Saturday, August 31, 2002

Tristate A.M. Report

Husband sues driver for family's death

        LEBANON — A 19-year-old Michigan man who was acquitted in a crash that killed a mother and her twin 3-year-old daughters on Interstate 75 last year is being sued for wrongful death.

        Gary L. Hinkle, who lost his wife, Nancy, 48, and daughters Emily and Elizabeth, filed suit in Warren County Common Pleas Court Thursday, asking for more than $100,000 in damages from Jerad Rushlow, of Newport, Mich., his father and their family-owned beauty salon.

        State police said Mr. Rushlow was speeding on a rain-slick road June 4, 2001, lost control and slid across the grassy median near Ohio 63, striking the Hinkles, who were returning home to Peachtree, Ga.

        A jury in Lebanon Municipal Court in February found Mr. Rushlow not guilty of three counts of vehicular homicide. The verdict came after accident reconstruction expert for the defense questioned the highway patrol's investigation and showed that Mr. Rushlow was traveling below the speed limit.

Ex-student pleads guilty to drug sale

        LEBANON — A second former Bowling Green State University student pleaded guilty Friday to selling 12 pounds of marijuana to undercover Warren County drug agents.

        Brian C. Mutter, 22, of Holland, Ohio, faces up to five years in prison when he returns to Common Pleas Court in about one month for sentencing on the drug trafficking charge.

        His ex-roommate, Michael Ryan Garity, 22, of the Toledo area, entered a similar plea earlier this week. Police said the case involved the largest undercover sale of marijuana in Warren County.

        The two men were arrested May 2 after delivering the marijuana to undercover drug agents at the Holiday Inn Express in Springboro.

        Authorities said they had made 10 to 15 smaller drug buys from Mr. Mutter and Mr. Garity during the three-month investigation. The men face additional trafficking charges in Bowling Green involving five additional pounds of marijuana confiscated from their apartment on a search warrant.

Judge named to 6th Circuit Court

        The addition of a federal judge from Tennessee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals still leaves the court with seven vacancies, almost half the number of judgeships that Congress has given it.

        Julia Gibbons, a U.S. District Court judge in Memphis, Tenn., became the first judge to join the Cincinnati-based appeals court since Clinton nominee Ronald Lee Gilman of Memphis in November 1997. Judge Gibbons was sworn in Thursday before about 1,000 people in Memphis.

        When Judge Gilman started in 1997, 6th Circuit appeals Judge Eugene Siler Jr. took senior, or semiretired, status at the end of 2001, which allows a judge to handle a reduced caseload. Mr. Siler's change in status left the court with just eight active judges, half of the 16 judgeships.

        The Cincinnati court has the highest number of vacancies of the nation's 13 federal appellate courts, said Richard Carelli, spokesman for the administrative office of the federal courts in Washington, D.C.

        The appellate courts are just below the Supreme Court, the nation's highest court.

Orient man pleads guilty to OSU killing

        DELAWARE, Ohio - An Orient resident has pleaded guilty to killing an Ohio State University student last December along a rural road in Delaware County.

        Common Pleas Judge Everett Krueger accepted a plea agreement Thursday under which Patrick Brunty will face a life term for aggravated murder in the death of Christopher Gerspacher and a maximum of eight years for conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery.

        Mr. Brunty, 37, must serve an additional three years because a gun was used in the killing, and he must testify at the trial of Eric Spar, a friend who also is charged in Mr. Gerspacher's death. That trial begins Nov. 4.

        A death-penalty specification was dismissed Thursday, along with another conspiracy charge and an aggravated-robbery count.

        Prosecutors and defense attorneys jointly recommended that Mr. Brunty serve at least 25 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. If Judge Krueger imposes a maximum sentence, Mr. Brunty won't be eligible for 31 years. Sentencing was set for Nov. 15.

        Mr. Brunty said the killing was payback for a bad drug deal several years ago involving Mr. Spar and Mr. Gerspacher.

        Mr. Brunty said he aimed a two-shot derringer at Mr. Gerspacher and shot him once in the back of the head on Dec. 22.

        “I guess I was dumb,” he said. “I pretty much lost what little bit of sense I had left.”

State park workers oppose budget cuts

        COLUMBUS, Ohio - Off-duty employees at 14 state parks will be asking park visitors this weekend to fight cutbacks proposed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources because of budget problems.

        The employees will be handing out fliers asking visitors to contact their legislators.

        The department's budget has been trimmed by 15 percent, or $12.6 million, this year, and the department is in the process of abolishing about 50 positions in the Parks and Recreation Division, which has about 640 full- and part-time employees.

        Margie Straiko of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association said park workers want to get the message out that further cutbacks could jeopardize park services.

        The state Office of Budget and Management has instructed agencies to submit spending plans for the next two-year budget at 85 percent of the current level.

        The leaflets point out that mowing, beach maintenance, nature programs and lifeguard staffing have been scaled back.

        They say that next year, there could be fewer campgrounds open, fee increases, closed restrooms, less security and trail maintenance.

        Spokesman Jim Lynch said the Department of Natural Resources is

        neutral on the leafleting.

        “We're OK with it,” he said. “We understand the employees have their rights to let folks know what's happening.”

Neighbors of sex offenders get alert

        CHARDON, Ohio - A northeast Ohio county has started a program to send e-mail alerts to residents if registered sex offenders move into their neighborhood.

        The Geauga County Sheriff's Department is the first Ohio law enforcement agency to use the $3,500-a-year service offered by Louisiana-based Watch Systems.

        Residents can enroll on a Web site to be notified if a sex offender moves near their home or any other selected location.

        The site provides names, addresses and photographs of the 26 Geauga County residents convicted of sex-related crimes.

        The county also will mail postcards to residents living within a mile of registered sex offenders.

        Compiled from staff and wire reports



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