The shooting death and rape in Highland County of a Wilmington woman, and the subsequent conviction of her boyfriend on resulting charges, have been selected by The Times-Gazette as the county’s top 2019 news story.
Following is a recap of the top stories of the past year as voted on by the newspaper’s editorial staff:
No. 1 — Carver charged with murder
James Carver, a 40-year-old New Vienna resident, was arrested in Dayton on Feb. 21, 2019, Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins told The Times-Gazette. Carver had been deemed a person of interest in the shooting of Heather Camp, 33, of Wilmington, and authorities had been tracking him since her death on Feb. 19. Camp was taken to the Adena Greenfield Medical Center by an acquaintance at approximately 6 a.m. that day with a gunshot wound to the chest. She did not survive the injury.
Carver was accused of beating Camp, shooting her in the chest at close range on Feb. 17 in Highland, raping her as she was bleeding out, and refusing to take her to the hospital. Camp died nearly two days after she was shot, according to a bill of particulars. The bill says Carver admitted to beating Camp, shooting her and having sex with her, although he maintained that the shooting was accidental as he was aiming the gun at Camp to intimidate her.
On April 2, a grand jury indicted Carver for murder, an unclassified felony, with a specification that he displayed, brandished, indicated possession of or used a firearm; rape, a first-degree felony; having weapons under disability; domestic violence; and tampering with evidence.
On Aug. 8, Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss told a nearly emotionless Carver that a jury had found him guilty on five of six charges, including murder and rape. He was found not guilty of domestic violence. Coss sentenced Carver to a total of at least 33 years in prison. The judge told Carver he could serve the rest of his life behind bars, adding, “And I hope you do.”
No. 2 (tie)
Family searching for Hillsboro girl since first of year — On Jan. 1, 2019, Lanessa Roosa, 21, went missing. The day before, Roosa was picked up by the Greenfield Police Department on warrants and taken to jail. According to Angela Jordon, Roosa’s mother, Roosa was taken to Adena Greenfield Medical Center because Roosa allegedly complained of abdominal pains. Jordan said her daughter was granted some kind of 24-hour medical furlough, but after a couple hours at the hospital, Roosa walked out with her boyfriend.
Roosa allegedly asked her boyfriend to take her Highland District Hospital in Hillsboro, Jordan said, but on the way there she asked to go to the Greystone Motel first to rest and clean up. Roosa’s boyfriend dropped her off then left to repair problems with his vehicle, Jordan said.
Around 5 p.m. that evening, Jordan said she received a phone call from Roosa’s boyfriend saying Roosa had crawled into a cubbyhole at the motel. By the time Jordan got to the motel, she said Roosa had crawled into the ceiling before falling through into another room. Jordan said Roosa hit her head and hip on a bathroom sink during the fall, but Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said the person who first reported to the sheriff’s office what happened at the motel was the man whose room Roosa fell into. Barrera said the man did not notice any injuries.
The next day, Jordan said she, Roosa’s boyfriend, her dad and stepmother searched the woods around the hotel for about four hours, but did not find her.
Roosa was listed as a missing person on Jan. 30.
On April 4, 30 to 32 officials from the sheriff’s office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation with three cadaver dogs, Hillsboro Police Department, Greenfield Police Department, Highland County Prosecutor’s Office, Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District and Highland County Emergency Management Agency searched an area from behind the Greystone to SR 124 for about five hours but found nothing, according to Barrera.
On Dec. 12, the Highland County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a hunter who’d discovered what he thought to be skeletal remains in a heavily wooded area between U.S. Route 50 and SR 124 outside the Hillsboro corporation limits. Highland County Coroner Dr. Jeff Beery said the remains were those of a female, and they had been there a long time.
On Dec. 17, a news release from Barrera confirmed that the remains were Roosa’s.
Building collapses on West Main Street — On June 3 shortly after 3:30 p.m., the front portion of the vacant building at 119 W. Main St. collapsed. Police, fire and EMS crews were at the scene within minutes, stopping traffic and clearing the scene. Debris covered the sidewalk, and officials warned bystanders to avoid a large power line that had fallen as a result of the collapse. A memo from Hillsboro’s building inspector directed firefighters not to enter buildings on much of the 100 block of West Main Street in the event of a fire due to structural instability.
In April, Anton Weissmann, who was later fired from his position as Hillsboro’s chief building inspector, said the building had been deemed uninhabitable. Weissmann said the city had also deemed each building from the Parker House all the way to a AAA office on West Main Street uninhabitable.
On July 29, barricades blocking eastbound traffic on West Main Sreet in Hillsboro came down, and traffic to resumed as normal, though the eastbound lane of West Main Street remained closed long after the rest of the street was reopened.
On Sept. 16, Momma’s West Main Cafe, a popular local restaurant forced to close after Weissmann deemed the building housing it unfit for habitation due to alleged safety issues in April, re-opened.
On Oct. 23, after months of hearings, demolition bids and legal battles, a crew began demolishing the buildings at 115, 117 and 119 W. Main St.
Interim Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Dick Donley said there were no plans at that time for the space once it was cleared. As of Nov. 25, the cleared space at what once was 117 and 119 W. Main St. was still privately owned.
No. 4 (tie)
Marriott hotel in Hillsboro — Discussion of bringing a hotel to Hillsboro began in 2016, when Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings announced he was having a feasibility study conducted to determine “whether our market will support a new hotel complex and thus encourage developer investment.”
Earlier in 2019, Hastings told The Times-Gazette he was seeking approval from the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education so developers could move forward with a project that would bring the proposed four-story Marriott hotel to Hillsboro. Hastings said the developers approached the city in early 2018 to inquire about what he called “common incentives” typically offered by cities.
In October, the Hillsboro Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the tax increment financing compensation agreement with the city.
At a September school board meeting, Ankur Patel, one of the developers working to bring the hotel to Hillsboro, said there was a need for a hotel in Hillsboro because people coming to the city to visit family or on business trips usually stay 30 or 40 miles away.
Also in September, Richard Spoor said the TIF proposal provides an incentive for building infrastructure that would cost about $3 million for the proposed project.
Earlier this month, the Hillsboro City Council adopted an ordinance providing for the issuance of $3 million in bonds that will help get construction started on the hotel.
On Dec. 20, developers and local government officials met at the Hillsboro Orpheum to discuss the plans for the Marriott Hotel. The multi-million dollar development will be situated on currently vacant land approaching the intersection of North West Street, SR 73 and Harry Sauner Road. According to Patel, the developers plan to break ground on the hotel in the first quarter of 2020. Patel estimated the project will take 12 to 14 months to complete.
Patel also explained the proposed layout of the hotel and retail plaza, saying they include 83 rooms, a bank, five or six restaurants, second-floor office space, and a sports bar.
Though Patel said they’ve considered including known chains such as Panera Bread and Starbucks in the development, he said they want to give local entrepreneurs the chance to lease space. Patel estimated that between the hotel and the retail plaza, the development will bring 100 jobs to Hillsboro.
Highland Co. solar project— Discussion of two local solar farms dates back to at least November 2018, when the Highland County commissioners met with a representative from Open Road Renewables, a Texas-based renewable energy company that focuses on the development of utility-scale clean energy projects.
The corporation was working with Willowbrook Solar LLC to build a 100-megawatt solar facility in southern Highland County, and a news release from AEP Ohio said a 300-megawatt facility was in the planning stages from Hecate Energy Highland LLC. Both projects were expected to be operational by the end of 2021 pending regulatory approval. A news release stated that construction of the facilities is expected to support nearly 4,000 jobs in total and contribute $24 million in new state tax revenue, and $6.7 million in local tax revenue.
In early January 2019, opponents of the plan argued that consumers already had options if they wanted to power their homes with renewable energy.
On April 4, the Ohio Power Siting Board gave Open Road Renewables the necessary approval for its Willowbrook Solar Farm. Pending a “finding of need” ruling from the PUCO, the 150-megawatt Willowbrook installation will occupy approximately 1,500 acres in southern Highland County and the northeastern corner of Brown County.
On April 12, State representative Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) and fellow representative Jamie Callender (R-Concord Township) introduced House Bill 6, creating the Ohio Clean Air Program (OCAP) with the intention of offering an alternative way to encourage cleaner energy production in Ohio, such as the construction of the two solar panel farms proposed for southern Highland County.
On May 16, the Ohio Power Siting Board authorized Hecate Highland Energy, LLC to proceed with plans to construct its 300-megawatt solar farm north of and between Mowrystown and Buford.
On July 17, House Bill 6 cleared the Ohio senate.
However, on Nov. 21, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) rejected part of AEP Ohio’s plan to develop the 350-megawatt Hecate and the 150-megawatt Willowbrook solar panel farms. Neil Waggoner, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Ohio, said the PUCO ordered a change in how construction would be financed. He emphasized that both projects are still on track for construction, but that PUCO’s ruling had to do with AEP’s desire to “rate base” financing of construction.
No. 6 — Two dead after shooting
At 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, the Highland County Sheriff’s Office received a call that a woman had been shot inside a residence and a small child had been taken from the home. When they arrived at the home on U.S. 50, deputies found Sherry Walls, 33, of Hillsboro, deceased.
While the Hillsboro Police Department responded to assist, the sheriff said police officers observed a male with a child at the Hillsboro Church of the Nazarene, located at 8230 U.S. 50., about a quarter mile east of the Hillsboro city limits. When officers arrived at the church parking lot, the male could be observed inside of the church, while the child was standing outside of the church, according to Barrera. When a deputy and police officer grabbed the child from the church doorway, Barrera said the officer observed a male with a handgun inside the church.
The building was surrounded by officers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Hillsboro Police Department and sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office Special Response Team was called to the scene and officers entered the church, where Joshua McLaughlin, 33, of Hillsboro, was found deceased of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Barrera said officers were stationed outside the church for about two hours before deciding to enter the church. He said they are not sure when McLaughlin apparently shot himself because they never heard a gun shot.
No. 7 — Man dead in shooting
On Nov. 18, a 29-year-old man was shot and killed by a homeowner while he attempted to enter a house in Willetsville. According to neighbors, the man said he was there to kill the homeowner. The names of the victim and the shooter have never been released.
No. 8 — Highland County plans drug court
In early February, Highland County Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss announced that he wanted to create a drug court because he understood that a second chance can sometimes make more of a difference in someone’s life than a prison sentence. Drug courts are specialized dockets that offer defendants charged with drug crimes a chance at cleaning up their record through 18 or more months of intensive reporting requirements and treatment.
Coss said the court will also partner with residential treatment centers like Massie House, a men’s residential facility near Buford, and the Lynn Goff Clinic in Greenfield, which provides residential treatment for women, as well as the Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition and REACH for Tomorrow, a Greenfield-based nonprofit.
In late December, the Highland County Common Pleas Drug Court Docket earned final certification from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Commission on Specialized Dockets.
No. 9 (tie)
Record wet year spells trouble for local farmers, September 2nd hottest in U.S., and warmest Christmas since 1982 — In September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that January through August set records for the wettest months in U.S. history. The National Weather Service the year has been the fifth wettest year on record for the Cincinnati area. Koniglio said in July, the weather in the Cincinnati area returned to “normal,” so the effects from high water, flooding and wet soil had decreased.
However, Nathan Brown, a Hillsboro farmer who manages 1,300 acres of corn and soybean fields, said there were still farmers planting soybeans into the first week of July. He added that cooler temperatures were also delaying crop growth.
In October, the NWS said September much of the area was in a borderline drought condition due to a persistent pattern of high pressure in the upper atmosphere. The NWS said Dayton recorded 90-degree or above temperatures for eight days, and Cincinnati reached the milestone nine days through the end of the month.
In December, meteorologist Myron Padgett of the NWS said Christmas Day 2019 was the second warmest Christmas on record for the region. It was just one degree cooler than the 66-degree record high set 126 years ago at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Padgett said the average for this time of the year is about 20 degrees colder with highs around the 40-degree mark and lows in the mid to upper 20s.
Man found dead at Rocky Fork Lake — On Jan. 19, 41-year-old John Peacock was found deceased in the rear passenger side seat of a car at an area business leaning against a window, and was partially dressed, according to Dr. Jim McKown, an investigator with the Highland County Coroner’s Office.
In early February, Highland County Coroner Dr. Jeff Beery said the condition of Peacock’s body was not consistent with the environment in which it was found. Beery said his body’s temperature was also very low, so Peacock may have been dead for some time before his remains were found.
In October and November, Billy Joe Stone, a 50-year-old Hillsboro man, and Carl Lockhart, a 59-year-old Bainbridge resident, were charged with tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse for their involvement in Peacock’s death. The two were sentenced to a total of 23 months each in prison.
On Nov. 6, Ervin Howard Jr., a 59-year-old Hillsboro man, was sentenced to a total of 39 months in prison in connection with Peacock’s death.
A bill of particulars said Howard allegedly sold Peacock drugs while he and several others were partying in the Rocky Fork Lake area. After Peacock overdosed and died, Howard, Stone and Lockhart took the body to a Dollar General parking lot on North Shore Drive, leaving Peacock’s partially clothed body in the back seat of Peacock’s car.
Hillsboro choral director fights termination — On April 15, the Hillsboro Board of Education voted 3-2 to approve a recommendation from Superintendent Tim Davis to consider the termination of Hillsboro Choral Director David White’s contract. According to Davis, White put students in danger during a symphonic choir trip to New York City when he allowed 12 kids on the trip to move a car that was blocking the path of their bus on March 28. White said he planned to fight the decision.
According to White, the bus he and the students were on, along with five chaperones, was coming off the Lincoln Tunnel, turned onto a one-way side street, and an illegally parked Smart Car was on the right curb with other vehicles on the left. The bus driver tried to maneuver around the car, but was unable, and he remarked, according to White, “If I only had six inches I could move around that car.” White said he and others said they could move the car, then he and 10 to 12 students, with help from a taxi driver blocked behind the bus, moved the Smart Car no more than 12 inches. The incident was recorded by a student and uploaded to Facebook. According to White, five chaperones also supported the decision to move the car. He said that because the smart car was parked by the right curb, and the bus had other traffic blocked, the students were in no danger. He said the whole episode took less than 30 seconds. White also said no one was cited, no complaints were filed, and that the bus company was made aware of the situation and did not complain.
Four of the chaperones, as well as several students and community members, spoke in White’s defense at the April 15 meeting, which was moved to the Hillsboro Elementary cafeteria to accommodate an expected large crowd. White’s supporters filled the cafeteria to standing room only.
On June 25, nearly 100 of White’s supporters crowded the offices of the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education as the public hearing in White’s appeal case began. During the hearing, Hillsboro High School Principal Joseph Turner and Superintendent Tim Davis accused White of endangering students and violating ethics.
Turner described White as a great motivator and teacher, despite some circumstances that he described as “unstable in some dealings with students and parents,” and at the same time calling his teaching methods “creative” with a somewhat “eccentric personality.”
In the end, White was terminated. White had been the choral director for 17 years at the time of his termination.
In August, Laura Jacky was hired as the high school/middle school vocal music director and high school musical director.
Debbie’s Dispensary opens — Debbie’s Dispensary opened at 1088 N. High St. in Hillsboro on July 31. Store manager Emily Clocksin compared the store to a pharmacy. It’s the only medical marijuana dispensary for nearly 50 miles.
Quality was the name of Ellis’ Dairy Queen game — From July 6, 1950 to April 1996, Howard Ellis made a Dairy Queen next to a stockyards work and then some. He attributed his success to his dedication to buying “the best money could buy.” Ellis turned 94 this year.
6,200 boxes and counting — In the last seven years, 97-year-old Hillsboro resident Ruth Meranda says she has wrapped more than 6,200 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Meranda told The Times-Gazette she began wrapping boxes when the late Helen Hiestand approached her after Meranda’s eldest son died by suicide
Drug combos causing mayhem — Local first responders said in February that an increase in overdoses involving carfentanil — a powerful opioid used as a tranquilizer for elephants — is not being seen here as it is elsewhere in the state, but another trend had them concerned: the use of methamphetamine and opioids as a lethal mix that can cause overdose victims to become violent with their rescuers.
Hillsboro names Daniels chief of police — On May 20, Eric Daniels was sworn in as the new permanent chief of police for the city. Daniels had served as interim police chief after former Police Chief Darrin Goudy was “given the option to resign” after officials found daily duty logs kept by dispatch did not always reflect what Goudy’s time sheet showed. Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings called Daniels the man best qualified to occupy the position of leadership and said Daniels’ record reflected commitment.
Headed to The Big Apple — Fairfield teacher Tiffany Miller was selected to run in the 2019 New York City Marathon. As of May 3, Miller had been running for 1,111 consecutive days and had covered more than 3,000 miles. The New York City Marathon event marked her fourth marathon.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.