Local stories of the year
Sandusky Register Staff
Jan 6, 2014 at 1:20 AM
1. Curtis Clinton sentenced to death
The convicted triple murderer and rapist is the first person in 65 years to get the death penalty.
Clinton killed 23-year-old Heather Jackson and her two young children, Celina, 3, and Wayne Jr., 20 months, on Sept. 9, 2012. He raped Heather and Celina and strangled all three family members.
It took a jury just a few hours to convict him.
At Clinton’s tense sentencing hearing in Erie County Common Pleas Judge Tygh Tone’s courtroom, emotions flew high as another one of the victims in the case, Elizabeth Sebetto, 19, read a powerful statement condemning Clinton and declaring her personal triumph over him. Clinton brutally raped her at his Campbell Street apartment for hours just a week before he killed Jackson and her children.
Also in court Jackson’s brother, Nick Fee, had his chance to share the rage he had contained for a year of proceedings, unleashing a tirade of threats against the condemned killer in open court. Clinton, seemingly enjoying his moment in the spotlight throughout the trial, talked trash back at Fee, handcuffed and restrained.
Clinton murdered Jackson and her children only seven months after being released from prison after serving 13 years behind bars for killing 18-year-old Misty Keckler in a Fostoria home in 1997.
Clinton is incarcerated at Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where he is housed with other death row inmates.
2. Jacob Limberios saga goes national
The Jacob Limberios shooting saga drew national attention with a two-part episode of the Dr. Phil show airing in November. But local attention already was focused on the missteps and incompetence Sandusky County law enforcement officials showed in investigating the 19-year-old’s gunshot death on March 2, 2012.
The Limberios family exposed that incompetence, which included the destruction of evidence and other serious mistakes, and one strange ruling from Sandusky County coroner John Wukie.
“Suicide. Gunshot wound to head. Deceased shot self in head, may not have realized the gun was loaded”
With that nonsensical statement on the death certificate, Wukie triggered an investigation that seemed to go on forever in 2013 with public officials stonewalling the family at every turn. A judge finally removed local officials from the investigation in late May and appointed Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to complete it.
Wukie, who never conducted any investigation, refused to correct or clarify his death ruling after DeWine’s findings mirrored what most people already believed: Jake’s death was an accident. By year’s end he was sticking with his suicide ruling and discounting and need to show intent.
3. Sandusky County death cases examined
Readers selected the Register’s ongoing coverage of the Sandusky County Sheriff’s history of alleged incompetence, and the deadly consequences of it, as the No. 3 news story in 2013.
In July, the Register examined three Sandusky County death investigations in a four-part series, including the 2007 death of Craig Burdine at the county jail, the 2012 stabbing death of Gregory Montgomery, and the 2012 shooting death of Jacob Limberios.
Family members of all three men questioned the way the investigations into their son’s deaths were handled and the results of autopsies that ruled their deaths caused by excited delirium and suicide.
The Burdine family, particularly, questioned Lucas County coroner Cynthia Beisser’s disregard of broken cartilage in Craig’s neck that indicated he suffered trauma the night he died, and the Montgomery family was skeptical of the suicide by knife-to-the-chest ruling that Beisser issued.
For her part, Beisser refused to answer questions about any of the autopsies or others conducted in Lucas County in police-related deaths.
Bryan Jones was killed by deputies in July 2010 in his family’s home. He returned home drunk and frightened family members who fled the home and called police. By the time deputies went in, however, Jones was asleep on a couch with an unloaded shotgun in his lap. They lit a flash bang grenade to arouse him, and shot him dead when he jerked awake and the shotgun on his lap moved.
One explanation officials gave for Jones’ death was he’d committed “suicide by cop,” although they did not explain how a sleeping man could do that.
4. Perkins Schools fees skyrocket as levies fail
In the end, they must submit to the masses.
After a series of failed tax levy attempts dwindled the Perkins Schools budget down to its final dollars this year, the district abandoned its plans to construct a new school building in hopes of rallying voter support.
In 2011, board members voted to move a portion of the district’s operating funds into a separate account used for building projects. The drastic aftereffects of the controversial decision culminated in November.
One of the most costly: Student pay-to-participate fees skyrocketed to as much as $730 per high school student.
Perkins Schools voters rejected levy proposals three times this year and refused to restore the operating fund. Board members were forced to return a portion of the moved funds to their original account to keep the district operating. They also refunded a portion of paid pay-to-participate fees to district families and reduced activity costs to $365 per high school student.
Perkins Schools officials now plan to go back on the ballot with a levy proposal in May, with the hope a new year and new campaign strategy could yield new results.
5. ThorSport Racing brings title to Sandusky
Sandusky finally etched its name in the winners circle after a monumental 2013 season. Drivers Matt Crafton and Frank Kimmel claimed ThorSport Racing’s first season championships in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series, respectively, this year. The two drivers obtained more points in their respective events than any other driver this season.
ThorSport Racing’s official start came in 1996, when a team consisting mostly of volunteers finished in 12th place at the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin. The company — employing several dozen people manufacturing, testing and perfecting race cars at the headquarters located off West Perkins Avenue near Wendy’s — celebrated the win during an open house in December.
6. New U.S. 6 west end overpass opens
In September, state officials finally finished the west end overpass, allowing motorists — including emergency personnel — to bypass trains chugging along Tiffin Avenue and Venice Road by traversing over a bridge. State officials labeled the $11.4 million project a success. But many motorists were left bewildered and aggravated over the change.
For starters, the configuration forced engineers to block off or detour various routes, including breaking up Tiffin Avenue in various unconnected segments. Residents complained about a lack of signage, leading to motorists getting confused about the proper path to take. Some drivers, meanwhile, ignored the rules. Semitrailers now travel down residential routes and some drivers even trek over curbs and grass to access roads.
7. Cedar Point rolls out GateKeeper
GateKeeper arrived at Cedar Point, and coaster enthusiasts rejoiced. In May on a preview day before the park opened, about 1,200 coaster enthusiasts flocked to be some of the first to ride the longest, fastest and tallest wing roller coaster. Before the 2013 season would end two million people would ride GateKeeper.
GateKeeper forever changed the appearance of Cedar Point as it boldly arose at the front of the park, a statement that guests had arrived at “The Best Amusement Park in the World” Riders at the new ticket gates now watch riders soar overhead, laughing and screaming. The gates and some of the front end buildings had not seen changes in decades. To transform the front end required Disaster Transport and the iconic Space Needle to be removed.
8. Nix builds a rewarding life in Chicago
El Da’ Sheon Nix grew up in a high crime rate neighborhood at the corner of Hancock and Reese streets in Sandusky. He had to take a pink lunchbox to high school football practice at Sandusky. Lived for days off spaghetti, salad and buttered bread. Slept alone five nights a week in high school while his mom worked third shift.
After getting a football scholarship at Northwestern University, a knee injury derailed his collegiate career before it ever got started.
But through it all, 2000 SHS graduate El Da’ Sheon Nix became a bigger success story than he could have ever dreamed. Rather than sulk over his injury, Nix treated the classroom like the Super Bowl, earning his way onto the dean’s list at NU.
Upon graduation, he began working with inner city Chicago youth to help keep them in the classroom and away from crime activity. Today, Nix is the director of program operations at the Beyond Sports Foundation.
BSF provides academic, athletic, social and career development resources to high school and collegiate student-athletes throughout the Chicago area. Over the past four years, 17 student-athletes have graduated from college with the aid of BSF. All 17 are on the path to career success, with more than half earning some NFL experience. Every graduating high school student in BSF has been accepted into college.
“My Sandusky experiences play a part in nearly everything I do, and the decisions I make,” Nix said. “The good, the bad and the ugly from Sandusky are with me daily and have shaped the man I am today.
“I play off of those experiences in my interactions with the youth and the families in the Foundation” he added. “The programs and activities I design, the goals I look to set in my profession … They are all connected to Sandusky in some way”
9. Murder suspects caught on video
Readers were astonished by the brutal killing of George Martin, 86, in his Campbell Street home Dec. 3.
Campbell’s home was set ablaze and his body was discovered after firefighters extinguished the fire, but who killed Martin and why remains unknown.
Surveillance footage from a nearby building showed two people — each dressed in jeans and a dark jacket — approaching Martin’s home on foot at 7:45 p.m., then leaving in a hurry just a minute or two before neighbors reported the fire.
The pair are prime suspects in Martin’s murder.
10. Hopper’s residents get shafted
For most people, if you miss paying the water bill one month you can pay double the next month. But there aren’t many breaks beyond that when it comes to paying utility bills, otherwise — unless you’re Joe Yost. Yost, who owned the Hopper’s Mobile Home Park at Tiffin and Venice Road didn’t pay the water bill for five years and owed the city in excess of $250,000.
But the tenants at the mobile home park paid the price and were forced out of their homes after the city shut off the water supply. The tenants paid Yost a water fee each month, but Yost neglected to pay the city. The process of being forced to move was an agonizing experience for many of the more than two dozen families that were forced to move, many of whom lost titles to trailers they thought they purchased from Yost.
The cleanup of the property took months, and Yost was arrested in October on two counts of felony theft. He bonded out of jail within just two hours to return to the comfort of his Catawba Island home.