Jada Snowden and Kymera Cody were always together.
Jada, 12, supported her 5-year-old sister Kymera in her cheering ventures, while Kymera sang along to Jada’s choir songs.
And Oct. 14, the girls died within hours of each other from injuries sustained in an Oct. 12 fire at their home.
On Friday, more than 250 people packed into Crouse school, where the family held calling hours and a home-going service for the sisters.
Crouse students weren’t in school Friday because of parent-teacher conferences. Jada, who had special needs, was a student at Crouse for seven years before she started at Buchtel school this year. Kymera was a kindergartener at Schumacher school.
On the second floor of Crouse, memorials filled with balloons and pictures of the girls’ smiling faces were spread out in the hall. They extended into the gym, where Crouse students hand-wrote letters to the girls’ family and hung them on the walls.
At the front of the gym, two projectors played a slideshow of the sisters’ pictures while a banner hanging over their caskets read, “We love you always and forever Jada and Ky Ky.”
Upbeat music played as family and friends filed in to celebrate Jada and Kymera’s lives, but it was soon overpowered by wails of grief.
“No, I want them back!” a mourner screamed as others hurried to comfort her.
When attendees settled in for the memorial service, family members and others remained teary and huddled in the middle of the gym.
Grief hung heavy over the service.
It’s the second tragedy in the past several years for the family. In 2015, the girls’ uncle, Marcus Glover, was shot and killed by David Hillis, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Glover’s death.
After violating the terms of his work release from jail, Hillis was ordered to serve his original six-year prison sentence. That order was made by a judge the morning of the fire that killed the sisters.
The Rev. Kevin Butts, the sisters’ grandfather, spoke during their service. While he said he believed it was their time to leave Earth, he couldn’t help but reflect on the impact they made in the short time they were here.
“Jada was a sparkle in everybody’s eyes,” Butts said as he recalled visiting Jada in the hospital when she was first born. “Her little heart was as big as a silver dollar, but it had more strength than all of us here today.”
While the family grappled with the pain of talking about the girls, their peers and teachers had no shortage of stories to share about them. Even with a seven-year age gap between the two, stories rarely included one sister without the other.
“Jada was so special,” said Karen Jankura, Jada’s intervention specialist. “Ky Ky became an immediate member of our family as well.”
Jankura said if Jada was ever acting up during class, she simply needed to ask: “Do we have to call Ky Ky?” and Jada’s behavior would improve right away.
Several attendees wore one white glove in honor of Jada, who often liked to wear gloves. Butts said it was because she was a fan of Michael Jackson, who wore a white glove as his signature look. But Jankura thinks Jada acquired the fixation in her class when she didn’t want to touch “ooey gooey stuff.”
Family and friends described Jada as loving, kind-hearted and attentive, while Kymera was an enthusiastic girly-girl who was active, assertive and respectful of adults. Jada loved music and movies, while Kymera enjoyed cheerleading with the Akron West Griffins team, which she joined in May.
Both girls were cherished in their schools as well. Jada recently earned an “MVP award,” while Kymera was awarded “student of the month” for kindness this month.
“Me and Ky and Jada used to play together and ride scooters together,” said A’Dasia Jones, a friend of Jada’s and Kymera’s. “I’m going to miss you very much. I will pray for you every day, love you both.”
At the end of the service, Howard Streeter III, a pastor of evangelism at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, compared Jada and Kymera’s bond to the sisters in the Disney movie Frozen, which was one of Jada’s favorites. In the movie, one sister risks her life for the other, and both end up princesses of the castle.
In the same breath, Streeter went back to the day that both girls lost their lives in the fire.
“We feel like our lives have stopped. We’re frozen … but Frozen [the movie] shows us what patience looks like,” Streeter said. “Wrap your arms around each other, and just watch. Even frozen situations will be thawed by the power of our love.”
Shortly after the service, about 250 people participated in a walk in honor of the girls from Erie Island Park to Mount Calvary Baptist Church, which is the church home for many of their family members.
Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.
Beacon Journal staff report
During a week when 55 Summit County residents sought help in hospital emergency room after overdosing, the state of Ohio launched a $20 million taxpayer-funded contest seeking new technological solutions to the opioid crisis.
The idea phase of the Opioid Technology Challenge opened Wednesday and runs through Dec. 15.
Anyone — from parents and addicts to researchers and businesses — can submit a proposal online for cash prizes. Those deemed most promising will share in $12 million in state grants to commercialize their product or idea.
The contest grew out of Governor John R. Kasich’s call for Ohio Third Frontier to accelerate scientific and technological breakthroughs to stem U.S. opioid problem which has hit Ohio especially hard.
In Summit County this year, about 7 to 10 people per day have sought hospital help after overdosing.
Millennials and those from Generation X continue to make up the bulk of the overdoses, according to weekly reports released by county public health officials.
Between Oct. 13-19, at least 55 Summit County residents overdosed. Of those, 40 percent were ages 25-34 and 36 percent were 35-49.
How many died after overdosing or did not seek professional medical help after being revived at home with naloxone, is not included in those numbers.
Ohio — which spends more than $1 billion each year treating, combating and managing the fallout from the opioid crisis — will shell out about $6.5 million on the idea phase of the Opioid Tech Challenge, making the first round of grant awards in early 2018.
David Goodman, who is chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission and directing the opioid solutions contest, invited the world to submit ideas.
“Whether you’re a medical or healthcare expert, or simply a concerned citizen, we are calling on everyone to be part of the solution,” Goodman said in statement posted on the contest website.
For more information, or to submit your idea, go to http://www.OpioidTechChallenge.com
Meanwhile, the annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Oct. 28.
Police departments in Summit County will host at least a half-dozen sites – from the Acme grocery parking lot in Hudson to the old FirstMerit bank building in Barberton — where people can drop off their old or unwanted prescription drugs.
Surrounding counties are participating, too.
To find the location to drop off drugs nearest you, go to https://tinyurl.com/y7jqh5jz.
The former longtime Stow-Munroe Falls High School band director is taking issue with claims that he shared improper texts with students.
The school board on Thursday accepted the resignation of Brian Monroe, who had been the school’s band director for 27 years.
In a 2½-page rebuttal letter, Monroe denied many of the allegations while saying he believes in hindsight there were some steps he could have taken to better protect himself.
The district launched an investigation and placed Monroe on paid administrative leave Aug. 30 after three students reported text exchanges that were frequent, often after 10 p.m. and left them feeling uncomfortable.
Monroe, who was not present at the school board’s meeting on Thursday, said in his letter that he and many educators in Stow use text messages to communicate with students.
“None of the students who now claim that our communication made them uncomfortable reported to me that they felt uncomfortable, nor ever asked me to stop communicating with them via text messages,” Monroe said in the letter sent to the newspaper late Thursday night. “None of the students’ parents ever asked me to stop communicating with the students via text messages.” Monroe’s attorney said the letter should have been included with documents provided to the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com by the district. The district’s treasurer, in releasing the letter Friday morning, said the district did not receive the letter until after the meeting.
According to a report prepared for the district’s legal counsel, Roetzel & Andress, the texts from Monroe included messages mocking another student, discussing students’ personal lives, sharing photos of students taken without consent, curse words, crude jokes, calling one student a “horndog” and a “hornball,” discussing his own dating life and comments like “I love you,” “I miss you,” and “I wish you were here.”
“Without a doubt, he crossed the line occasionally, making both me and my parents uneasy to say the least,” one student reported, according to the Sept. 27 report sent by Roetzel & Andress to the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct.
In his rebuttal letter, Monroe denied several of these allegations.
“I deny that I ‘constantly’ sent text messages to any student. I also deny that I sent ‘non-stop text messages’ to any student. I deny ever having one-on-one dinners with any student,” Monroe wrote.
Monroe also said that as a longtime educator, he has had students pass away from medical conditions, suicides and overdoses.
School counselors suggested after two suicides that staff make students feel a sense of belonging, which Monroe said is why he tried “to be involved in my students’ lives in the hope to prevent these kinds of tragedies from occurring in the future.”
“I treat my students as family so I do sometimes make statements, such as ‘I love you’, that I now understand could be misconstrued by a third party,” he wrote.
Monroe said he has cooperated with the district throughout the investigation. Though the district reported the matter to Stow police, Monroe said the police “never reached out to me for an interview because there was no crime that was committed.”
Monroe said he was comforted by the messages he has received from “former students and parents who have thanked me for my years of service and the positive impact I have had on their students’ lives, a number have gone so far as to thank me for saving their lives.”
Monroe had a large number of supporters throughout the investigation. He said he “sent an email to alumni who planned on demonstrating their support for me at a game where the band was to perform insisting they refrain from any demonstration that would take away from the true focus of the event.”
In ending his letter, Monroe said “while, in hindsight, I believe there are some steps that I could have taken to better protect myself from these allegations, false or otherwise, being raised against me, my primary focus was always on the safety, well-being, and education of the students at SMFCSD.”
Monroe said if he could not return to the school district, “my hope was that my resignation would eliminate the distraction for the students and community so that they can continue to focus on the SMFCSD students’ education, which is and has always been my priority.”
A Summit County judge has ordered the prosecutor’s office to hand over emails on the Stanley Ford murder case in response to Ford’s attorneys claims of racism.
Judge Christine Croce limited her order to the emails and other communication on the Ford case from the start of the investigation until five days after Ford was indicted in late July for starting fatal fires that left nine people dead.
Croce said she will review the material and decide if any of it should be shared with Ford’s attorneys.
Don Malarcik and Joe Gorman, Ford’s attorneys, are requesting that Croce dismiss the death penalty specification against Ford — who is African-American — because of the role race played in the decision to seek capital punishment.
The attorneys cite research that shows the race of defendants and victims and where crimes are committed in Ohio play a key role in deciding whether defendants face the death penalty. They also point to former Akron Police Chief James Nice’s use of racial slurs, including the N-word, which was among the reasons the chief was forced to abruptly resign Aug. 27. Nice was the chief when Ford’s case was investigated and was among those who spoke at a July 27 press conference to announce Ford’s indictment.
“James Nice is an admitted, overt racist,” Malarcik said Friday morning during a pretrial on the Ford case. “He advocated the death penalty … We have more than statistics. We have a man who was part of the team.”
Malarcik said the number of African-Americans who have faced the death penalty in Summit County is disproportionate to the population. In Summit County, eight of the last 11 people indicted on charges with a death penalty specification have been black.
“We believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Malarcik added.
Prosecutors, however, are opposing the request to remove the death penalty. Chief Prosecutor Margaret Scott said defense attorneys haven’t provided proof that Ford is being treated differently from other defendants.
“I am unaware of anyone else who is alleged to have murdered nine people by fire in Summit County,” Scott said.
Malarcik and Gorman first raised the issue of racism and Nice’s alleged bias last month when they filed a motion to dismiss the death penalty specifications.
Nice resigned after his nephew Joseph Nice, who was then facing criminal charges, told police that he had a videotape of his uncle using the N-word and said the chief was having an affair with a female Akron officer. The department’s leaders also learned that Chief Nice could face criminal charges related to his nephew’s used car business.
Nice admitted using the racial slur and having an affair with an officer, but has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, at the request of the Summit County prosecutor, is investigating the accusations against Chief Nice. Charges were dropped against Joseph Nice, the chief’s nephew, who had faced three felonies related to his auto business.
Malarcik and Gorman have requested emails and communication related to the Ford investigation from both the city of Akron and Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.
The city initially objected to the request, but provided some information after the attorneys narrowed their request, Malarcik said Friday.
The attorneys also want to get information from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office once when it concludes its investigation into Nice, Malarcik said.
As for the Summit County prosecutor’s emails, Malarcik requested Friday that an independent inquiry be done of the prosecutor’s computers to search for documents that include Ford’s name, arson, the addresses of the fires and certain racially insensitive terms. He said Croce could then review this information.
“Racism in a death penalty case is toxic,” Malarcik said. “The community needs to know what part did Nice pay in the prosecution of Ford in which they are seeking the death penalty. That’s what we’re asking.”
Malarcik took offense to the assertion by prosecutors that the defense’s motion to dismiss should be denied and that prosecutors shouldn’t be required to provide the information the defense is requesting. He compared this to how a white Akron councilman recently told two African-American councilwomen to sit down and shut up.
“We are not going to ‘sit down and shut up!’” Malarcik declared, throwing papers onto the desk in front of him.
Croce declined to have an independent inquiry done and instead asked the prosecutor’s office to give directly to her all internal and external emails and written communication about Ford’s case by Nov. 10. She said she will look over what is provided and will have a discussion with both parties before turning anything over to the defense.
This will be among the issues discussed in the next pretrial in the case, set for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 15.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, [email protected] and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.
University of Akron police found nothing suspicious at the Polsky Building in downtown Akron after a bomb threat was reported Friday morning.
Police used specially trained dogs to search the building.
The school had reported earlier that authorities didn’t believe the threat was credible and the building remained open and classes were being held.
Police are now trying to determine who called in the threat. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 330-972-2911 or text 274637 (CRIMES) and begin the message with the keyword ZIPTIP.
HUDSON: The city is exploring whether to build a solar panel park on 20 acres in the northwest part of the community, MyTownNEO.com reports.
City Council agreed this week to solicit bids from developers, saying the project could provide savings for the city-owned Hudson Public Power and its customers, the website said.
STOW: A city police officer shot and killed an injured cat that was struck by a car this week instead of taking it to a veterinarian, MyTownNEO.com reports.
Police are now reviewing their procedures for dealing with injured animals.
“This is all sort of heartbreaking to my family and I just think people need to be aware of it,” the cat’s owner Lynn Maganja told the website.
The animal was “severely injured and almost deceased” after the accident Monday on McCauley Road so the officer shot the cat once in the head because “this is much quicker and induces less suffering,” a police report says, according to MyTownNEO.com.
There’s an old couch covered with VHS tapes in the attic. A mattress stands on its side with springs jutting out. Empty beer bottles and broken glasses are everywhere. Above a pile of single-serving cereal boxes, rain from the leaking roof has peeled back the wallpaper, oozing plaster and paint to the floor.
“This is what makes our walls look like they’re bleeding,” said James Blackwell, who lives downstairs in the rental unit with his girlfriend, Erika Mackenzie. “It’s like The Amityville Horror house.”
Blackwell and Mackenzie moved into 209 W. Miller Ave. in 2012. In vain, they say they’ve asked repeatedly for their landlord, Jarreau Price, to fix it up, or take it out of the rent.
When the couple moved downstairs, they noticed in an adjacent bedroom, where black mold now grows, a handprint over a tiny hole that peered into their old bedroom.
In the bathroom, water pipes are exposed. Masking tape keeps live wires from touching as they poke out of the wall. There’s only one smoke detector in the four-bedroom boarding house.
The faces have fallen off most of the drawers and cupboards around the kitchen sink, beneath which is a pit of rot. No one dares climb the back porch, which is rickety, mossy, tall and missing a step.
Security is a joke. The front door fell apart one day, “like a puzzle,” said Blackwell, who scabbed it back together with paneling. Mackenzie tried buying a new door but Price, who can be heard screaming at them on tape recordings, told her to pay the rent instead.
And so they have, $360 every month. Then the electric was shut off. Then the water. Then the gas. There’s a stack of yellow tags and disconnection notices to prove that Price, whose business flyer promised to pay utilities, had neglected the bills.
And so Blackwell and Mackenzie, tired of watching insulin and groceries spoil in the refrigerator, stopped giving Price rent and, instead, took over what utility payments they could, including a gas bill with a staggering $800 balance.
The heat, meanwhile, keeps rolling out those broken attic windows.
Price, who did not return a phone call seeking comment about this or his other rental units in Akron, owes more than $19,000 in back taxes. City housing inspectors have nailed him with code violations. But he continues to operate. By all accounts, he’s failed to meet his obligations as a landlord.
And tenants have rights.
“He’s got us damn near crazy. Everyone wonders why we’re so upset and angry. It’s because of Jarreau Price,” said Blackwell, who ironically works for a friend in the cottage industry of removing items left by evicted tenants in the neighborhood.
“He thinks we’re stupid,” Blackwell went on.
“Or we don’t know how to reach out for help,” added Mackenzie, a diabetic with heart issues.
The couple are heading to Arlington Church of God on Saturday to learn about their rights as tenants at an open house hosted by Summit County’s Land Bank and its Fiscal Office, legal aides at the University of Akron and housing advocates who investigate discriminatory practices.
Any Akron resident may attend to learn how tenants, armed with knowledge and access to assistance, can hold landlords accountable. The county has personally delivered invitations to the tenants of Gary Thomas, a Medina County man whose Akron rental properties have racked up about $750,000 in unpaid taxes.
The county and land bank are coordinating on a stack of tax foreclosure cases against 74 of Thomas’ delinquent rental properties. The enforcement is teaching county officials as much as the tenants, who could end up homeowners if everything goes as planned.
“We’ve learned how few resources there are to really enforce the payment of property taxes and what recourses you can take,” said Patrick Bravo, executive director of the Summit County Land Bank, which works with the county, city and private property owners to acquire problem properties. “There are loopholes all over the place. If nothing else, it’s got land banks and prosecutors across Ohio talking.”
Government officials and neighborhood developers across Northeast Ohio are watching to see how effectively Summit County can go after one bad landlord.
Mike Migden, who oversees property tax enforcement for Summit County, said the effort is renewing calls for state legislators to close loopholes that allow landlords to wiggle out of accountability.
For example, a city judge could order the rent to be paid to an escrow account if the landlord fails to make repairs or keep the heat on or water running, but not if the property taxes are ignored. And new state laws allowing for online buyers and cheap public auctions — where houses can sell for as little as $1 — have county officials worried about a surge of out-of-town speculators.
“Even preventing the transfer of a property if it’s tax delinquent could solve some of these problems,” said Jack LaMonica, spokesman for Fiscal Officer Kristen Scalise.
“The other thing that we’ve learned is that there are so many pieces and parts to this that we could be more strategic and almost write a handbook,” Bravo said of the attempt to educate tenants by mailing them troves of legal documents but not enough one-on-one guidance.
“We reached out to Community Legal Aid but we didn’t reach out to UA law clinic,” he said. “We didn’t reach out to [Fair Housing Contact Service]. Now, I would know to circle all those wagons from the beginning.”
Much to learn
The front-line enforcers are not county tax collectors but the tenants. Too often, though, “they don’t know their rights,” said Migden.
And so, exploitation is rampant in areas where landlords are more likely to strike lease agreements with desperate clients.
“We tend to see a disproportionate impact on persons of color in our community,” said Lauren Gree-Hull, enforcement director for Fair Housing, which investigates housing discrimination in Akron and will be at the open house Saturday.
State and local guidelines for the rights of landlords and tenants can be tricky.
Blackwell and Mackenzie, for example, should have asked a municipal judge to intervene instead of cutting off the rent checks. Price showed up a few days ago demanding in 10 minutes that they sign a new lease agreement, which nearly doubles the rent and requires in writing that the tenants pay the utilities.
The couple recorded the whole uncomfortable experience on tape, as well as an explosive altercation weeks earlier when Price showed up yelling at the top of his lungs, angry that the couple started paying the utilities instead of the rent.
“I’m a businessman!” shouted the voice said to belong to Price. “I can pay bills in my sleep!”
The couple is in luck, though. Signing a new lease resets the landlord-tenant agreement. And this time, Blackwell said, he’s getting legal advice before becoming a victim.
Jean Hower Taber spent her lifetime volunteering and donating to worthwhile causes.
Even after her death, she’s still giving back.
The University of Akron announced Thursday that her estate has donated more than $20 million to the school — the largest gift ever received by the university.
About two-thirds of the money will be dedicated for scholarships for honors students and audiology students, with the first scholarships expected to be awarded next school year.
The remainder will help with programming and maintenance of the school’s Hower House, the 1871 Victorian mansion that her family donated to UA in 1970 and where she lived for the first five years of her life and where she got married.
“We will long honor the memory of Jean Hower Taber and acknowledge the kindness and the vision of the Hower family as we look forward with hope and confidence to future lives that will be profoundly improved through the Hower scholarships,” UA President Matthew Wilson said while announcing the gift during the annual meeting of the UA Foundation inside the Student Center.
Taber’s donation is one of the largest gifts to a public university in the nation this year, UA officials said.
“We’d like to say how proud we are of Jean for doing this because she’s going to touch the lives of many, many students and she’s really investing in the future of those students and the University of Akron,” sister-in-law Claudia Hower said.
Taber, the great-granddaughter of John H. Hower, one of the founders of the Quaker Oats Co., died in July at the age of 94. She had been preceded in death by her husband, Benjamin Charles Taber, a Cleveland lawyer.
Even though she never attended UA, Taber, who lived in Chagrin Falls, felt a strong connection to the school in part because her grandfather graduated from UA’s predecessor Buchtel College and through the donation of the 28-room Hower House, which is filled with antiques and furnishings gathered by the family during world travels.
The university’s audiology program also helped her overcome a hearing problem. That aid created “a soft spot in her heart” for the school, her brother Jim Hower said.
Taber, who graduated from Colby Junior College in New Hampshire, was a member of the UA Foundation board of directors from 1986 to 1992 and had served as a member of the Classical Studies/Archaeology/Anthropology Advisory Board.
She also was a big fan of UA sports and would watch Zips football games on television while wearing her UA sweatshirt, family members said.
She made her first donation to UA in 1980. UA estimated that before the latest gift she had donated more than $7.7 million to the school over her lifetime.
Taber received an honorary degree from UA in 2004 because of all her contributions.
“She proved herself to be one of the best friends ever to have graced the University of Akron,” Wilson said.
The university is looking for ways to honor Taber’s legacy, he added.
The entire Hower family is civic minded and Taber learned the importance of volunteering and philanthropy early in life, Claudia Hower said. In turn, Taber tried to instill that sense of giving on younger members of the family.
In addition to assisting UA, Taber also worked with other organizations, including the Society of the Blind, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Historical Society, Cleveland Zoo Society, Geauga Park District and Therapeutic Riding Center Foundation. She also served in Germany with the Red Cross following World War II to support the troops during occupation.
“When she was in her 80s, she was delivering meals on wheels to people in Chagrin Falls,” Claudia Hower said.
Giving back wasn’t her only interest.
She had plenty of adventures throughout her life including earning her pilot’s license at age 20. She also was an avid horse rider, the family said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.
NORTHFIELD: Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park has opened its Rockstop Gas & Wash, the first Hard Rock-branded gas station, retail store and car wash.
“We’re proud that Northeast Ohio is the location of the first Rocksino in the Hard Rock family …,” Rocksino President Mark Birtha said in a prepared statement. “Thus, it was only fitting to develop Hard Rock International’s first-ever gas station and car wash template here as well, in order to provide a unique venue to our local and regional clientele.”
Rock Star Rewards loyalty program members receive discounts on gas purchases. The Rockstop is located at 10777 Northfield Road.
MIDDLETOWN, OHIO: Police say a gun has been found on a third-grader who told authorities he’d been bullied at a Southwest Ohio elementary school.
Middletown police say the gun was found Monday on a 9-year-old boy after a teacher noticed a bulge in his pocket. Police say the boy grabbed at the teacher’s arm when she reached for the gun.
The boy was taken to a juvenile justice center by police. It’s unclear if he’s been charged with a juvenile crime.
Middletown Police Lt. David Birk says the boyfriend of the child’s mother was arrested on a child endangering charge.
Rosa Parks Elementary School held a gun safety assembly Tuesday.
Middletown is roughly 35 miles north of Cincinnati.
BEREA: The Ohio Turnpike will host open houses at eight maintenance buildings along the 241-mile highway from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
People can see the heavy equipment up close and meet employees.
Light refreshments and beverages will be provided. Each child will receive a kid’s version of a turnpike hard hat.
The following locations in Northeast Ohio are participating:
• Amherst Maintenance Building, 7800 Oberlin Road, Amherst Township in Lorain County.
• Boston Maintenance Building, 3245 Boston Mills Road, Richfield Township in Summit County.
• Hiram Maintenance Building, 9196 state Route 700, Freedom Township in Portage County.
• Canfield Maintenance Building, 6896 Tippecanoe Road, Canfield Township in Mahoning County.
Kula Pelima was about 3 years old when Liberia exploded into a bloody civil war in 1990.
In coming years, about 200,000 people would die in the West African nation that’s about the size of Tennessee.
Pelima was among 1.5 million Liberians who escaped the violence, landing in Akron when she was still in grade school.
Now, a generation later, children in Pelima’s care — her infant son and his 5-year-old half brother — are dead.
And police in Delaware say Pelima told them she drowned the boys in a bathtub because she feared being deported to a country she once fled.
Immigration officials picked up Pelima’s boyfriend, a Nigerian and the father of both boys, last month. And Pelima, who let her visa expire, feared she was next, authorities said.
The crime has shaken Wilmington, Del., where the couple lived, and comes amid a raucous national debate over immigration.
Yet it’s unclear whether Pelima — who apparently left Akron several years ago — faced any risk of being forced out of the U.S. despite stepped up enforcement efforts and changing rules.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said she entered the United States lawfully and had no known criminal convictions.
Pelima, however, feared the worst.
On Monday about 3:45 a.m., she called 911 and told dispatchers she was worried about being deported, police said.
An officer went to her home and tried to assure her local police would not arrest her. The officer also gave Pelima the number of an immigration hot line to call for more information.
Pelima called 911 again about 8:30 a.m. Monday and said she had drowned her son, 4-month-old Solomon Epelle, and his stepbrother, 5-year-old Alex Epelle, authorities said.
“There’s no way of knowing what could have led to the deaths of these children,” Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy said at a news conference this week.
Pelima, 30, has been charged with murder and is being held on a $2 million bond.
Her boyfriend, Victor Epelle, 38, has been released from federal custody on humanitarian grounds after being notified of the deaths of his sons.
Federal ICE officials said Epelle was in the United States legally, but he had violated the terms of his status. It wasn’t immediately clear what he had done.
How Pelima landed in Akron was not clear Wednesday.
She could have immigrated, sought asylum or arrived as a refugee in the Rubber City.
Officials at the International Institute of Akron — which resettles refugees — said it likely has no records dating back two decades. But even if the institute did, it would not share the information because refugee files are confidential.
Akron school records, meanwhile, show Pelima attended Findley and Hotchkiss elementary schools, Goodyear junior high and North high school until she withdrew in 2006 when she was about 19 years old.
There is no record Pelima graduated, a spokesman said.
What happened next for the Liberian girl who grew up in Akron is not clear until this week when she confessed, authorities say, to killing two boys, the sort of deadly violence she once escaped as a girl.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or [email protected].
The county’s largest transitional housing program for drug-addicted men has avoided closure after timely intervention from public agencies.
Earlier this week, the ribbon was cut at the program’s new location on Frederick Boulevard.
Denny Wilson, a recovering addict, opened FI Community Housing at 619 Johnston St. more than five years ago to assist men in the difficult journey from powerless addiction to self-control. In the spring, the property’s owner was told to auction the building to settle a divorce. Faced with the prospect of losing his 18-bed facility, Wilson brought some of his clients to City Hall in April to plead for help.
The chiefs of staff for the Akron mayor and Summit County executive put their heads together. The Summit County Land Bank, a quasi-public agency that repurposes vacant land, identified a potential new home at an unused building owned by the Summit County Developmental Disability Board.
The property at 1445 Frederick Blvd. in West Akron had closed last year. It sat vacant for months. The Land Bank, in coordination with the city and county, bought the property and began renovations this summer. By Nov. 1, Wilson plans to have all his men moved into their new 16-bed housing unit, which has been outfitted with furnishings donated by the University of Akron and the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.
“We are so grateful to our community and to the leaders who stepped up, worked together and helped us find a new home,” said Wilson, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday with Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, County Councilman David Hamilton and James Hardy, chief of staff to Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This new facility will save lives.”
The Land Bank will serve as Wilson’s new landlord, offering a lower rate than what FI Community Housing paid under its previous lease agreement. County officials have offered financial expertise to keep Wilson’s budget balanced.
Wilson’s program relies on the unpredictable churn of men who enter and exit treatment, often punctuated by episodes of relapse. Many have exhausted their publicly funded health care by the time they’ve made it through detox and intensive treatment. When the money runs out, some are turned back out to the streets. Wilson’s program provides a cushion and fosters healthy relationships to sustain long-term sobriety.
Land Bank Executive Director Patrick Bravo applauded the collaborative solution to a pressing issue, one that cuts into public coffers and ravages families. “This project illustrates what can be done when visionary leadership and lots of hard work come together,” Bravo said at the ribbon-cutting. “The Land Bank is incredibly proud to be a part of collaborative recovery in Summit County”
After 88 years, Buehler’s Fresh Foods soon will no longer be owned by the founding family.
But the new owners are extremely familiar with the grocery stores.
The 13 supermarkets are being sold to the company’s eligible employees through an employee stock ownership program, or ESOP. A new company named Buehler’s Fresh Foods will be formed and it will be led by three veteran Buehler’s executives.
E&H Family Group, the Wooster-based parent company of Buehler’s, said none of the stores’ 2,100 employees will lose their jobs. The company said all stores will remain open with the same hours of operation.
“This was a decision we did not take lightly. Our generation of Buehlers are reaching retirement age and we think this a better option than selling the business to outsiders,” Dan Buehler, E&H Family Group president and chief operating officer, said in a news release. “We want these supermarkets to be here serving customers and providing good jobs well into the future. There’s no one better qualified than our own employees to carry on that mission. We believe that the transition to an ESOP is a winning solution for the Buehler family, our employees and the communities we serve.”
Details of the Buehler’s ESOP deal were scant; officials declined to give more information.
In a phone interview, Greg Buehler, one of the five members of the third generation who have been active in running the business and known as the “Buehler Boys,” said the deal was signed Tuesday, announced Wednesday to employees and the public and will be completed in about a month.
While the Buehler Boys will no longer be involved in the grocery business, the family will continue to operate E&H Family Group, which owns and operates 22 hardware stores in Ohio under the E&H Ace Hardware name. The sale has no impact on that business.
“There’s a lot to work through. We’ve spent 88 years building the business and they’re intertwined. Separating them does not happen overnight,” said Buehler, who is vice president of training and development.
Buehler said customers should not see any change.
“As much as things are changing, things are staying the same,” he said.
The new ESOP grocery company will be run by Dan Shanahan, Buehler’s president and chief operating officer since 2011; Rick Lowe, vice president of human resources of the E&H Family Group since 1977, who is married to a third-generation Buehler; and Mike Davidson, vice president of store operations since 2015.
New company leader Shanahan, who was the first non-Buehler brought in to run the grocery business, did not return a call seeking more comment. In a statement, he said “we are happy for the Buehler family and excited for the opportunity to write the next chapter in the great Buehler story.”
Greg Buehler said four of the Buehler Boys are still active in the business (a fifth retired last year) and he declined to say whether there are any retirement plans for others. Two fourth-generation family members are involved in the E&H business, he said.
The family has grown the Ace business since the 1960s and “we still want to work and that’s a good business for us to continue to nurture and grow,” Buehler said.
The Buehler family will not participate in the grocery store’s ESOP program, he said.
The grocery chain was founded in 1929 by E.L. (Ed) and Helen Buehler. After opening their first store in New Philadelphia, they moved the business to Wooster in 1932.
On social media, reaction to the sale was mostly positive.
“I think this is great and shows some loyalty between employer and employee which sadly in most companies has gone by the wayside,” said Ron C. Lee.
Diana Autry said, “Folk tend to take better care of things when it belongs to them vs. someone else.”
But on Buehler’s Facebook page, some employees questioned why they weren’t given more advance notice before the news was made public.
The move to sell to employees shows the business is “committed to being a community grocer,” said Kristin Mullins, president and chief executive officer of the Ohio Grocers Association in Columbus.
“They didn’t sell to a chain. They stayed an independent,” she said. “I think it’s a good thing for the Buehler’s family and the Buehler’s employees. … Ohio is still very blessed to have a large number of independents.”
Jim Trout, president of fellow Akron-area family-owned grocer Acme Fresh Markets, declined to comment on the sale.
The nation’s largest ESOP is a supermarket chain, Florida-based Publix Super Markets, with 188,000 employees, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership. Three of the top 10 largest employee-owned U.S. businesses are supermarket chains, according to the organization. (Davey Tree in Kent is the largest Ohio ESOP and 13th largest in the U.S. with 9,000 employees.)
Chris Cooper, program coordinator at Kent State University’s Ohio Employee Ownership Center, said ESOPs are a niche business ownership arrangement. The center, which provides assistance to people and businesses exploring employee ownership, was not involved in the Buehler’s decision.
Typically, a family-owned business decides to convert to an ESOP if there are no clearly identified heirs, Cooper said. Family business owners may not want to sell to an outside buyer in part out of a desire that the business remain independent and also out of concern that employees retain their jobs, he said.
“Children may not want to go into the family business,” Cooper said.
An ESOP, which technically is a qualified retirement plan similar in ways to a 401(k), provides a number of tax breaks to both the business owner and subsequently to the employee owners, Cooper said.
“Those things are very appealing,” he said. “Employees don’t have to put up any of their own money,” he said.
Employees also don’t own the company directly, either, under an ESOP, Cooper said. Instead, a tax-exempt trust owns all the shares in the business.
“It’s an indirect form of ownership,” he said.
If a closely held business is a so-called Subchapter S corporation — the most common form of corporation — meaning it passes income taxes through to its shareholders, then the tax-exempt trust means the ESOP business becomes income-tax free, Cooper said.
“That’s a nice competitive advantage,” Cooper said. “That can be very useful.”
(There are an estimated 4.7 million S corporations in the U.S., according to a trade organization.)
“This is the right thing to do for our family, our customers and suppliers, and I know my brother Gene and our mom and dad would agree,” Don Buehler, a second-generation Buehler who ran the business with his late brother Gene, said in a news release. He worked in the store as a child and after decades with the business stepped back from day-to-day responsibilities in June 1997.
“We have deep and long-standing relationships with thousands of customers and farmers in the communities we serve, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their loyalty and support over the past 88 years,” he said.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/bett. Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.
“They didn’t sell to a chain. They stayed an independent. I think it’s a good thing for the Buehler’s family and the Buehler’s employees.
President and CEO of the Ohio Grocers Association
GREEN: To paraphrase legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, leaders aren’t born, they are made.
For the past decade, Green Local Schools has been following that premise with its Developing Leaders of Tomorrow program.
Each year, 10 high school juniors are nominated for the program by faculty and staff.
Connie Leonard, retired Green Schools curriculum director and a school board member who has been with the program since its inception, said teachers are asked “to nominate students that you see as having leadership potential.”
“We don’t want those who are already well along in their leadership skills,” Leonard said. “We want kids who haven’t had as much leadership opportunity that we can bring along.”
The program was conceived as a joint undertaking by ComDoc, the Green-based division of Xerox Corp.; the school district’s administration; Green Schools Foundation; and Heart to Heart Communications of Akron.
This year, the participants will implement a one-day, schoolwide project during the second semester of the school year, rather than at the beginning of the next school year.
“Their challenge with this program is to create a one-day event and take all the steps necessary to present the combined jobs fair and college fair,” said Colleen Winney of ComDoc.
Winney said it’s clear through their initial discussions that the 10 students “understand the value of vocation.”
“They understand how important it is to be prepared for college or trade schools,” she said. “They are being trained to help their fellow students and the whole school understand how they can better prepare to transition from high school to the next step in their career development.”
The one-day project will be presented sometime in January to the school’s administrators, Mayor Gerard Neugebauer and ComDoc staff.
To help them get started, nine of the 10 students participated last week in a one-day team building exercise at Camp Y-Noah. The day was spent sketching their project to facilitators and then focusing on mind games and exercises, including working together to boost each other up the camp’s 50-foot tower.
Along with Winney and Leonard, other facilitators who were there to witness the students’ efforts and provide suggestions included Julie McMahan, the district’s public relations and community coordinator; and Akron Attorney Larry Vuillemin, who co-founded the Heart to Heart program in 1990 with the Rev. Norm Douglas.
“The Camp Y-Noah session was structured for individual and team-building exercises, which helped the students see what can be done by believing in themselves and their fellow students,” McMahan said.
Juniors chosen for the yearlong program are Danny Dorazio, Matt Gruic, Emily Gage, Maria Herdlick, Ashleigh Keller, Kevin Lin, Kaleb Martin, Zoe Polacheck, Taylor Schmitt and Andrew Sensius.
Asked why she applied for the program after being nominated, Gage replied, “I thought it would be a great opportunity to develop the leadership skills to help me be a leader in the community and the school.”
Classmate Dorazio said: “I plan to attend the University of Akron and earn my degree in computer science engineering and software development and then move to the Silicon Valley to focus my career in a place where software engineering is very prevalent and an expanding enterprise.
“I was surprised, too, because there are many students I believe would have been qualified, but I am honored that I was chosen by one of my teachers.”
The 10 were chosen from a group of 50 nominees. Facilitators narrowed the list to 10 and two alternates. The participants won’t know their sponsor’s identity until the May banquet at Prestwick Country Club for parents, administrators, teachers, city leaders, ComDoc personnel and guests.
ComDoc also offers a $500 scholarship each year to the student leader who has attended every meeting, participated throughout and then written the best essay on the topic, “If you could address your peers offering leadership and development advice, what would you say to them?”
George W. Davis can be reached at: [email protected].
A bit more than a year from now, Korean tire maker Nexen expects its U.S. technology center employees to move into a new, state-of-the-art facility in Richfield.
Company and public officials on Tuesday officially celebrated the groundbreaking for the $5 million, 34,000-square-foot America Technical Center off Wheatley Road — heavy machinery has already been hard at work digging and moving earth on the 4-acre site.
The new building is not only significant for Nexen and its ambitions to expand as a global tire maker — it makes more than 40 million tires a year — but also is significant for the village of Richfield. The Nexen Tire site is the first development in the village’s 60-acre mixed-use Crossroads Development District; the village has owned the largely vacant property since 2002.
The Nexen Tire technology center, on the south side of Wheatley Road, will be across from the Kinross Lakes Parkway business park.
“We are thrilled,” Richfield Mayor Bobbie Beshara said. “We can’t wait to see the Nexen building go up.”
“This is the first substantial piece [in the development],” said Brian Frantz, village director of economic development. “There’s plenty of room for other companies to come in.”
More room is why Nexen Tire is building the place, just about a quarter-mile from its current technology center off Highlander Parkway where 17 people now work designing and developing tires primarily for the North and South American markets. The locally designed Nexen tires are original equipment on many Fiat Chrysler vehicles, including the Chrysler Pacifica and Ram trucks.
“We have a lot of expertise here,” said Aaron Neumann, Nexen Tire project manager.
The new site, which the company hopes will be ready in November 2018, ahead of an official December completion date, will have room for more than 40 employees.
“It’s going to be a huge expansion compared to what we have now,” Neumann said.
It likely will take several years before the Richfield technical center reaches the 40 employee level, company officials said.
It also took years to secure financing, make design refinements and other dealings — the original plans were announced in May 2012.
The two-story technical center will focus on tire design and development. It will include a full materials laboratory, testing facilities — using made-in-Ohio machinery — warehouse, offices, cafeteria and other space.
The Richfield staff will continue working on next-generation tires with built-in sensors and more that can be used on electric and autonomous vehicles at the new facility, Neumann and others said.
A top goal is to design tires that are “invisible” to whoever is using the vehicle, Neumann said.
Nexen Tire has committed to building a highly automated North America tire factory with production expected to start in 2021. No location has been announced. The Richfield tech center will develop and design tires for that new factory.
Nexen’s history dates to 1942 as Heung-A Tire and then Woosung Tire in South Korea. The name was changed in 2000 to Nexen, a blend of “next” and “century.”
barberton: Legislation being considered by City Council would welcome the testing, growing and manufacturing of medical marijuana, but prohibit dispensaries within the city.
An eight-page proposal to amend the city’s development code has the support of Mayor William Judge’s administration and the city’s Planning Commission, which unanimously voted to ask for the council’s approval.
The council will give the first of three required readings to the ordinance at 7:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers at City Hall. A final vote isn’t expected until Nov. 27, at the earliest. Because of the Planning Commission’s support, it would take six of nine council votes to reject the proposal.
The city’s six-member Board of Health, which was not required to weigh in on the matter, took the step of voting unanimously to recommend that the council approve the legislation.
Judge said he thought it unlikely that such a business would look to Barberton, since most major cities — including neighboring Akron — are opening their doors.
Still, Planning Director Joe Stefan told the council Monday that the city gets “five or six” calls a week, mostly from real estate companies representing clients.
The city is ready for a conversation on the topic, Judge said.
“We understand it’s a controversial issue, no matter which way you lean,” he said.
Stefan said in making its argument, the city will stress that medical marijuana is a legal drug in Ohio, and that making room for drug manufacturers who extract cannabis oil from plants is far from growing buds for recreational use.
“No matter what happens with this, illegal drug activity is still going to be enforced by the police department. … This in no way has anything to do with illegal drug activity. This has to do with a medical drug that has been approved by the state of Ohio,” Stefan said.
At least one council member, however, said perception should be a consideration for a city that is known for having one of the highest rates of opioid overdoses in Summit County.
Nina Angeloff, Ward 2 councilwoman and chair of the council’s Planning Committee, said most folks she has talked to on the topic “just don’t want it associated with Barberton.”
“They say we don’t need it. We just don’t need it. We can find something else to generate the money, to generate jobs,” Angeloff said.
Stefan and Judge said the legislation would prohibit sales because the city is uncomfortable with state language on who is allowed to dispense the drug, going beyond pharmacies and hospitals to storefront retailers.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Shannon Wokojance asked the administration how the city would benefit from having growers and processors.
“Any job, whether it’s one or 100, is a job that’s going to pay income tax to the city of Barberton,” Stefan said. “Income tax is how we pay our bills. … We have vacant property, we have vacant buildings, and they produce zero income tax.”
Stefan and Judge couldn’t say how many jobs a medical marijuana facility might provide. Ohio has none and will only begin issuing licenses next month. Medical marijuana legislation was approved by the state in 2016.
Stefan added that it would be wrong to draw a correlation between the presence of a legal drug manufacturer in town and the rate of illegal drug abuse by the town’s residents.
Barberton has a high rate of opioid abuse, yet there is no opioid company in Barberton, Stefan said.
Conversely, allowing a company to manufacture medical marijuana in the city would have no impact on the number of residents who qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions, he added.
Whether an Akron man accused of stabbing and killing his elderly mother is mentally competent to stand trial is up for debate.
The first evaluation of Michael Gleisinger found he was competent and sane, but a second, independent evaluation deemed him incompetent but “restorable” with the proper treatment.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison Breaux said Tuesday that she wants to hear from both experts before deciding how to proceed. She set a hearing for 10 a.m. Nov. 20.
Police say Gleisinger, 49, stabbed his mother in the chest and abdomen May 16 in the kitchen of their Crystal Street home in the Goodyear Heights neighborhood. Nancy Gleisinger, 76, was taken to Summa Akron City Hospital, where she died later that day.
Earl Gleisinger, Nancy’s husband of 58 years, witnessed the incident, police say.
Michael Gleisinger is charged with murder and felonious assault and has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He is being held in the Summit County Jail on a $25,000 bond.
Gleisinger has no prior serious criminal record in Summit County, according to court records.
Jeff Laybourne, Gleisinger’s attorney, and Gleisinger’s numerous family members who were in court Tuesday declined to comment. Michael Gleisinger is one of six children.
The stabbing happened on a violent and hot day in Akron, with temperatures reaching the high 80s. Other incidents included a Goodyear Heights convenience store clerk who was pistol-whipped and shot in the face by a robber, a robbery at a Family Video and gunfire that erupted at Davenport Park in Ellet, sending parents and children scrambling for cover.
Jay Roach will direct and Tina Fey will help produce a new dramatic film about the 1970 shootings at Kent State University, Yahoo! Entertainment reports.
The movie will be based on the Howard Means book 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence.
The project began with Jeff Richmond, Fey’s husband who attended Kent State, Yahoo! says.
Roach directed the Austin Powers and Meet the Fockers franchises. Fey is best known for the television comedy 30 Rock.
“It is a cautionary tale,” Roach told Yahoo! about the shootings. “Kent State was a big event for me, and I remember arguing with my dad about it when I was about 13. There was a prevailing movement in the country — they measured it with polls — where the vast majority of Americans blamed the students for what happened. Maybe 60 percent in Gallup-type polls felt the students brought it on themselves. We have footage of people on the streets saying, ‘I wish they’d shot them all,’ ‘I wish they had machine guns.’”
Four students were killed and nine were wounded when Ohio National guardsmen opened fire May 4 during a Vietnam War protest on campus.