Saturday, May 10, 2003

Fire captain accused in abduction

Columbus police arrest him inside victim's home

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Madeira-Indian Hill firefighter visiting Columbus for a weeklong firefighting conference was arrested late Thursday and accused of breaking into a home near the Ohio State University campus, brandishing a butcher knife and pushing a young woman onto her bed.

The 21-year-old woman fought back and, within minutes, was saved by a roommate's 911 call and officers who arrested Capt. Michael Cornelius, a 33-year-old Montgomery man with about 10 years' firefighting experience.

Both the unnamed woman and Cornelius suffered minor lacerations.

Cornelius will be arraigned today in Franklin County Municipal Court on charges of aggravated burglary and abduction.

Columbus police also are investigating whether he could be connected with other break-ins in the region.

"While this may be his first time doing this, these crimes tend to escalate," said Sherry Mercurio, spokeswoman for the Columbus Police Division. "So if you can stop this in the beginning, that's great."

According to Columbus police, a man broke into a West Norwich Avenue home - just east of OSU's campus - and sneaked up the stairs to the second floor.

The woman saw him lurking outside her door, which was ajar, and rose to see who was there. The intruder flashed a butcher knife and forced her onto the bed.

While they struggled, the woman's roommate returned after running a brief errand and found herself locked out. She caught a glimpse of the intruder and immediately called 911.

Columbus police arrived shortly before midnight, broke into the home and made the arrest. "Luckily, the roommate thought so quickly to call the police. They were able to stop something far worse from happening," said Mercurio.

Police said that the victim and Cornelius apparently did not know each other.

Madeira-Indian Hill Fire Chief Steve Ashbrock did not return calls Friday.

Selma Devore, the fire captain's Montgomery neighbor, was shocked at his arrest. She said Cornelius is a kind family man with three children.

"I can't fathom anything like that," she said when told of Cornelius' arrest. "Frankly, I don't care to discuss anything else about Mike because it's a nice family."

Cornelius was attending the Ohio Fire Executives Conference.


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