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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Sep. 23, 2017

Convicted murderer Christopher Peters (in blue shirt) stares stonily at jurors as they are polled on their verdicts Friday afternoon. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The jury in the Christopher Peters murder case carefully weighed the evidence before finding Peters guilty of all charges in the beating death of 15-month-old Hayden Ivan Ridinger back in November 2016.

Van Wert County Prosecutor Eva Yarger speaks to jurors during closing arguments on Friday.

Peters, 27, was found guilty of aggravated murder, an unspecified felony, and one count each of felonious assault and endangering children, both felonies of the second degree.

Van Wert County Common Pleas Judge Martin D. Burchfield tentatively scheduled sentencing for 9:30 a.m. Monday, October 16, but defense attorneys have yet to consult their schedules to see if that date will work. Peters, who is incarcerated in the Van Wert County Correctional Facility, faces maximum sentences of life in prison without parole on the aggravated murder charge and eight years in prison on each of the Felony 2 counts.


POSTED: 09/22/17 at 9:30 pm

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The murder trial of Delphos resident Christopher Peters is heading into its fifth and possibly final day, with the defense expected to rest its case in the morning, with closing arguments to follow. The jury will then receive instructions from Van Wert County Common Pleas Judge Martin D. Burchfield prior to deliberations.

Diane Scala-Barnett, chief deputy coroner for the Lucas County Coroner’s Office, testifies Thursday during Christopher Peters’ murder trial. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Thursday’s trial session was a battle of expert witnesses, with the prosecution calling three forensic scientists to discuss injuries received by 15-month-old Hayden Ridinger, and to provide their opinion on the young boy’s cause of death.

Julie Saul, a consultant hired by the Lucas County Coroner’s Office in the field of forensic anthropology, testified on her examination of the young victim’s bones. Saul noted that Hayden had suffered a number of broken ribs on the left side of his body, with some of the ribs broken more than once and one rib sustaining six separate fractures. Saul said that, while many of the fractured ribs were sustained around the time of death, others occurred as much as several weeks ago, or longer.

When asked by special prosecutor Juergen Waldick whether, to the best of her knowledge and medical certainty, several of the fractures occurred around the time of death, Saul answered “yes.”

Robert Forney Jr. who is also employed with the Lucas County Coroner’s Office, then testified concerning the defense’s contention that Hayden died, not from injuries received, but from a reaction to a toxic dose of Benadryl.


POSTED: 09/22/17 at 7:24 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

Artists Group East head Robert Malcolm announced Friday, September 15, that he has withdrawn his client, “M*A*S*H*” star Jamie Farr, from the upcoming national touring production of Tuesdays with Morrie, which was set to open September 25 on a four-month multi-city tour. The show was scheduled to be in Van Wert at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on October 8.

“I regret that I will not be performing in this wonderful show due to the producer’s inability to secure work visas in a timely manner for my Canadian director, Ron Ulrich, and co-star David Keeley, who were an integral part of our previous successful tour throughout Canada,” Farr explained. “This is a two-person play and I wanted Tuesdays with Morrie to be as entertaining and successful throughout the United States as it was in Canada.”

Jamie Farr

Many venues have been scurrying to find a replacement for Tuesdays with Morrie; however, Farr has agreed to bring “An Evening with Jamie Farr” to both the Toledo performance at the Stranahan Theater on October 7 and “An Afternoon with Jamie Farr” to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert on October 8.

The show will be co-hosted by WTVG-TV Chanel 13 of Toledo’s co-anchor of its evening news, Lee Conklin. Conklin is a friend of Farr and is the reason he has agreed to perform in Van Wert and Toledo.

“We are extremely appreciative of Mr. Farr and Mr. Conklin agreeing to replicate their Toledo performance for our patrons,” said Niswonger Performing Arts Center Executive Director Paul Hoverman. “I am sure, although some may be disappointed they will not get to see Tuesdays with Morrie, they will be excited and thoroughly entertained with ‘An Afternoon with Jamie Farr’.”

In this new show, the audience will get to see video outtakes of M*A*S*H* highlights and bloopers, as well as hear Jamie Farr’s entertaining insights behind his years on M*A*S*H*, as well as many other acting roles throughout his illustrious career.

Conklin will host with questions for Farr before opening up a question-and-answer session for audience members.

“It should be a fun afternoon for all those wanting to see and experience the wit and life of Jamie Farr,” Hoverman added.

The Van Wert show will be the same time as the original Tuesdays with Morrie, starting at 3 p.m. Tickets for Tuesdays with Morrie will be honored for “An Afternoon with Jamie Farr.” Those who would like to purchase a ticket for this new show, or have any questions or concerns, should contact the Niswonger box office between the hours of noon and 4 p.m.

Tickets begin at $25. The Sunday, October 8, show begins at 3 p.m., with lobby doors opening at 2 that afternoon.

POSTED: 09/22/17 at 7:16 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The United Way of Van Wert County would like to remind everyone that collection efforts for the 2017 United Way Day of Caring Food Drive are well under way. As the green barrels begin popping up at local businesses for food donations, the United Way encourages all to keep a spare can or two ready at all times to fill those barrels!

The goal this year is to collect 36,000 food and toiletry items to restock local food pantries. They are always in need of food and toiletry items and area residents’ help is more than appreciated.

To help reach the goal of 36,000 items, several challenges have been issued to local businesses. One challenge has been issued to all local banks in Van Wert County to see who can collect the most items and have bragging rights for the 2017 food drive. Local residents can help a favorite bank win by bringing in food and toiletry items the next time they stop in to do their banking business. Local banks, the United Way of Van Wert County, and the food pantries greatly appreciate local support.

The top need items are canned meat, peanut butter, cereal, boxed meals, instant potatoes, detergent, and diapers.

The food drive runs through the end of business on Thursday, September 28.

For more information on the United Way Day of Caring or to volunteer with the food drive, contact the United Way of Van Wert County at 419.238.6689, email, visit the United Way website at, or check it out on Facebook.

POSTED: 09/22/17 at 7:13 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

CONVOY — The Crestview Local School District is asking parents and community members for input on a district assessment survey.

Surveys may be completed by going to and clicking on the “Community/Student Survey” section at the top of the page. The survey will close Monday, October 9.

The district thanks those involved in advance for their continued support of Crestview’s students.

POSTED: 09/22/17 at 7:11 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The murder trial of Christopher Peters heads into its fourth day in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court, with the trial expected to go to the jury sometime Friday. Peters is charged with the death of 15-month-old Hayden Ridinger on November 15, 2016, at The Old Lincoln Inn apartment complex on the west side of Delphos.

Delphos Police Detective Dave Clark testifies Wednesday during the murder trial of Christopher Peters. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Thursday’s witnesses are expected to include the prosecution’s final witnesses, as well as Valerie Dean, the boy’s mother, who was subpoenaed to testify by defense attorney William Kluge. Whether Dean will actually testify, though, is unknown, since she also faces felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment in connection with her son’s death.

On Wednesday, the prosecution called four witnesses, with most of the time taken up by Delphos Police Detective Dave Clark and a video of Clark interviewing Peters after he was taken into custody in Fostoria on November 18.


POSTED: 09/21/17 at 7:05 am. FILED UNDER: News

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent writer

It won’t be long before residents of the Van Wert City School District learn more about three different options tied to a possible new athletic complex or the potential renovation of Eggerss Stadium.

During Wednesday’s monthly meeting, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent Bill Clifton told the Van Wert City Board of Education that information will be released next week.

Board member Cindy Hurless listens to a presentation during Wednesday’s meeting. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

The Van Wert independent will have an initial story on Monday, then stories outlining the three options on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Clifton also said an electronic community survey will go live at midnight on Saturday, September 30, and will close at 11:59 p.m. October 10. A link to the survey will be published in the final story explaining the different options.

“We’re basically giving people 10 days for the survey to be open and we feel that’s plenty of time,” Clifton said. “What we’re trying to do is wrap this up before the October board meeting.”

“We need to make sure we have time to decipher the results, and from those results make a presentation,” Clifton added.

In other business, Clifton updated board members on transportation and school safety, and he talked about school closings and delays.

“We’ve closed school two days and delayed school by three hours once with no extended time and we’ve also had one two-hour delay,” Clifton explained. He added there was some initial confusion over the three-hour delay.

Board members and administrators heard a brief presentation from district employees Kristi Fuerst and Nellie Schmidt on marketing and public relations, and a revamped school district website,


POSTED: 09/21/17 at 7:00 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

Van Wert County Sheriff Thomas M. Riggenbach announced his office will be holding its sixth child passenger safety seat event this month.

This year, the week of September 17-23 is Child Passenger Safety Week. The child passenger safety seat event will be on Saturday, September 23, at the Delphos Fire Department, 125 E. Second St. in Delphos.  The event will be from 9-11 a.m.

Sheriff Riggenbach stated that parents, grandparents, caregivers, etc., can stop at the Delphos Fire Department and have their child passenger safety seat inspected to ensure the seat is properly installed and is the appropriate type of safety seat for the child using the seat.

Sheriff Riggenbach highly recommends that families attending the child passenger safety seat events bring their children with them to the event. This allows the Sheriff’s Office car seat technicians, Deputy Colleen Wiley and Deputy Seth Karl, to ensure a child passenger safety seat is properly installed and is appropriate for that child. During this inspection, Deputies Wiley and Karl will also be providing educational information for families about child passenger safety seats.

For more information about the upcoming child passenger safety seat event, contact Deputies Wiley or Karl at 419.238.3866.

Families who cannot attend the Delphos event on September 23 can also contact Deputies Wiley or Karl to make an appointment to have a child passenger safety seat inspected.

The child passenger safety seat event is free to the public.

POSTED: 09/21/17 at 6:51 am. FILED UNDER: News

Submitted information

COLUMBUS — State Representative Craig S. Riedel (R-Defiance) has announced that the Ohio House has passed House Bill 215, legislation he sponsored to allow the part-time Paulding County Court to become the full-time Paulding County Municipal Court.

Craig Riedel

“It was great to see House Bill 215 pass out of the Ohio House of Representatives this afternoon,” said Riedel. “I am glad that the passage of our first piece of legislation involves the hard working Judge Suzanne Rister of the Paulding County Court. I look forward to seeing how much more the full-time Paulding County Municipal Court will accomplish with these changes.”

House Bill 215 would help accommodate the growing number of cases that have arisen in Paulding County in recent years. This includes an increase in cases due to the opioid epidemic, as well as a substantial increase in traffic tickets, accidents, and moving violations following the 2012 expansion of U.S. 24 from a two-lane to a four-lane highway.

The Paulding County Municipal Court is responsible for hearing criminal division, traffic division, and civil division cases, including misdemeanor criminal cases, complaints up to $15,000, small claims up to $6,000, and eviction cases.

If enacted, the new court structure would go into effect January 1, 2020. HB 215 now awaits consideration by the Ohio Senate.

POSTED: 09/21/17 at 6:49 am. FILED UNDER: News

Submitted information

The Van Wert Soil & Water Conservation District will hold a special election for one District Board of Supervisor position at its 68th annual meeting on Tuesday, December 5, at Vantage Career Center in Van Wert.

Those interested in running for the Board of Supervisors position may stop in the Van Wert SWCD office, 1185 Professional Drive in Van Wert, to pick up a nomination petition form. Potential candidates need to secure at least 10 valid signatures from residents and/or landowners from Van Wert County on the petition form. The petition needs to be submitted to the Van Wert SWCD office by 3:30 p.m. on October 31.

Candidates meeting the eligibility requirements of being 18 years of age or older and residing in Van Wert County, as well as the deadline, will be listed on the ballot for the special election.

POSTED: 09/21/17 at 6:48 am. FILED UNDER: News

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