Police briefs

Man charged with sexual conduct hopes to move on

LISBON – James Houshour II, 22, East Third Street, Salem, spoke of moving forward and making the best of his situation just before he was sentenced in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court to 17 months in prison on Thursday for four counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Houshour, who was 19 at the time, had sex with the same teenage girl in Lisbon four times in either late June or during the month of July in 2012. Three of the sexual acts reportedly happened at a location on East Washington Street, while the fourth occurred in the Columbiana County Fairgrounds.

The girl was 13 years old when the alleged crimes began, although she turned 14 during the month of July that year. The charges noted Houshour knew the girl was between 13 and 16 years old at the time of the crimes.

Although they had a right to be heard at the hearing, Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol said the girl’s family was notified of Thursday’s sentencing hearing, but chose not to attend.

Each count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor carried a possible maximum sentence of 18 months in prison for a total possible sentence of six years, but in Houshour’s case McNicol only requested the 17 months for each count, with each sentence to be served concurrently to the other. Judge Scott Washam agreed with the recommendation.

Houshour was credited with 115 days already served, but McNicol noted Houshour also is facing an additional charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in Portage County, where there is a warrant out of Ravenna Municipal Court.

At this point, he will be considered a Tier I sexual offender with annual registration requirements.

EL man guilty of

pandering in obscenity

LISBON – An East Liverpool man accused of looking at child pornography on computers at the Lepper Library in Lisbon pleaded guilty in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court on Friday morning.

Ronald L. Keener, 48, Avondale Street, pleaded guilty to pandering in obscenity involving a minor and illegal view or use of a minor in nudity oriented materials. He faces up to 30 months in prison for the charges, which are fourth- and fifth-degree felonies, respectively.

Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol said in March of 2013, Keener was a regular patron of the Lepper Library when he drew the attention of some of the employees of the library. He reportedly was acting suspiciously, attempting to hide what he was looking at on the computers when others walked by, rushing to change the page.

After he left, the terminal was analyzed, and it was found Keener had been accessing some inappropriate sites online, looking at pornography, including a number of images of young children.

Keener remains out on bond awaiting his sentencing hearing, which was scheduled for Aug. 15.

Man receives additional time for failure to appear

LISBON – Thomas L. Peterson, the man who failed to appear for sentencing in February for an aggravated vehicular assault conviction, received an additional six-month sentence from Judge Scott Washam on Thursday morning.

Peterson, 49, Speidel Road, Hanoverton, was eventually located on the bench warrant and was sentenced in April to 53 months for aggravated vehicular assault, possession of drugs (cocaine), tampering with evidence and failure to comply with a police order. Some of the accusations were due to Peterson attempting to hide a crack cocaine pipe after the crash.

The charges had involved a car accident, which injured Lynn Mitchell on April 13, 2013 at the intersection of state Routes 7 and 14 in Columbiana. At the time, Peterson was reportedly fleeing from state troopers and ran the red light at the intersection, crashing into Mitchell’s vehicle.

On Thursday, Peterson appeared to be sentenced on the failure to appear charge, from the time he did not show up for sentencing on the other four charges. Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart requested a 12-month sentence and asked it to be served consecutive to the 53-month sentence Peterson is currently serving.

Weikart pointed out when Peterson had been located he was in a Mahoning County hotel room, not far from the county line, with a large amount of cash and cocaine in the room. He now faces an additional drug-related charge in Mahoning County from when he was located there.

Weikart also noted Mitchell attended all the hearings until Peterson was sentenced in her case, but the same could not be said of Peterson. Weikart called Peterson’s past record “deplorable” and added he added “unnecessary delays” when it came to the court’s schedule and “a burden on law enforcement” when they went after Peterson. Weikart added he did not know if an additional 12-month sentence would deter Peterson’s behavior in the future, but he believed it sent a message which may deter other’s considering not appearing for sentencing.

Peterson also made a statement before sentencing, telling Washam he knew he made a mistake.

“I didn’t want to go back to prison,” Peterson said. “I had just gotten out of prison. All this was was a wreck and I got four and a half years.”

Washam sentenced Peterson to only six months, but also pointed out the accident Peterson was involved in was much more than just a wreck. Peterson had caused serious injuries to Mitchell and the charges also involved drugs and fleeing from law enforcement. Mitchell’s injuries had including a severe concussion, glass removed from her head, a back injury and a broken hand.

Attorneys meet with judge prior to trial

LISBON – Preparing for Christopher Miller’s aggravated murder trial next week, both the prosecution and defense attorneys took one last opportunity to meet with Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike on Thursday.

Miller, 36, U.S. Route 62, Salem, is charged with aggravated murder, murder and tampering with evidence in the bludgeoning death of Matthew Bailey on Oct. 26. Besides using prior calculation and design in causing Bailey’s death, Miller allegedly attempted to conceal or remove blood evidence from both the inside and outside of his girlfriend’s 2001 Ford Escape, blood which was later reportedly found through DNA testing to be Bailey’s.

On Thursday, one of the issues of contention is redacted transcripts from some potential witnesses in the trial. Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble said there have been prior instances of threats, not necessarily to these particular witnesses, but he was reluctant to have statements made available for fear of prejudicing the defendant.

Defense attorneys Jennifer Gorby and Charley Kidder argued Miller is incarcerated and has not access to potentially intimidate witnesses. Gorby requested to see the redacted portions of the transcripts.

Pike agreed to look over the statements and make a ruling, getting back with the attorneys within a short amount of time.

Additionally, the attorneys discussed a T-shirt, which could be brought as evidence. Gamble said it was recently discovered it had not been sent to the lab for DNA testing. Preliminary testing indicates the presence of human blood and Gamble said he expects results on the DNA tests in a written report by Monday.

Finally, both sides agreed to allow reports to be presented to the jury for evaluations of fingerprints and impressions, which were also forensically evaluated.

Gamble also indicated plans to take the jury to see locations involved in the case, prior to opening statements being made.

Miller’s trial is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

Bailey is believed to have died from severe bludgeoning to the head with blood evidence found eight to 10 feet from the body on nearby trees and cornstalks. Miller reportedly also had Bailey’s blood on his clothing.

Prior to his death, Bailey was accused by the widow of Gerald Klusch as causing her husband’s death in 2011. In late September 2013, Leah Klusch filed a civil lawsuit in county Common Pleas Court claiming Bailey shot and killed her husband. Gerald G. Klusch, 71, who owned farmland and lived on U.S. Route 30 just west of Lisbon, disappeared on Sept. 29, 2011.

Bailey was identified at the time of Klusch’s disappearance as the last person believed to have seen Klusch alive. Bailey was a farmhand who had worked for Klusch.