Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Ad helps arrest 20 offenders

Public responds to efforts to find child-support violators

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Butler County Sheriff's latest advertisement — listing parents who owe child-support payments — has struck the collective public nerve, officers say.

        “We're on fire. It's huge, what we're doing here,” said sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Gebhart. “Everybody hates a deadbeat parent, and we're getting all kinds of people turned in.”

        As of Tuesday afternoon, 20 people had been arrested on nonsupport warrants — about two-thirds the number of such warrants served in an average month, Sgt. Gebhart said.

Listed by the Butler County Prosecutor's Office as the top five offenders for nonpayment of child support:
• Derek Aldredge, born Sept. 27, 1962
• Lowell Ballard, born Oct. 8, 1970
• Terry Heindorf, born May 30, 1958
• Chris Roell, born Jan. 9, 1964
• Keith Willis, born Jan. 31, 1972
Amounts owed were unavailable Tuesday because of a computer problem, officials said.
        Investigators were chasing 15 other tips on alleged scofflaws' whereabouts, Sgt. Gebhart said, adding that several suspects were arrested out-of-state. One was picked up in Indiana, another in Kentucky, and “Colorado's attempting a pickup for us out there,” he said.

        An advertisement, which listed 200 names of parents wanted for failure to pay for their children, was published in several local newspapers Sunday. It was the second newspaper ad in which the sheriff's office listed names and birthdates of wanted persons. Col. Richard K. Jones, the sheriff's chief deputy, says more ads are planned because the method has proven so successful.

        “Anytime the public gets this involved, it tells us that we're doing the right thing,” Sgt. Gebhart said. “The response has been tremendous, even more than with our first ad.”

        The first ad ran in late May, naming people wanted on misdemeanor warrants issued from County Area III court in Union Township. That ad is credited with helping Sgt. Gebhart's warrants officers serve a record 387 warrants last month.

        The sheriff's office started getting tips even before the child-support ad ran, Sgt. Gebhart said, thanks to a news article about the upcoming ad.

        Noting that the ad appeared on Father's Day, Sgt. Gebhart thinks that people's minds were on family matters, so they were especially outraged by the alleged scofflaws. “People are calling because they're upset,” he said. “They want to see the kids taken care of.”

        Ironically, one of the alleged child-support violators was one of Col. Jones' rental property ten ants. Keith Allen Willis, 28, had lived on 10th Avenue in Hamilton, but Col. Jones evicted him for failing to pay rent. Col. Jones explained he doesn't regularly screen warrants, so he was astonished to see Mr. Willis' name in Sunday's ad.

        As of Tuesday, Mr. Willis still had not been found.

        “There's nowhere to hide. We're going to find them eventually,” Col. Jones said. “Call us even if they're in other states. We'll hunt 'em down.”

        Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office at 887-3010.



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