what she saw November 15, which included finding the boy dead in his crib.

Also taking the stand Tuesday — Delphos firefighter and EMT Roy Hoehn, who was the first emergency responder to arrive at the scene; Van Wert County Coroner Dr. Scott Jarvis; and David Hammond, a special agent with the Bowling Green office of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. Witnesses all offered their testimony on when they arrived at the scene.

All three said they noticed bruises on the boy, and Jarvis said he believed the young child had been dead for more than six hours, but less than 24 hours. Dr. Jarvis also testified that he later interviewed Dean, who claimed the boy had been sick with an upper respiratory infection.

During his cross examination of Jarvis, defense attorney Robert Grzykowski said he and co-counsel William Kluge hired another coroner who claims the boy died from a lethal level of Benadryl. Jarvis countered by saying he disputed those findings, due to the level of injuries suffered by the boy.

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POSTED: 09/20/17 at 6:28 am

VW independent/submitted information

A Minster man was killed in a three-car accident that occurred on U.S. 30 west or Richey Road.

A car driven by Bert Helsel, 63, of Minster, is loaded onto a flatbed truck following a fatal accident that occurred on U.S. 30 Wednesday morning. photo by Rick McCoy for the Van Wert independent

Bert Helsel, 63, was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries sustained during the accident by a representative of the Van Wert County Coroner’s Office.

According to troopers from the Van Wert Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Helsel was driving a 2007 Toyota sedan west on U.S. 30, directly behind a 2018 International semi operated by David Knight, 45, of Industry, Pennsylvania, at about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Knight then slowed his semi for traffic in a construction zone on U.S. 30, as did Helsel, when a third vehicle, a 2017 Freightliner semi driven by Vasilevich Dzmitry, 33, of Hallandale, Florida, failed to maintain assured clear distance ahead, rear-ending Helsel’s vehicle and pushing it into the back of Knight’s semi.

Neither Knight nor Dzmitry were injured in the crash.

The Van Wert Post was assisted at the scene by Convoy Fire and EMS, Van Wert Fire and EMS, Scott EMS, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office, the Shelly Company, Hague Towing, Delpha Chevrolet, and Parker Towing and Recovery. The westbound lanes of U.S. 30 were also temporarily closed for clean-up of the accident.

The crash remains under investigation.

POSTED: 09/20/17 at 7:26 pm. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert County saw its unemployment fall seven-tenths of a percent, good enough to make it one of 11 counties with the lowest jobless rate in the state.

The county, which saw unemployment fall from 4.7 percent in July to 4 percent in August, followed a statewide trend across Ohio that saw 75 of its 88 counties have declining unemployment rates last month, compared to just five counties with higher jobless rates during the same period.

Statistically, according to labor force estimates provided by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, in conjunction with the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Van Wert County’s labor force remained the same at 14,400 people, while those employed rose 100, from 13,800 to 13,900, and those unemployed fell 100, from 700 in July to 600 last month.

Mercer County again had the lowest unemployment rate in the area, and the state, at 3.2 percent, down three-tenths of a percent from July’s 3.5 percent. Among neighboring counties, Putnam County was next at 3.6 percent, down four-tenths of a percent from 4 percent even in July, while Auglaize County was third among neighboring counties at 3.9 percent, down three-tenths of a percent from 4.2 percent two months ago. Van Wert County was fourth, followed by Paulding County at 4.8 percent, down two-tenths of a percent from July’s rate of 5 percent, while Allen County had the highest unemployment rate among neighboring counties at 5.1 percent, but was eight-tenths of a percent lower than July’s 5.9 percent.

Statewide, Van Wert County and three neighboring counties — Mercer, Auglaize, and Putnam — were all among the 11 counties with the lowest unemployment rate in Ohio. Others included Holmes County, 3.5 percent; Wyandot County, 3.7 percent; Delaware County, 3.8 percent; and Madison and Wayne counties, 4.0 percent.

Meigs County had the highest unemployment rate in the state at 8.5 percent, while seven other counties had jobless rates at or above 7 percent in August. In addition to Meigs, those counties include Monroe County, 7.8 percent; Lorain County, 7.3 percent; Scioto County 7.1 percent; and Adams, Coshocton, Cuyahoga, and Jefferson counties at 7 percent even.

Ohio’s comparable unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in August.

POSTED: 09/20/17 at 6:27 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

Average retail gasoline prices in Ohio have fallen 8.9 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.38 per gallon on Sunday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 5,345 gas outlets in Ohio. This compares with the national average, which has fallen 4.7 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.60 per gallon, according to gasoline price website GasBuddy.com.

Including the change in gas prices in Ohio during the past week, prices Sunday were 21.3 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 13.5 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 27.9 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 40.4 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.

“As we welcome back winter gasoline across most of the country, gasoline production has continued to recover after Harvey, leading much of the country to enjoy falling gasoline prices, along with fall weather,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “With refineries continuing to get back online and with demand cooling off from the summer months, we have more room to see the national average drop in the week ahead.

“In fact, this week could see some of the largest drops in gas prices in many months,” DeHaan added. “It still will take time to completely heal from the issues Harvey and Irma left, particularly due to the large scale disruptions of fuel logistics and production, but improvement will continue both with lower retail prices and high refinery output.”

POSTED: 09/20/17 at 6:23 am. FILED UNDER: News

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent writer

A jury has been seated in the trial of a Delphos man accused of killing a 15-month-old child.

Christopher M. Peters is on trial. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

27-year-old Christopher M. Peters is charged with aggravated murder, felonious assault and endangering children, in connection with the November, 2016 death of 15-month-old Hayden Ivan Ridinger. He’s been jailed on $2 million bond since his arrest.

The case originally contained a potential death penalty specification, but that provision has since been removed.

Prospective jurors were summoned to the Van Wert County Courthouse on Monday. They were asked numerous questions centered around their knowledge of the case through media reports and other sources, about their ability to be fair and impartial, and if they could view graphic photos expected to be shown as evidence during the trial.

Potential jurors were also asked if they watched police or crime shows on television, and if they understood what’s shown on those programs doesn’t necessarily equate to real life.

After more than six hours of questioning, a jury of 12 – six men and six women – were chosen to hear the case. Two other people, a man and a woman were selected to serve as alternates.

After listening to an initial set of instructions, the day ended with jurors being transported to the crime scene – an apartment at the Old Lincoln Inn on Lincoln Highway in Delphos.

Opening statements and testimony will be heard during today’s session.

Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick is serving as special counsel during the trial, while Peters is represented by Lima attorneys William Kluge and Robert Grzybowski. Judge Martin Burchfield is presiding over the trial, which could run into next week.

It’s unknown if Peters will take the stand.

POSTED: 09/19/17 at 6:38 am. FILED UNDER: News

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent writer

A federal grand jury has indicted a Van Wert man suspected of possessing child pornography.

According to a news release issued on Monday, 54-year-old Roy A. Nichols was arrested August 30 at his place of employment in Van Wert. The release said Nichols was charged last week with receipt and distribution of child pornography.

He’s currently incarcerated at the Lucas County Jail in Toledo.

The arrest was the result of an investigation initiated by the Van Wert Police Department. During the course of the investigation, a dozen files of known child pornography were distributed between June 27 and August 13 from a location in Van Wert, and detectives were able to identify a computer and an address where the material was being distributed from.

On August 23, Van Wert police and agents with the Bowling Green office of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation executed a search warrant at the suspect’s house. The residents of the home were questioned, and law enforcement officers seized a laptop computer and a cell phone.

During the questioning of the occupants and after an on-scene examination of the computer, detectives identified Nichols as a suspect.

After the Van Wert Police Department conferred with the Lima Office of the FBI, federal agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Ohio issued an arrest warrant for Nichols.

The Van Wert Police Department is a member of the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The Department works with the FBI and Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children task force to prevent the victimization of children which occurs either through the production and distribution of child pornography or at the hands of sexual predators.

In 2013, detectives received training in peer-to-peer investigations (child pornography distribution) and undercover online investigations. Since then, the investigations have resulted in the arrest of 15 men for various felony sex offenses. Some of these men, including Nichols, have been previously convicted of felony sex offenses.

POSTED: 09/19/17 at 6:35 am. FILED UNDER: News

Motivational speaker and international recording artist Bill Ballenger recently brought his “Break the Grey” program to Crestview Middle School and High School. Students heard Ballenger speak on issues like suicide, substance abuse, bullying and self-worth by sharing skits and Ballenger’s life experiences. Ballenger shared his story of bad choices culminating in a three-year prison conviction for him and his wife in Indiana at 18. He also challenged students not to make the choices he made and to take their lives and futures seriously. (photo submitted)

POSTED: 09/19/17 at 6:35 am. FILED UNDER: News

Van Wert independent news

An algae bloom at the Van Wert Reservoir has led to problems with taste and odor problems associated with the city’s water supply.

According to Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming, there is no danger from drinking or using the water, and there is no boil advisory.

Fleming also said city officials are working to correct the situation.

Anyone with questions may call the city building at 419.238.1237.

POSTED: 09/18/17 at 10:11 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Although Van Wert County crops are looking reasonably good this year, Curtis Young, county agriculture educator for the Ohio State University Extension Service, said good crop management is essential to getting the most out of any field.

While he stressed that, like most years, there is significant variability from field to field, Young said county corn and soybean fields look fairly good.

Curtis Young, Ohio State University Extension agriculture educator, holds a moldy ear of corn from a local field. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

“After the shaky start at the beginning of the season, with all the weather events, things are actually looking fairly decent in a number of fields, depending on what part of the county you’re looking at,” he said.

In general, Young said crops on the east side of the county were less affected by the weather, compared to the western side of the county, which he said got “hammered” by adverse weather early on.

Young first discussed the corn crop, noting that corn is pretty much done developing.

“The corn crop is the corn crop; it’s what it’s going to be,” Young said. “The only thing that could happen now is it could simply get worse.”

With hurricane season now ongoing in the Caribbean and south Atlantic Ocean — and two major storms already spawned — Young said future hurricane-related weather could still adversely affect local corn production.

Weather is not the only thing that can affect crops at this point, Young added, noting that mold and other fungal issues, as well as pollination problems and uneven crop maturity, could still be a problem for local grain producers.

He advised farmers to walk through their fields and evaluate their crops to make sure they don’t have crop development and other issues.

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POSTED: 09/18/17 at 5:20 am. FILED UNDER: News

Van Wert independent news

Prospective Van Wert County Common Pleas Court jurors are scheduled to be questioned today in the trial of 27-year-old Christopher Peters.

The Delphos resident is charged with aggravated murder, murder, felonious assualt and endangering children, in connection with the November, 2016 death of a 15-month-old child.

The victim was found dead at the Old Lincoln Inn Apartments on Lincoln Highway in Delphos.

U.S. Marshals arrested Peters a day later in Fostoria, and has been incarcerated in the Van Wert County Correctional Facility under a $2 million bond.

POSTED: 09/18/17 at 5:20 am. FILED UNDER: News

Van Wert independent

Van Wert City Council will meet in special session at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 20, in council chambers.

The focus will be amending existing job creation legislation.

POSTED: 09/18/17 at 5:19 am. FILED UNDER: News