Chris Keppler

Chris Keppler

Chris is the regular news anchor on WQMX's Wynn and Wilson in the Morning and WONE's Tim and Christi in the Morning programs. He first opened a microphone at WZIP-FM at The University of Akron in 1990 but got his first paid radio job delivering weekend news on WZKL-FM & WDPN-AM in Alliance. Chris then moved to WJER AM & FM in Dover where he reported on Tuscarawas County, including stories that made national headlines. Chris has been honored by his peers with first place awards from the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters including Best Reporter, Best Feature Story, and Best Broadcast Writing among others. In addition to his work as a broadcast journalist Chris has also worked in public relations and as an instructor at the University of Akron teaching Broadcast News Writing. Chris enjoys volunteer work, and has served on the boards of the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters, Public Relations Society of America (Akron Area Chapter), American Cancer Society Hope Gala Committee and currently serves on the Green Baseball/Softball Federation Board. Contact Chris through the newsroom 330-864-6397 or email at ckeppler@rcrg.net

Friday, 09 May 2014 12:50

Murderer's Appeal Denied

The 9th District Court of Appeals is striking down claims from a convicted murderer from Rittman.

Chad Cobb is in prison for beating and strangling his former girlfriend, Ashley Biggs, 25. Cobb, who has three other children, also had custody of the child he shared with Biggs and they were having some disputes. Biggs was lured to a location in New Franklin through her pizza delivery job. Her body was found in Rittman, which prompted one of Cobb's appeals. He says it was not a Summit County matter because it was never proven that Biggs was killed in Summit County. He also claimed ineffective counsel -- the appellate judges disagreed across the board.

Friday, 09 May 2014 12:43

Hit-Skip Driver Arrested

Summit County sheriff's deputies say they have caught the person believed to have run down a deputy and a college student in a parking lot near The University of Akron. 

Artemus Blanding, 23, of Bedford Heights is charged with attempted murder, aggravated vehicular assault and felonious assault.  Deputies say Blanding struck both people with his vehicle at the McDonald's on East Exchange Street about a month ago, then took off.  Neither victim suffered life threatening injuries.

Sheriff Steve Barry says investigators had some surveillance video to help them get started but he credits Sgt. Chris Lappin and deputies Ryan Knight and Bron Thomas for working hundreds of hours, sometimes on days off, to solve the case.

Thursday, 08 May 2014 12:41

AUDIO Ohio Measles

The Summit County Health Department is reminding people to make sure their immunizations are up to date, now that there's an oubreak of measles in Ohio. 

There are 42 confirmed cases.  Most of them are in Knox County.  The health department's Dr. Margo Erme says even though measles was eliminated 14 years ago, the highly infectious disease has re-emerged.

"There were a group of people who went to the Philippines, where they are having a very large measles outbreak," said Erme.  "They were not vaccinated and while they were there one of them was exposed."

Erme says a lot of people who have vaccinations should be protected, but others may need a booster because they were under-vaccinated in the 1960's. 

 
She says the case of measles connected to a Hudson student remains unconfirmed by the Ohio Department of Health.  Erme says state health officials prioritize those cases so information can be pushed out toward the appropriate communities to ward off bigger problems.

The 9th District Court of Appeals is helping out an Akron man who got in trouble for allegedly selling heroin at Grace Park in 2012. 

James Cunningham was arrested after police got an anonymous tip about a black man wearing jeans and a neon green shirt selling drugs.  Police spotted Cunningham - a black man wearing jeans and a neon green shirt - in the park.  According to the opinion, one officer approached Cunningham and the other parked behind Cunningham as he started to back away.  Cunningham did not agree to a pat down, and he was arrested for obstruction of justice, which allowed a search.  That search yielded some heroin inside a gum wrapper.  

However, the appeals court agreed with Cunningham that the description was not reason enough for police to stop and subsequently search him in the park. Here's one small part of the opinion:

"Mr. Cunningham argues that the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress because Officers Hughes and Woolley did not have sufficient reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct a stop. We agree."

The case is being sent back to Summit County Common Pleas Court.

To top it off, Cunningham's sentence of probation and a driver's license suspension was stayed because of the appeal but that message didn't make it to the probation department, so Cunningham got picked up and thrown in jail for violating a probation order that wasn't in effect.  It took a judge to get it straightened out. 

Law enforcement and lawyers are reacting to the now-public disclosure of more than 1,700 files on a former Akron cop's computer - some of which could have been considered evidence in criminal cases.  The city tried to fire Don Schismenos and wound up negotiating a resignation but the furor over the files lingers three years after they were discovered.

Here are perspectives from people who represent some of the stakeholders: 

Attorney Eddie Sipplen - Sipplen represents at least a couple of clients who were arrested by Schismenos, leaving him to question whether they got a fair shake by the justice system.  If any  files were evidentiary, they should have been turned over to prosecutors, who would then have made them available to defense teams.

"As a defense attorney, my job is dependent on the quality of the information I receive so I can make sure a fair process," said Sipplen.  "It's not to get the guilty off, but to make sure it's a fair process." 

Sipplen understands that Schismenos was the only one who knew about the files, so he doesn't blame the police department or anyone else involved for not knowing about them but he does want to know why, after three years, he's the only attorney contacted about the information.

"Who knew? How long did they know?  And what have they done?," asks Sipplen.    
 

 Akron Police Chief James Nice:  Nice says he immediately sent Shismenos home and got internal affairs involved but quickly realized that there was potential for a conflict of interest. At that point, the Ohio Attorney General's Office was contacted.

"And at the exact same time, we brought in the FBI who shared the egregious tapes with the United States Attorney's Office because, frankly, I was concerend, is there a problem with civil rights?" said Nice.

Nice says there was no wrongdoing in the police department, other than that of Shismenos. 
 

 Akron FOP President Paul Hlynsky: Some of the video footage make Schismenos look somewhere between nasty and violent, but his union president, Paul Hlynsky, that despite some obvious mistakes by Shismenos, the videos and the way Shismenos is portrayed need some context.

"He did not commit some of the criminal behavior he's being accused of but I certainly don't condone any bad behavior," said Hlynsky.

As for any of the files that may have been considered evidence, Hlynsky says it probably won't make a difference.

"I don't believe that there's going to be the massive amounts of appeals that some people speculate that there's going to be because there was wrongdoing on the part of some of these people," said Hlynsky. 
 

 Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Brad Gessner:  Gessner says his office immediately found about 25 pending cases that were associated with Schismenos, when they uncovered about 400 resolved cases, then sat down with police, BCI and the FBI, calling further investigation.

"Because if there's anything in the file that is helpful to someone accused of a crime, we turn that over," said Gessner.  "That's our obligaton and we take that very seriously."

Gessner says the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the agency in charge of determining future action in the case.
 

The Summit County Prosecutor's Office issued a statement late Tuesday afternoon:

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh today released the following statement regarding the Schismenos investigation.

"The Akron Police Department first notified our office of a problem involving Officer Donald Schismenos in late June 2011. We worked very closely with APD's Internal Affairs and the Ohio Attorney General's Office and met with the FBI to address any issues stemming from the discovery of Schismenos' secret recordings.

"In August 2011, APD Chief Nice requested an investigation by BCI due to a potential conflict of interest. Prosecutors and law enforcement identified several issues for review, including whether Schismenos had engaged in any criminal conduct and whether there were any recordings of arrests related to cases handled by the Summit County Prosecutor's Office. Additionally, the FBI was asked to investigate whether the recordings demonstrated any federal violations by Schismenos.

"In September 2011, our office identified 25 pending and 345 closed cases between 1999 and 2011 involving Schismenos. We sent that list to the Attorney General's Office to see if any of Schismenos' recordings were connected to those cases. Videos connected to a few pending cases were discovered, and we turned over those videos to the defense counsel as we received them.

"My office conducted a thorough review of all of our cases two years ago, and we continue to examine any cases that may be linked to any video to ensure that no defendant's rights were violated. Should a new case be discovered in which Schismenos did not turn over evidence, we will review it."

A facility dog helping out at the Summit County Prosecutor's Office is getting kudos from lawyers around the country.  Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh accompanied Avery to an American Bar Association conference last week in the nation's capital to tell attendees how Avery helps crime victims, mainly children, feel more comfortable in the courtroom.

"Basically, what we were doing in Washington, D.C is trying to promote the facility dog and letting to let people know that this is a very worthwhile project and we're hoping to see more dogs like him across the country," said Bevan Walsh.

Walsh gave a presentation participants in a seminar about child victimization.  She says it's relevant to teach other people, especially prosecutor's office employees, about the benefits have having a dog around the office.

 

"We have children that come in our office that are victims of violent crime," said Bevan Walsh.  "We have children who have witnessed murders in several of our cases.  He is on--hand every day in the prosecutor's office to help our kids ane he also helps some of the adults as well."

Bevan Walsh says there are only about 30 dogs like Avery in prosecutors' offices nationwide and about 30 others doing similar work in other settings.

A new study suggests that more than 85,000 people in Summit County, incoluding more than 27,000 children, are "food insecure."  That means they don't always have access to safe and nutritious food.  The overall percentage is down, but not enough, according to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank says it's still way too many people.

"The numbers are so small that it's really insignificant but what is more concern for me is the child food insecurity rate in Summit County has actually increased," said Akron- Canton Regional Foodbank Vice President of Fund Development and Marketing Shelly Hinton.  "That has moved up to 22.4%."

Hinton says there are plenty of socially resonsible and financial reasons to close the food gap, particularly when it comes to children.

"They can have physical and mental health issues but also an education problem," said Hinton.  "When children don't have access to food they struggle academically."

The data are derived from Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap study and represent findings from 2012.  Researchers calculate the average meal cost in Summit County was $2.71, up from what it was the previous two years.

You can use the interactive map to see more specific data for Summit County as well as any other county in the nation. 

 

 

Saturday, 03 May 2014 09:55

Police Chief's Criminal Record Sealed

Brady Lake's police chief is getting a chance to put the past behind him - a past that landed him on probation and completing community service a few years ago.  As reported in the Repository, Canton Municipal Court Judge John Poulos granted a request to seal John Marra's record.

The record stems from allegations of sexual conduct with juvenile girl when Marra was a reserve officer with the Uniontown Police Department, before he became the police chief in the Portage County community.  He was in his 30's.  The girl was 16 and 17.  Marra entered a plea of no contest to a misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty.  Other than the probation and community serive, Poulos ordered Marra to resign his part time law enforcement position. 

Now, the judge agreed to keep the record from public view despite pleas from prosecutors who claim that higher standards should be expected of anyone who wears the badge.

On the Web: www.cantonrep.com

Friday, 02 May 2014 12:45

Pedestrian Bridge In Barberton

The city of Barberton is making a small improvement on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail that could have a big return for the city.  Mayor Bill Judge says a pedestrian bridge connector is being installed today and Saturday morning that will make it easier to enter or leave the trail from Barberton's downtown.

"It will provide better access and connectivity for people from our town to the towpath and towpath users to our downtown area," said Judge.

The mayor says the 1.5-mile section of the trail that's within the city was used more than 300,000 times last year.

"We want to bring some of those people into our downtown and showcase our downtown with some of the great things we have to offer but it all allows our residents that are accessing the towpath to make use of that natural resource that we have," said Judge.

Judge credits partnerships with Summit MetroParks, the Barberton Community Foundation and the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition for making the project a reality.

Thursday, 01 May 2014 12:08

No Aquarium For Massillon

Plans to build an aquarium and indoor water park in Massillon are being changed.  Developers still want to move forward with the project, just not in Massillon.

"We are now looking at it as a competetive process," said Hammond Aqualife Co-founder and Director of Operations Rex Ferguson.  "We have not settled on Massillon.  We are actually going to look at several other communities at this point and see where that takes us."

The reason Ferguson and investors are now steering away from Massillon has to do with the location of the attraction.  The Massillon proposal called for Hammond Aqualife to lease nine holes of the 27-hole Legends golf course but Ferguson's side insists on buying the land rather than risk having to tear down and rebuild at the end of a lease.  The main hitch: the golf course isn't for sale.

Where will it be located? 

"We have some very promising land sites and communities who are absolutely enthralled with the notion of having this in their back yard," said Ferguson.

Ferguson did not say which communities are enthralled but he does say that he wants to put something together very quickly.