Local students sending snowflakes to Sandy Hook

LAKE TWP. —

Lake Local students sending snow flakes to Sandy HookWhen Sandy Hook Elementary School students return to class in January, their new school will be decorated with what could turn out to be thousands upon thousands of homemade snowflakes.

The Sandy Hook Parent-Teacher Association and Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association sent out the call last week asking other PTAs to help create a “winter wonderland” to welcome the students to the unfamiliar environment of their new school in a neighboring town.

It’s been two weeks since a gunman entered their school and killed 20 first-grade students and six adult school employees.

Torie Utterback, a North Canton mother of two, received an email about the project and felt compelled to act.

“The email caught my attention. I love snowflakes, my friends will tell you,” she said.

And her friends showed up. Through Facebook and email, Utterback said, 22 families agreed to attend a snowflake-making marathon in the cafe room at Elite Sports, a business owned by Utterback’s sister, Laurie Thewes. Other families are making them at home and sending them to her.

With the help of girlfriends, Utterback set out several tables of materials, including snowflake cookie cutters, paper plates, glitter, markers, beads, coffee filters and pattern books. Hot cocoa, Goldfish crackers and popcorn were well stocked, too.

 

 

While she can’t explain the unexplainable to her children, Utterback said, this display of support was a good way for them to show solidarity and feel empathy.

Discussing the events of that awful day was not something she had on Thursday’s agenda.

“We have some preschoolers here that have the luxury of not knowing why we are doing this,” she said, adding, “I felt strongly that it was up to each individual family (to explain.)”

Her first-grader, Addy, had lots of questions, Utterback said, and they discussed the tragedy as a family.

She explained the snowflake project to Addy by asking her, if something bad were to happen, “wouldn’t it be nice if people you don’t know tried to make it better?”

Kim Rimmele, a teacher at Portage Collaborative Montessori School, brought her daughter, Tylar, a Greentown Intermediate School fifth-grader.

Rimmele said getting the Sandy Hook students in the door the first day will be an important step in their lives.

“Every corner they turn will be something they need to overcome, a hill to climb,” she said.

Tylar, 10, knew the purpose of the day and was hoping to make a difference.

“I hope the snowflakes make the kids feel happy that they have a new school and they can forget about the bad,” Tylar said.

Levy suit progressing in Lake Township

By Nancy Molnar

LAKE TWP.: Attorneys representing various parties are to submit written arguments by Monday to the Ohio Supreme Court in a lawsuit over a Lake Township police levy.

Township trustees and a citizens group are appealing the Jan. 25 decision by Stark County Common Pleas Judge John Haas that overturned passage of a continuing 4.5-mill police levy because of a ballot error.

Language on the Nov. 6 ballot understated the cost of the levy by a factor of 10, saying it would cost 45 cents per $1,000 of property valuation.

The office of Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero is representing township trustees in the appeal.

On the same side of the issue is Citizens in Support of Township Police, chaired by Robert A. Moss, who was treasurer of the levy campaign committee. Canton attorney Charles Hall III, who also is the township trustees’ legal adviser, is representing the citizens group.

Citizens contesting the election, led by Greentown Auto & Truck Parts owner James Miller, are represented by North Canton attorneys Melvin Lute and Eric Stecz, as well as Michael Grady of Lake Township.

Grady is a Republican candidate for county prosecutor.

After initial arguments are filed, each side will have 10 days to respond, taking the time for written argument to March 29.

The state’s high court normally takes four to six months to decide, but a court spokesman said this case might be expedited because it concerns an election.

During the appeal, the Lake Township Police Department continues to serve the entire township. It was known as the Uniontown Police Department when its taxing authority was limited to nine square miles in the northwest corner of the township.

Property owners in the entire township are paying the new levy.

Erick Howard sentenced to 30 years in prison

erik_howrd_sentenced_30_yearsCANTON —With no one else to blame, Erick M. Howard stood in court before his family and his victims in a jail jumpsuit, his hands and feet in chains.

He was a 20-year-old man who fought for his innocence and lost, he said. Facing decades in prison, he could only beg for mercy.

“The decisions that I made, the people I put around myself, the actions that … I made is why I’m here today,” Howard said Tuesday in Stark County Common Pleas Court, where he was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of a home-invasion robbery and rape.

Once Ohio’s two-time Mr. Football at Hoover High School in North Canton, Howard is now a felon and a life-time sex offender.

He felt bad for what happened to the victims and everyone who was affected, he said. He asked for the chance to be free before his two young children are “grown and gone.”

“…Don’t be mad at anyone but me because I decided to sell drugs,” he said. “I decided to get involved in that kind of life when I came back from school. It’s all been my choice.”

Judge Taryn L. Heath had words of her own while handing down a sentence that more than doubled the 12-year offer Howard turned down before his trial.

Howard showed “no moral compass for his behavior” when he didn’t stop at robbing the victims of money, the judge said.

“He chose to rob a young woman of her dignity just because he could,” Heath said.

THE TRIAL

A jury convicted Howard on Thursday of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and rape, all with firearm specifications.

Two co-defendants testified that he helped plan and carry out the early-morning home-invasion robbery, which targeted a marijuana dealer and the man’s girlfriend while they were sleeping.

The victims said they were held at gunpoint and bound with duct tape inside their Sunford Avenue SE townhouse on Aug. 20 by two masked men.

The female victim, who said she could identify Howard as one of the robbers by his voice, testified that Howard penetrated her vagina with a gloved finger or the tip of a gun.

The jury also saw video from a Walmart store that witnesses said showed Howard and accomplice Seth R. Obermiller, 20, of Lake Township buying duct tape and gloves before the robbery.

Obermiller is serving a seven-year sentence. A third co-defendant, Michael A. Taylor, 20, of North Canton, was given probation and ordered into a regional correctional facility after serving as the lookout. Both testified against Howard.

Howard didn’t testify during the trial. He can appeal his conviction and sentence.

HOW MUCH TIME?

A key issue at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing was the amount of prison time Howard faced.

Given the underlying charges and the fact that firearm specifications usually merge, the maximum appeared to be 41 years in prison.

But Heath said her reading of the law, supported by county prosecutors, was that she could imprison Howard for up to 50 years.

Defense attorney Rufus Sims objected to that conclusion.

He also said Howard didn’t have a prior adult record and that a lengthy prison term was less likely to result in rehabilitation.

Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett characterized Howard as a master manipulator who blamed everyone else for his situation and asked the judge to punish him appropriately.

“The only miscarriage of justice is that he wasn’t stopped sooner before it came to all of this,” Hartnett said.

Hoover High football coach Don Hertler Jr. described a Howard in kinder terms.

Howard lived with Hertler for nine months during his junior year. The coach recalled that Howard lost his father to an industrial accident as a child, and needed extra guidance in life.

“I do love this man like a son,” Hertler said. “Good, bad or indifferent.”

While feeling bad for the victims, the coach asked the judge to use restraint and common sense.

The case wasn’t about a star football player, Hertler said. “It’s about a 20-year-old man who I hope gets a chance to redeem himself a little sooner than later.”

Jackson Lions host district meeting

LionsClubThe Jackson Township Lions Club hosted the District 13-D Cabinet Meeting at John Knox Presbyterian Church on Nov. 13.  The district is comprised of five counties: Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage, Stark and Trumbull.  Within this District are 57 clubs, which include the Stark County clubs of Canton, East Canton, Jackson Township, Magnolia, North Canton and Sandy Valley Leos Club.  Delegates of this executive body meet quarterly to review activities of the Ohio Lions and the International Association of Lions Clubs that are passed on to the individual Clubs.

District Governor David Gauch, a member of the Crestwood Lions Club in Mantua, Ohio, was the presiding officer of this meeting.  Others accepting reports at this meeting were First Vice District Governor John Woodside of the Jackson Township Lions Club, Second Vice District Governor Tom Zickefoose of the Girard Lions Club and Cabinet Secretary Treasurer Paul Metrovich of the East Liverpool Lions Club.  Reports from the zone chairmen, state committees, district committees, governor’s advisory committee and governor’s honorary committee were entered with information to be passed on to Clubs at visits in the coming months.

Accepted at this meeting was a letter from the Jackson Township Lions Club to place John Woodside’s name in nomination for the office of district governor for the 2012 – 2013 fiscal year.  First Vice District Governor John Woodside has been a Lion for 48 years.  He served as president of the Jackson Township club in 2004-2005, club secretary for six years and served on the district cabinet in various capacities since 1999. He currently is treasurer of the Melvin Jones District 13-D Lions Eye Care Foundation.

Lake Township trustees, Nov. 28 meeting

Lake TYownshipKEY ACTION  Authorized buying a John Deere four-wheel-drive utility vehicle and a snowplow for use with the vehicle.

DISCUSSION  The vehicle and plow will be used by the cemetery maintenance department. Sam Miller, supervisor of the department, said the items also will be available for use by the police and road departments. The Gator vehicle will cost $16,650 from Hartville Hardware. The cost for the purchase and installation of the snowplow is $2,400 from Terry’s Truck and Trailer Center of North Canton.

OTHER ACTION  

• Authorized the distribution of the 2012 fire and EMS funds for the Uniontown, Greentown and Hartville fire departments. The estimated totals are $1.85 million for the fire fund and $651,805 for the EMS fund.

• Rescheduled the final meeting of the year for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 27 at Township Hall.

UP NEXT  Meet at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at Township Hall.

Lake man sentenced to seven years and says he’ll testify against Mr. Football, Erick Howard

Seth ObermillerA man who pleaded guilty to taking part in a home invasion and robbery of a North Canton couple in August was sentenced to seven years in prison Monday, as part of a plea agreement where he’s expected to testify against former Hoover High School football star Erick M. Howard.

Stark County Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath accepted the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Seth R. Obermiller, 20, 2321 Comet Circle NW in Lake Township. He pleaded guilty Nov. 3 to felony charges of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping with two counts of firearm specifications.

Heath sentenced Obermiller to three four-year concurrent sentences for the burglary, robbery and kidnapping charges and two three-year concurrent sentences for the gun specifications. By law, the sentences for the original charges and gun specifications must be separate.

Obermiller’s attorney Rick Pitinii said he instructed his client not to make a statement at sentencing because he’s still involved in the pending criminal case regarding Howard.

A female family member of Obermiller broke out in tears as Obermiller was led away from the courtroom in his jail jumpsuit. She and other family members left the courtroom and declined to comment.

Pitinii said Obermiller will be held at the Stark County Jail until he testifies at Howard’s trial, before he’s transferred to a state prison.

Last week, Michael A. Taylor, 20, of 837 W. Maple St. in North Canton, whom prosecutors called a lookout during the robbery, was sentenced to three years of probation. He had pleaded guilty to one count of attempted burglary and avoided a prison term. Taylor has also agreed to testify against Howard.

On Aug. 20, a 23-year-old man and his 20-year-old girlfriend told police that they awoke that morning to find two men in ski masks pointing handguns at their heads.

Police accused Howard and Obermiller of tying up the couple with duct tape, and police accused Howard of sexually assaulting the woman.

Howard, 20, of 5155 Portage St. NW in Jackson Township, was indicted this month on charges of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, rape and kidnapping with firearm specifications. Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett said if convicted, he faces a potential 41-year prison sentence.

Howard has pleaded not guilty. He is being held at the Stark County Jail on bond of $250,000.

Heath told Obermiller that he would be supervised for up to five years after his release from prison.

Hartnett said Obermiller could seek early release from prison after serving 3 1/2 years, but there was no indication his request would be granted.

Two admit guilt, agree to testify against Erick Howard

Seth R. Obermiller, 20, of  Lake TownshipTwo men pleaded guilty Thursday for their roles in the robbery of a North Canton couple and agreed to testify against their alleged accomplice, former Hoover High School star running back Erick M. Howard.

Seth R. Obermiller, 20, of 2321 Comet Circle NW in Lake Township, pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and accompanying gun specifications.

County prosecutors are recommending a seven-year prison term when he is sentenced Nov. 21 by Stark County Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath.

Michael A. Taylor, 20, of 837 W. Maple St. in North Canton, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted burglary. He faces up to three years in prison, but the judge said she would consider placing him in the Stark Regional Community Correction Center, which offers counseling and treatment options.

With the plea, both men gave up the right to have a grand jury review the evidence against them.

They also agreed to testify in court proceedings against Howard, whose case is pending before a county grand jury.

The charges involved an early morning incident on Aug. 20 at an apartment on Sunford Avenue SE in North Canton.

A young couple — a 23-year-old man and his 20-year-old girlfriend — told police that they awoke to two men in ski masks pointing handguns at their heads.

North Canton police charged Obermiller and Howard with binding the couple with duct tape and robbing them. The woman also was sexually assaulted, police said.

Taylor was accused of acting as a lookout for Obermiller and Howard.

Police also said they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia inside the apartment.

Attorneys for Taylor and Obermiller declined to comment after the hearing, citing the pending sentencing of their clients.

Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett said she couldn’t discuss the alleged roles of the three defendants, but said Obermiller and Taylor pleaded guilty to charges that reflected their involvement.

Howard, 20, whose address is listed as 5155 Portage St. NW in Jackson Township, surrendered to authorities in early October accompanied by his attorney and others, including a brother who said Howard wants to clear his name.

Howard is a two-time winner of Ohio’s Mr. Football award, and the first Stark County player to receive the honor.

Lake Township trustees meeting Oct. 24

Lake TYownship KEY ACTION  Established a time limit for the public speaks portion of meetings.

DISCUSSION  The time limit was issued in response to a public speaks segment about a proposed oil well that lasted about an hour at the previous meeting. The individual time limit will be “no more than three minutes and no more than one time per meeting.”

OTHER ACTION

• Agreed to send a notice to the owners of a property at 13300 Tippecanoe Ave. NW to remove “junk motor vehicles” from the property. The owners have 14 days after receiving the notice to remove the vehicles or prove the vehicles are usable.

• Authorized the purchase of an excavator from Southeastern Equipment Co. of North Canton at a cost not to exceed $90,000.

• Announced that letters have been sent to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expressing the trustees’ concerns about plans for an oil well on property near the Industrial Excess Landfill.

• Mentioned that the U.S. Department of Justice has provided a grant that will cover half of the cost of bulletproof vests for the Uniontown Police Department.

• Responded to the questions of a Uniontown couple about a ballot issue that seeks to expand the Uniontown Police district to provide township-wide protection except for within the village limits of Hartville. Uniontown Police Chief Harold Britt also responded to the couple’s criticism of the issue and its campaign literature.

UP NEXT  Meet at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Township Hall.

Lake surpasses Perry as Stark’s third-largest township

By Kelli Young CantonRep.com staff writer

An influx of baby boomers has catapulted Lake Township to Stark County’s third most populous township, new census figures show.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday will release figures that gives midsize cities and towns their first statistical portrait since 2000. The numbers are based on three years worth of data — from 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Today’s release shows the population shifts for Alliance, Canton, Jackson Township, Lake Township, Massillon, Perry Township and Plain Township. Figures for smaller Stark County towns likely will be released in 2010, according to census officials.

LIVING IN LAKE
Among Stark County’s most populated townships, Lake Township saw the largest percent increase in population.

Between 2000 and 2007, the rural township that borders Summit County has added more than 1,200 people — a 13.4 percent increase.

The influx propelled Lake’s population to 29,361 and past Perry Township’s declining population of 27,922. The census figures include incorporated municipalities within the townships, such as Hartville. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction at end of story. 12:01 p.m., 12/9/08)

With North Canton included in the tally, Lake still trails Plain Township’s 52,546 residents (which includes North Canton) and Jackson Township’s 37,744 residents, which includes Hills and Dales. Both townships also saw smaller gains in population during the same seven-year span.

Most of the Lake’s newcomers are aged 60 or older and likely were attracted to the township’s multiplying senior-housing communities, says Lake Township Trustee Ellis Erb.

“The seniors have stayed in the community instead of moving out because of the condos that have been put up here,” said Erb, who rattled off the names of a dozen senior-housing allotments built recently in the township.

And more units are being built on Mount Pleasant Street NW, Erb said.

He believes Lake Local Schools’ distinguished reputation and Stark County’s low cost of living also have attracted new residents.

BUCKING THE TREND
At least one Stark County city has defied the dying city label.

Massillon’s population increased from 31,325 to 32,289 between 2000 and 2007, figures show.

Massillon Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli credits the city’s emphasis on increasing the number of annual housing starts and its aggressive annexation philosophy.

“We try to get about a hundred housing units per year,” Cicchinelli said. “That includes single family, condominiums, duplex units and apartments. And that’s what we had averaged for the last 10 years.”

He said many newer housing developments exist in the Perry Local and Tuslaw school districts. Other new units have been scattered throughout the city, including in established neighborhoods.

“We try to have a housing stock that represents all income levels,” the mayor said. “We like our diversity.”

Annexations of undeveloped land also have helped with continual growth of housing developments, Cicchinelli said.

“We found that in most cases (that) if it’s a vacant lot, that as soon as water and sewer (services) are available, it gets filled in pretty easily,” Cicchinelli said.

CORRECTION: The census figures include incorporated municipalities within the townships. This information was not included in the orginal story, which was published at 9:57 p.m. Dec. 8.