Home | Breaking News | Tragic fire, govt. corruption top local news stories this year
The Vindicator Memorial to fire victims on Parkcliffe.

Tragic fire, govt. corruption top local news stories this year

WT24 Desk

It’s hard to argue General Motors’ announcement to idle operations at its Lordstown facility wasn’t the story of the year in the Mahoning Valley, The Vindicator reports.

The GM announcement will head our list of business stories of the year, appearing in Sunday’s edition.

Even without GM’s decision, it was a big year for news in the Valley with tragedy and of course, government corruption allegations.

These are our top 10 local news stories of 2018.

  1. A late-night Dec. 9 fire at 434 Parkcliffe Ave. on Youngstown’s South Side killed five children: Aleysha Rosario, 9; Charles Gunn, 3; Ly’Asia Gunn, 2; and twins Brianna Negron and Arianna Negron, both 1, and injured their mother, Amy Negron Acevedo, who escaped the blaze and spent a couple of days in a Cleveland hospital recovering.

The loss of life in the fire, which was believed to be accidental, was the city’s deadliest since a Jan. 23, 2008, arson at 1645 Stewart Ave. on the East Side that killed two adults and four children.

The community raised thousands of dollars to pay for last Saturday’s funeral for the five children.

  1. An explosive 101-count indictment was unsealed Aug. 30 against former Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, ex-city Finance Director David Bozanich, downtown developer Dominic Marchionda and the latter’s affiliated businesses.

The indictment alleges city hall was for sale when Sammarone was mayor and Bozanich was finance director.

Marchionda is accused of improperly spending at least $600,000 from city funds on personal items and of misusing an undetermined amount of money obtained from state and federal governments on the Flats at Wick, Erie Terminal Place and Wick Towers projects.

The indictment alleges Bozanich illegally received $125,000 in cash as well as golf fees, meals, trips and other benefits over a 10-year period.

Sammarone is accused of illegally taking $10,000 from a city vendor to steer contracts to that company, failing to disclose those payments along with rental income derived from owning a condo in Florida and making false statements about the money to state investigative officials.

They’ve pleaded not guilty to the charges.

  1. Krish Mohip, Youngstown city schools CEO, announced Oct. 12 he would not seek a contract renewal in July 2019 despite telling The Vindicator only weeks earlier he planned to stay with the district.

The decision also came about two weeks after the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission approved a $6,000 bonus for Mohip even though the district received an overall F grade on the Ohio Department of Education State Report Card.

Mohip was appointed CEO on June 29, 2016.

  1. Former 24-year Niles Mayor Ralph Infante was sentenced to 10 years in prison May 11 on 22 convictions including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, having an unlawful interest in a public contract, theft in office, gambling and falsification.

Infante was found guilty of taking bribes as mayor, dating back to 1993, not reporting thousands of dollars in gifts – including envelopes of cash around Christmas time – as well as taking money in exchange for a job with the city and gambling.

  1. Claudia Hoerig, the subject of an 11-year struggle to return her to Trumbull County from Brazil to face aggravated-murder charges in the death of her husband, was brought back Jan. 17.

Hoerig is accused of killing her husband, Karl, an Air Force pilot, at their Newton Falls home March 12, 2007, and fleeing the country.

Prosecutors say they think Claudia shot her husband because he was planning to leave her that day. He had told a fellow pilot he expected things to go badly when he told her he was leaving.

She remained free for much of those 11 years because Brazil’s constitution forbade its government from extraditing native Brazilians back to a country where punishment could be stricter than Brazil’s, which has no death penalty and limits prison sentences to 30 years.

Her trial is scheduled to start Jan. 14.

  1. Youngstown, already facing a budget crunch, received news in November from the state auditor’s office it inappropriately spent about $5.5 million from its water, wastewater and sanitation funds for economic-development projects and could be required to pay back that money from its struggling general fund.

If the city is required to do that, it would end up in fiscal emergency.

The issue came to the state auditor’s attention after Youngstown agreed in March to pay water customers $1.45 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that questioned the legality of using water and wastewater funds for economic development.

The auditor’s office is in ongoing discussions with city officials over the issue.

  1. For the first time in decades, Mahoning County will be represented by two Republicans in the state Legislature as the result of the Nov. 6 election.

Republican Don Manning narrowly defeated Democrat Eric Ungaro in the 59th Ohio House District race.

While Republican Michael Rulli lost Mahoning County by about 7,000 votes to Democrat John Boccieri in the 33rd Ohio Senate District race, he beat his opponent by about 13,000 votes in Columbiana County. The two counties make up the 33rd District.

In Ohio, these were the only two state legislative seats held by Democrats to be won by Republicans this year.

Also, statewide Democratic executive-office candidates didn’t do that well in Mahoning County, a once-reliable Democratic area. Rich Cordray, who ran for governor, had the highest turnout with 54.8 percent with Kathleen Clyde, the secretary of state candidate, having the lowest percentage at 51.7.

  1. There were 24 homicides to date in 2018, down from 28 in 2017.

Ten of the homicides occurred between Oct. 25 and Nov. 29. That includes a triple homicide Nov. 7 when Edward Morris, 21; Valarica Blair, 19; and their 3-month old child Tariq Morris were killed Nov. 7 as they sat in a car in front of a home at Pasadena Avenue and Gibson Street on the South Side.

Among the notable murder convictions this year was Lance Hundley of Warren, sentenced in June to the death penalty for the November 2015 beating and strangulation death of Erika Huff, and the attempted murder of Huff’s mother, Denise Johnson.

Youngstown State University was on lockdown Dec. 3 when there was a report of a man with a gun on campus. It turned out there was no gun, and two men were charged with inducing panic.

  1. The Liberty school board approved a controversial resolution in April to no longer permit “native Caucasian” students to be granted consent to open enroll into Girard schools.

The resolution was passed in response to Liberty’s declining enrollment of white students and the funds that leave the district. In June, the school board passed an amendment to the resolution that is more broad, but shows the board stands firm with its decision to object to open enrollment in an attempt to maintain racial balance.

  1. A federal grand jury on Nov. 15 indicted suspended Mahoning County Judge Diane Vettori, accusing her of stealing at least $100,000 from a deceased client.

She was charged Jan. 9 with mail fraud, structuring cash deposits and making false statements to law enforcement officers. She rejected a plea agreement March 5. The subsequent Nov. 15 indictment added a charge of filing a false tax return against her and her husband, retired Youngstown police officer Ismael Caraballo.

Honorable mentions go to:

• Ryan Young, a part-time Campbell police officer, who resigned July 24 after a video emerged of him conducting patrols and responding to calls with a video crew from Barstool Sports’ “Rough and Rowdy Brawl” production team. During the video, Young talked about the dangers of working in “the projects,” conducts a traffic stop and responds to an assault with the production team in tow.

• Robin L. Garlock of Warren was shot May 20 by his oven. He put his revolver in the oven’s broiler for safe-keeping, but his girlfriend decided to do some baking, apparently unaware of the weapon inside. The heat of the oven caused bullets in the gun to explode and hit Garlock in each of his shoulders.

• Three men were arrested in Beaver Township in March related to a revenge porn incident of a 19-year-old woman, who had an intimate photo of herself taken when she was just 15, shared online. The case marked the first time that Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing (BADASS), a Valley-born anti-revenge porn organization, aided in an arrest. Since then, the group has helped provide evidence for dozens of other arrests nationwide.

• Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011, and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke at the Youngstown State University Skeggs Lecture Series at Stambaugh Auditorium on Feb. 15. That was just a day after a gunman killed 17 people and wounded several others with a semi-automatic rifle at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Kelly called for better background checks for those purchasing guns.

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