Saturday, May 17, 2003

Tristate A.M. Report

Compiled from staff and wire reports

Trio of thieves operating here

An old trick - bumping into a stranger while lifting his wallet - has netted thousands of dollars to a three-person team that has been ripping people off in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Florence, Ky., Cincinnati police said Friday.

Police said two black males and a white female are working together. They have robbed at least two local victims.

Police have video of the woman, who has blond hair and appears to be in her 30s, in a Bank One using a stolen credit card to get a $4,900 cash advance. The three are thought to have netted more than $14,000 in cash and stolen goods, and seem to be targeting senior citizens. Police do not have descriptions of the male suspects.

In addition to getting cash advances, the thieves used some of the stolen credit cards to buy items at downtown Cincinnati stores, such as Saks.

"There are at least two incidents here, and we're afraid there could be or will be more," Cincinnati Police spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd said. "There may be a whole lot more we're unaware of."

Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 352-3040. Callers don't have to give their names and may be eligible for a reward if their tips lead to an arrest.

Inmate eligible for death penalty

James Were, who was convicted on two charges of aggravated murder and a charge of kidnapping Wednesday, could be sentenced to die for the crimes, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court judge determined Friday.

Judge Fred Cartolano determined Were, 46, was not mentally retarded.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Were, one of four men who killed prison guard Robert Vallandingham during a riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville in 1993.

The hearing was in response to a new death penalty regulation that says anyone who is mentally retarded cannot be executed.

Were's attorneys argued that he had an IQ of 69, one point below what is often considered mentally retarded. The IQ tests date to Were's childhood because he refused to take a new one.

Were will be sentenced Monday.

Man shot outside check-cashing outlet

A man was shot and robbed outside a check-cashing business in College Hill Friday afternoon. Cincinnati police have four suspects in custody.

The unidentified victim was shot once in the chest. He was taken to University Hospital. Police spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd said the wound is serious, "but it looks like he will survive."

Police have not released the names of the four suspects, but Byrd said officers did recover cash and weapons from the men.

The shooting happened at about 4 p.m. at Daly and Galbraith roads. The suspects were stopped about 10 minutes later on Virginia Avenue in Northside, after police received a description of the car from witnesses.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 352-3040.

Pair accused of targeting witness

MONROE TOWNSHIP - Two men have been arrested for allegedly trying to set afire the home of a witness in a criminal trial early Thursday.

Robert S. Taylor, 33, of New Richmond, and William T. Willhoff, 31, of Amelia, each face one count of aggravated arson, said Clermont County Sheriff A.J. "Tim" Rodenberg Jr.

The two were arrested Thursday. They are being detained in the Clermont County Jail. Taylor is being held on a $500,000 bond. Willhoff's bond has been set at $100,000.

Officials say the two men used gasoline to start a house fire in the 2000 block of Bethel-New Richmond Road. Firefighters were called shortly before 3:30 a.m. Thursday. An occupant escaped unharmed, officials said, adding that no injuries were reported.

A resident of the house is scheduled to testify for the prosecution in a criminal trial. Officials with the prosecutor's office could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Hamilton district can use tax breaks

HAMILTON - The U.S. Senate passed a bill this week that allows Hamilton's Main Street Business District to qualify for tax incentives designed to retain and attract new businesses.

More than a year ago, Hamilton was named an urban renewal community, a federal designation enabling the city to offer tax credits and other incentives to spark economic development.

The Main Street Business District is just across the Great Miami River from downtown.

Eastern Corridor meetings scheduled

Officials with the Eastern Corridor Project, a proposal to improve the transportation in eastern Hamilton County and western Clermont County, will hold a series of public meetings to review the current plans.

The meetings are 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at the Madisonville Recreation Center; 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at Glen Este High School, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday in Cincinnati City Hall.

For further information, call the project office at 271-5059.

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