Suspect pleads not guilty to charges in Ohio cop’s slaying


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A suspect in the fatal shooting of an Ohio police officer has pleaded not guilty to charges that could carry the death penalty upon conviction.

Lincoln Rutledge is accused of shooting Columbus SWAT officer Steven Smith in the head while officers were trying to arrest him on an arson warrant. The 54-year-old officer was shot April 10 while standing in the turret of a SWAT vehicle. He died two days later.

The 44-year-old Rutledge is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, felonious assault and aggravated arson. He entered his not guilty plea Friday in Franklin County court and was ordered held without bond.

Ohio law includes killing a police officer as a factor that can lead to capital punishment.

Messages were left for the public defenders representing Rutledge.

Ohio judge mulls high sentence for trail-hiking fugitive


CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal judge is considering a tougher sentence than guidelines call for in the case of a Kentucky accountant who embezzled $8.7 million before hiking the Appalachian Trail for six years as a fugitive.U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott (duh-LAHT’) this week sent notice to attorneys in the James Hammes (ham-UHS’) case that she’s weighing factors including the high money amount and his flight to avoid prosecution.

Dlott will sentence Hammes on June 22 in Cincinnati. He pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud.

The U.S. attorney’s office is seeking more than seven years in prison. Hammes’ attorneys are asking for three years, saying he’s remorseful and trying to redeem himself.

Sentencing guidelines indicate a range of 63 to 78 months. That maximum is nine months below what prosecutors are seeking.

Ohio schools seek changes to college credit program


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Department of Education is pushing legislation that would makes changes to a statewide program offering free college credit to middle- and high-schoolers.

Changes to the College Credit Plus program that are backed by the department include eliminating a waiver that allows school groups to negotiate with colleges to set lower credit-hour fees, The Columbus Dispatch reported (

Another provision would allow a pilot program under which students who aren’t ready for college could take remedial courses.

But lobbyists for some school organizations say the changes they want are not in the bill .

While they support the program’s goal of making college less expensive, school groups say it costs districts too much. Tuition payments for the program’s students come out of the districts’ pockets, along with other expenses.

The school groups— the Ohio School Boards Association, Ohio Association of School Business Officials and Buckeye Association of School Administrators —want help paying for textbooks for students. They also want a standardized way to compare the program to other credit-bearing courses, such as Advanced Placement.

Other changes include requiring parents who can afford it to pay something toward the cost.

Barbara Shaner, of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, said the proposed bill’s provision to allow students to take remedial courses through the program defeats its purpose.

“Our concern is, we thought the idea of College Credit Plus was to provide this opportunity for students who are already at college level,” she said. “This just seems like we’re trying to take the high school system and put it at the college system.”

The bill has had two hearings and could be taken up again in the General Assembly’s lame-duck session at the end of the year.

1st CEO of Youngstown schools says teachers need support


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — The first chief executive officer of Youngstown City Schools says supporting teachers is key to pulling the troubled district out of academic distress.

The Youngstown Vindicator reports ( Krish Mohip wants to boost classroom resources and increase professional development for teachers when he begins work June 29. He made the remarks in a Vindy Talk Radio interview Friday.

Mohip was appointed under a hotly-contested takeover law crafted by a group of business, community and education leaders. It was pushed through both chambers of the state Legislature on a single day last year. His starting salary under a 3-year contract signed this week is $160,000. He must create a district improvement plan within 120 days of appointment.

A judge in October allowed the law to proceed after a court challenge.

Ohio employee saves man, 86, from ‘grandparent scam’


SHARONVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A suburban Cincinnati grocery checkout employee is being credited with preventing an 86-year-old man from becoming the latest “grandparent scam” victim.

WLWT-TV reports ( ) that Russell Fleckenstein recently received a call from a scammer pretending to be his grandson in jail.

The Army veteran from Sharonville says the scammer said he was in trouble and needed $2,000 in bail money. He says he was initially skeptical, but has a hearing aid so he ultimately believed the caller.

Fleckenstein was instructed to go to Kroger and put the money on iTunes gift cards and call back with the card codes.

But he says Kroger employee Cathy Wilkings was immediately aware of the scam and wouldn’t sell him the gift cards.

Fleckenstein says Wilkings helped him call the police.

Ohio baby sitter charged with manslaughter in infant’s death


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A central Ohio baby sitter who authorities say gave a fatal dose of Benadryl to an 8-month old child has been indicted on an involuntary manslaughter charge.

The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office says 43-year-old Lori Ann Conley was indicted by the county grand jury Friday on charges that also include endangering children and tampering with evidence.

Prosecutors says she gave the an adult dose of the allergy medication to Haddix Mulkey to try to stop his fussing while baby-sitting on May 13 in suburban Columbus. She later found the child unresponsive. The coroner ruled he died from the medicine.

Conley is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, she could face up to 10 years in prison. Online court records didn’t show whether she had an attorney.

Ex-Traficant aide charged with stealing from elderly woman


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — A former aide and longtime supporter of the late U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. has been charged with felony theft after authorities say she stole more than $100,000 from an elderly woman with dementia.

The Warren Tribune Chronicle reports ( ) that 69-year-old Linda Kovachik is in Mahoning County Jail on a $100,000 bond after surrendering to Canfield police earlier this week. Authorities say Kovachik befriended the victim who is in her 80s at church.

A Canfield police detective says Kovachik had power of attorney for the woman and cashed a $100,000 annuity and stole coins and jewelry. Kovachik’s attorney declined to comment.

Traficant died in 2014 after a tractor tipped over him. The Youngstown-area Democrat served seven years in federal prison after being convicted of bribery charges in 2002.

Conservative takes former Speaker Boehner’s House seat


WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Warren Davidson was sworn into the House on Thursday to take former House Speaker John Boehner’s long-held seat, elected with the backing of the same conservatives who helped drive Boehner from Congress.

Davidson, 46, a former Army Ranger and businessman, became a cause celebre for conservative groups who craved the symbolic triumph of capturing Boehner’s old district in southwestern Ohio.

Boehner served 25 years in Congress and became speaker after Republicans won House control in the 2010 elections. He quickly won the enmity of tea party conservatives elected that same year and outside conservative organizations, who said he was too willing to broker compromises with President Barack Obama.

In brief House floor remarks after taking the oath of office, Davidson suggested that lawmakers are well positioned to take a dominant role in their perennial struggle against the White House.

“The founders intended us to have a strong Congress,” he said. “And especially with the presidential race the way it is, Congress truly has an opportunity to show real leadership.”

Boehner, 66, abruptly resigned from Congress last fall amid efforts to pass budget legislation over the objections of conservatives.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., succeeded him as speaker. He has so far had better relations with conservative Republicans, but at times found it difficult to win their support.

Davidson will serve the remaining seven months in Boehner’s term and is the prohibitive favorite to be re-elected to a full two-year term this November.

A Boehner aide said the former speaker was in Ohio Thursday. In a statement, Boehner said his successor “can be counted on to continue the fight for a smaller, less costly, more accountable federal government.”

Backed by television ads paid for by conservative groups, Davidson won a March primary over 14 GOP rivals. He then cruised to easy victory in Tuesday’s special election over Democratic and Green Party rivals in the Republican-leaning district.

The conservative Club for Growth spent $1.1 million to support Davidson. The House Freedom Fund — a political committee financed by hard-right lawmakers in the rebellious House Freedom Caucus — contributed $43,000.

“We’ve got a conservative guy, a Freedom Caucus type of guy, who’s now in Congress,” caucus leader Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said of Davidson. He said it “just so happened” to be Boehner’s seat.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, which backed Davidson, praised him as “a principled conservative who won’t cut deals with the Democrats.”

Conservatives’ expenditures overcame $250,000 by the Credit Union National Association and $281,000 by Defending Main Street, which backs mainstream conservative Republicans. Those groups supported Davidson’s chief foe in the primary, state Rep. Tim Derickson.

Conservatives also spent heavily to help defeat Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., in a runoff primary this week. She lost to a fellow incumbent, Rep. George Holding, after new district lines forced the two colleagues to face each other. Ellmers had not previously represented most voters in the new district.

Ellmers is the only House GOP incumbent so far this year to lose a primary election, with mainstream GOP groups successfully fending off conservative challenges in Texas, Illinois, California and other states.

Republicans now have a 247-188 House majority. Democrats are expected to narrow that margin in November’s election but fall short of the 30-seat gain they would need to win control.

Pet food and coffee business gives Smucker a jolt


ORRVILLE, Ohio (AP) — J.M. Smucker, known more for its fruit jellies, has cats and coffee drinkers to thank for its strong financial results in its latest quarter.

The company said that its recently-acquired pet food business and growing sales of its coffee brands boosted its fourth-quarter results. Smucker also posted better-than-expected earnings for the full year, sending its shares soaring to an all-time high Thursday.

Smucker said U.S. sales of its coffees, which include the Folgers brand and Dunkin Donuts single-serve pods, rose 9 percent in the three months that ended April 30. Sales of Meow Mix, Milk-Bone treats and other pet brands rose 3 percent. Smucker bought the Big Hearth Pet Brands business last year for more than $3 billion. Sales of its U.S. food business, which includes Smucker’s jams and Jif peanut butter, slipped 2 percent.

Smucker reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $191 million, or $1.61 per share, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier.

Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were $1.86 per share, beating Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.19 per share.

Revenue rose 25 percent to $1.81 billion in the period, thanks to the addition of the pet food business. Those results also exceeded Street forecasts. Six analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $1.74 billion.

For the past year, the Orrville, Ohio-based company reported profit of $688.7 million, or $5.76 per share. Revenue was reported as $7.81 billion.

Smucker expects full-year earnings for this year in the range of $7.60 to $7.75 per share, far above the $6.36 per share analysts expected, according to FactSet. It expects revenue to fall 1 percent from the year before, about the same as analysts expected, according to FactSet

Shares of J.M. Smucker Co. rose $10.48, or 7.9 percent, to $143.19 in afternoon trading Thursday. Earlier in the day, they touched an all-time high of $143.82.

Scioto River Flyway Corridor set to be dedicated June 18


LOGAN, Ohio (AP) — The Appalachia Ohio Alliance is preparing to dedicate the newest nature preserve along the Scioto River.

An open house and dedication of the Scioto River Flyway Corridor is planned for June 18. The event features interactive exhibits, interpretive walks, site tours and a cookout.

Activities will be centered in the bottomland forest and fields on the Marsha Gunder Schneider Preserve in Pickaway County. The property is one of four core components of the corridor initiative. The other three are the Kreisel Preserve, Cossin Preserve and the Haddox Scippo Creek Corridor Preserve.

The day will include discussions of the geology, geography, archaeology, native heritage, natural history and biological significance of the site. Information will also be shared on restoration plans, habitat conservation, farmland preservation, wildlife and local history.