Serial killer pleads guilty in 2 slayings

By DAN SEWELL Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — A man who claims he has killed more than 90 women across the country pleaded guilty Friday to killing two women in Cincinnati in the 1980s.
Samuel Little appeared via Skype from the California state prison where he’s serving multiple life sentences. Hamilton County Judge Melba Marsh asked the 79-year-old man a series of questions about giving up his rights to trial that Little answered affirmatively, sometimes with, “Yes, ma’am.”
Raising her voice when Little had trouble hearing her, Marsh then sentenced him to two consecutive terms of 15 years to life.
Little is possibly the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, surpassing others such as John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer.
Little was convicted in California of three slayings in 2013 and pleaded guilty to another killing last year in Texas.
Authorities have said they have confirmed at least 60 of the 93 slayings he says he committed in 14 states while he crisscrossed the country for decades.
Mark Piepmeier, a Hamilton County prosecutor, said Little told investigators that he didn’t kidnap or rape the women, and that he targeted women he didn’t think would be missed right away. Little said he got sexual gratification from strangling women, the prosecutor told the court.
“His bare hands on the bare necks, that’s what actually got him sexually aroused and that’s why he did this,” Piepmeier said. “It wasn’t for any other reason.”
Defense attorney Timothy McKenna of Cincinnati told the judge that at this stage in his life, Little wants to help police identify his victims and close cold cases. He also said Little is in failing health.
McKenna and Piepmeier flanked Little at a table in the California prison while Marsh conducted the hearing from Cincinnati, in the Hamilton County law library. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien joined Hamilton County authorities in Cincinnati.
Little admitted to the 1981 murder of 32-year-old Anna Stewart, last seen alive in Cincinnati. Her body was dumped in Grove City, near Columbus. He also confessed to a second Cincinnati murder, of a woman who remains unidentified.
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This story has been corrected to show Little is 79, not 80.

Accusers in Ohio State doctor scandal top 300

By KANTELE FRANKO Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lawyers for men suing Ohio State University over decades-old alleged sexual misconduct by a team doctor say the growing number of accusers has topped 300.
Totals confirmed to The Associated Press put the group’s size in the same ballpark as the initial wave of plaintiffs who got $425 million from Michigan State University to settle claims related to Larry Nassar , the now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor accused of molesting hundreds of women and girls.
Of the 300-plus men in the Ohio State matter, some still plan to sue and more than half already are listed plaintiffs in federal lawsuits alleging school officials knew of concerns about the late doctor, Richard Strauss, during his tenure but did little to stop him.
“This is, from our perspective, aside from the Catholic Church, one of the biggest sexual misconduct cases in the country,” attorney Michael Wright said Friday.
Wright said his legal team is representing over 100 men, most of them former football players and other Buckeye athletes who say they were sexually abused by Strauss. Many of those aren’t among the 177 men who provided firsthand accounts of sexual abuse by Strauss to the law firm that began investigating allegations for the university last year, Wright said.
Many of the men who have publicly recounted their experiences, including the ex-wrestler who spurred the investigation , allege they were fondled during medical exams. Their claims span 1979 to 1997 — nearly all of Strauss’ Ohio State career — and include Strauss’ work with the athletic department, the student health center and his off-campus men’s clinic.
The investigating firm, Perkins Coie, didn’t proactively reach out to possible victims, citing concern for potentially retraumatizing them. But the list of accusers has continued to grow as Ohio State publicized the investigation, alumni began sharing stories, and lawyers for the initial plaintiffs advertised a push to hold the university accountable.
The lawsuits against Ohio State are now in mediation toward a potential settlement . The lawyers involved won’t publicly discuss the negotiations.
Ohio State has acknowledged its “fundamental failure” to prevent abuse by Strauss, apologized publicly to the survivors and said it is committed to the mediation process.
The investigation and the related litigation have cost the university about $7.8 million so far, spokesman Ben Johnson said.
No one has publicly defended the doctor, who killed himself in 2005. In a statement after the investigation findings were shared in May, Strauss’ family offered condolences to the abuse survivors.
Strauss retired from the university in 1998 with emeritus status, an honorary label revoked this year by school trustees.
The State Medical Board had an investigation involving Strauss near the end of his Ohio State career but never disciplined him, and the details have remained confidential. A state panel tasked with reviewing the handling of that old case has yet to report its findings.
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Follow Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10 . See AP’s coverage about the allegations here: https://apnews.com/OhioStateTeamDoctor .

Prison worker jailed over alleged hit list

LONDON, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio corrections employee has been charged with aggravated menacing after allegedly telling other employees he had a hit list of corrections officers he would shoot.
Twenty-one-year-old Chace Dobbs of Springfield, Ohio, was arrested Wednesday afternoon at Madison County Correctional Institution in central Ohio. He was due in court Friday. Court records didn’t indicate whether he had an attorney.
Dobbs allegedly said there were employees he would shoot for various reasons, but said he was only joking. Authorities say a loaded handgun was found in his vehicle in the prison’s parking lot, along with an unloaded gun.
Jo Ellen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, says Dobbs has resigned his job as a prison mailroom clerk. The Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating.

Ohio officials investigate 6 reports of vaping illness

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Health officials say they’re investigating reports of six Ohioans who vape who experienced breathing illnesses.
The Ohio Department of Health on Friday asked healthcare providers to report all suspected cases of serious pulmonary illness where the cause is unclear and the patients have a history of vaping, or using e-cigarettes.
Dr. Amy Acton is the director of the state Health Department. She says such reports of illnesses contradict the widespread notion that vaping is safe.
Symptoms experienced by patients have included coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue and in some cases required hospitalization.
Earlier this week, federal health officials said they are looking into more than 150 possible cases in 16 states.

District hears backlash after student pointed employee’s gun

MARENGO, Ohio (AP) — A central Ohio school district that allows certain employees to be armed says one has been removed from the concealed-carry program after leaving her loaded handgun unsecured in her office, where her grandson, a first-grader, reportedly pointed it at another student.
No one was hurt.
The incident involving the transportation director for Highland Local Schools in Morrow County occurred last March. It came to light this month when the district released employees’ statements about it to The Columbus Dispatch.
Some residents upset about how the situation was handled raised concerns at a school board meeting Thursday. At least one contended the employee should have been fired.
The district says she was suspended three days without pay.
Board president Wayne Hinkle says there should have been better communication about what happened.

Ohio State University seeks to trademark the word ‘The’

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State University wants to trademark the word “The” when used as part of the school’s name on university merchandise.
The Columbus Dispatch reports the school submitted a trademark application this month to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The application requests a standard character trademark for the title “The Ohio State University” that would cover various items including T-shirts, baseball caps and hats.
University spokesman Chris Davey confirms the application. A statement from Davey says the school “works to vigorously protect the university’s brand and trademarks.”
The school has previously secured other trademarks, including names of football coaches Woody Hayes and Urban Meyer.
An Ohio State spokesman said last fall that the university had 150 trademarks in 17 countries and other applications pending.
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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

Private services planned for Ohio shooter, sister he killed

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The parents of the Dayton gunman and the sister he shot and killed will be holding private memorial services.
A funeral home in their hometown of Bellbrook posted obituaries for 24-year-old Connor Betts and his 22-year-old sister, Megan.
There were no details on when the services would be held.
Police say Connor Betts killed nine people in Dayton on Aug. 4 before officers shot and killed him. Investigators say it’s not clear whether he targeted his sister.
The gunman’s friend who police say bought items Betts used in the shooting will be in court Wednesday on an unrelated charge.
The obituary for Connor Betts says he had been working as a grill cook and studying at Sinclair Community College.
His sister was to graduate from Wright State University in December.

State aids local law enforcement with marijuana testing

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s attorney general says a new program will help local law enforcement differentiate between legal hemp and illegal marijuana.
The state’s recent hemp legalization means law enforcement must quantify the amount of THC in suspected marijuana in order to prosecute offenders. State law defines hemp as including any cannabis products made up of 0.3% THC or less. THC is the substance in marijuana that makes people high.
Republican Attorney General Dave Yost said at a news conference Tuesday that the new program provides funding to help local agencies pay private laboratories to test THC levels in large amounts of confiscated marijuana until the state can offer that testing.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s lab should have three machines by year’s end that local agencies can use for free to test THC levels.

Backers tout program helping drivers get licenses reinstated

By JULIE CARR SMYTH The Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Supporters of a program that waived or reduced reinstatement fees for Ohio residents with suspended driver’s licenses said Wednesday that nearly 77,000 people benefited from the program during a trial period.
A report by the Ohio Poverty Law Center found the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative saved residents a combined $63 million over six months. At the same time, the reduced fees they paid brought in $3.6 million for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles that backers say would probably never have been collected otherwise.
“Those fees, if you have more and more suspensions, they just rack up,” said Megan O’Dell, an attorney at the center. “And that’s how people end up having to pay thousands of dollars to the BMV, not just to the court.”
The center and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services are among groups pushing the state to make the initiative permanent.
It’s part of a national effort to rethink the use of bail, bond, court costs and fees, which critics say disproportionately impact the poorest defendants. The states of California, Florida and Indiana and the cities of New York, Chicago, Houston and Oklahoma City are among jurisdictions that have offered similar programs, whether continually or for a special week or day.
The report found that 62 percent of the 3 million license suspensions in 2017 were for offenses unrelated to safe and responsible vehicle operation, such as failing to pay child support, failing to show up in court or, the most common reason, failing to show proof of insurance.
Such offenses can pile up and create a heavy debt load. In one Franklin County case, a man had accrued more than $10,000. The report found the average waived during the pilot program was $1,270 per person. Fees were reduced $789 on average.
Franklin County Municipal Judge Jodi Thomas participated in one of the amnesty clinics held across the state during the pilot program that brought together judges, prosecutors, insurance companies, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that oversees child support, legal aid and other organizations into one-stop-shops for suspended drivers.
Some 1,000 individuals were helped at the Franklin County clinic over three days, she said.
“Most of them do not even know what they need to do to get a valid license, or, if they do know, they’re in such a hole that they never thought they’d be able to get out of that because of their fees,” she said.
Eligible offenders in Ohio had to be at least 18 months beyond their suspensions and have completed all court-ordered sanctions besides paying the reinstatement fees.
The person also couldn’t have committed a drug-, alcohol- or deadly weapon-related offense, some of the more serious of the state’s 30 reasons for suspending someone’s license.
Among those who attended the Franklin County program was Chris Damron, 36, of Columbus. The workshop gave him “a second chance at life,” he said in a written statement.
“It was the best experience I’ve ever had at a courthouse,” he said. “Everyone was wanting to help you.”
Anne Roche, an attorney with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, said that in her area people often have to drive across county lines to work, attend school, shop or pick up their child at day care. This can mean accumulating suspensions in courts whose systems are not integrated.
Her group, she said, would like to see a permanent program that uses programs beyond the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to determine eligibility for low-income offenders. Not all low-income people are on food assistance, she said, but they might be receiving other government benefits that would prove their financial need.
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Follow Julie Carr Smyth at https://www.twitter.com/jcarrsmyth

Official: Ohio database of driver photos hasn’t been misused

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Amid concern about the use of facial-recognition capabilities, Ohio’s attorney general says the state database of driver’s license and law enforcement photos hasn’t been used improperly for mass surveillance or broad dragnets.
Even so, Republican Attorney General Dave Yost says he’s ordering training requirements for Ohio officers who use the facial-recognition system. He’s also requiring that requests for such searches be handled by the state crime lab until those requirements are met.
Concerns have been raised about the potential for abuse as federal investigators have searched such databases unbeknownst to drivers whose photos were scanned.
Yost says Ohio’s facial-recognition database is used mostly by local and state investigators.
He says he’ll appoint advisers to help ensure Ohio’s system is an effective law-enforcement tool that also protects people’s privacy and rights.