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 email@example.com
Ohio's death penalty is supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst. That's exactly what Ronald Phillips of Akron is, according to Chief Counsel Brad Gessner with the Summit County Prosecutor's Office.
"This couldn't be any worse and there couldn't be any other way to make this worse and Ronald Phillips needs to be held accountable for his acts," said Gessner.
Those "acts" include raping and murdering his girlfriend's daughter, 3-year old Sheila Marie Evans. Specifically, there was more than one rape. Investigators found more than 130 bruises on the Akron girl's body.
That was in 1993. Today, the Ohio Parole Board takes up the case, based on a request by Phillips, 40, for executive clemency. If granted, he would avoid the death penalty, but probably stay in prison the rest of his life. His attorneys are expected to not argue that he's innocent, but that if physical and sexual abuse that Phillips endured as a child had been detailed to the judge and jury, he may never have been sentenced to death. Gessner's office says those claims were never raised until now, a few weeks before the scheduled execution.
Gessner says his job today is to make sure the board understands exactly what Phillips did.
"And explain to them again the details of the horrors that Sheila Marie Evans lived with and the pain and the suffering that Ronald Phillips inflicted on her," said Gessner.
The Ohio Parole Board is not tasked with making a binding decision on the clemency request. The panel only makes a recommendation that Governor John Kasich can either accept or reject.
Phillips is scheduled to die next month.
A long-planned development in Cuyahoga Falls could go beyond retail stores mixed with a couple of restaurants. City Development Director Sue Truby says Stark Enterprises has filed a Community Entertainment District application for the entire 26-acre Portage Crossing development.
"It lift the veil on the ability to get a liquor license," said Truby. "Through the statute, the developer will be able to get one license for every five acres on the property."
That does not mean, according to Truby, that Portage Crossing will be full of bars. She says the number of licenses is still limited, but the entertainment district designation also opens the door to museums, art houses, movie theaters or even a sports facility.
Cuyahoga Falls City Council did not take action on the request at a meeting Monday night.
"I was really surprised that it was tabled last evening because this should not a controversial issue," said Truby. "It's a very positive thing for the city and it's a very positive thing for Portage Crossing."
Truby says the city is pushing Stark Enterprises to bring in a larger-scale restaurant to the development.
Eileen and the late H. Peter Burg are the recipients of this year's Akron Community Foundation Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award. The husband and wife have given time and money to many area nonprofit organizations and Eileen's charitable activity has only increased since Pete's death in 2004.
"I became very aware of how we affect one another on this earth and I wanted to do for Pete what he wanted to do for others," said Burg.
Burg set up the H. Peter Burg fund through the community foundation, which is holding the awards ceremony tonight.
"We would use the funds and give them to people that we felt needed it and could do something worthwhile with them," said Burg.
Eileen says her late husband's interest in community programs began when they started in high school.
"Pete was like that even at age 16," said Burg.
In the interview with AkronNewsNow's Ray Horner, Eileen talked mainly of Pete and her love for the Akron Community Foundation, but very little about herself, but she's chaired fundraisers and otherwise given money and time to many community non-profit organization.
This may be the best weekend to take a drive or a walk to enjoy the fall color. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says fall foliage is at peak or near-peak in Northeast Ohio.
"The last two years we actually had kind of a late fall color season because it was so hot and dry at the end of the year and this year we've had a lot more moderate rain and temperatures," said Casey Burdick with ODNR.
Ad for quality -expect it to be high, says Burdick.
"The weather has actually been very good - nice sunny days and cool, but not freezing, nights which is really what's important for vibrancy in color," said Burdick.
Burdick says it's already becoming apparent with some bright red color emerging.
She says that while the peak or near-peak viewing time will occur over the next few days in this part of the state, it's usually about a week later in central Ohio and two weeks later than us in the southern stretches of the state. You can track where the colors are at their best through the state's web-based Fall Color Reports.
No help for a Youngstown man convicted of a double-murder in Akron.
Marquez Perry, 24, tried to convince the 9th District Court of Appeals that he was illegally denied a hearing to argue a post-conviction relief request. Ultimately, Perry would hope that the "relief" would come in the form of a lighter sentence. Instead, Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer made her ruling - a denial - without a hearing.
Perry doesn't think that's right. He's not the first prisoner to make the argument. He's also not the first to lose that argument. The appellate judges agreed with Stormer's approach, in addition to some other decisions that, if reversed, could have given Perry a second chance.
Unless he can find another avenue, Perry's sentence stands - he'll be able to ask the parole board to let him out when he's 85 years old. Perry was convicted in the New Year's Day 2008 murders of his girlfriend, Tammy Dickey, 30, of Youngstown and Scott Smith 33, of Akron.
"If you see something, say something." That statement, that plea, that demand is often part of a public appeal to help solve shootings, stabbings, kidnappings, rapes or other major crimes. It has other applications as well. In this case, a hit-skip crash that has left a Uniontown man wondering about his future in construction.
It happened September 9 in a highway construction zone in the northbound lanes of I-77 near the Vernon Odom Boulevard exit.
"I just remember hearing tires squeal and I knew what it was," said Danny Atkinson. "I knew somebody cut in the zone between the drums and I tried to run toward the zone trailer. I got about one step and that was it."
The next thing he remembers was being on the ground seeing the vehicle that hit him. The woman driving the tan SUV stopped and yelled out the window that she couldn't believe what she had done, then ignored a demand from one of Atkinson's co-workers from Shelly & Sands Construction to stay in her vehicle - and stay put. It's that last part that didn't stick. The woman took off as Atkinson was well aware that his foot was facing the wrong direction. Only one broken bone, but severe damage to ligaments and tendons in his left ankle. Remarkable? Sure. It could have been far worse, but for a construction worker, the full use of all limbs is critical. Right now, the prognosis on that ankle is undetermined.
What is also undetermined is whether the driver will face charges. She's still on the loose, which is one facet of Atkinson's frustration.
"I just couldn't believe it because at that time she didn't know if I was dead or alive or not," said Atkinson. "She just ran me over. I just don't know how one person could do that to another. I'd feel bad enough if I just had hit a dog on the side of the road. I couldn't just driver off."
It was also frustrating to Atkinson and his family that the accident didn't get more attention, so the hit-skip driver could be caught. The video posted here was forwarded by the Akron Police Department about two weeks after the accident. Atkinson's sister, Pamela Scofield, contacted media and later took still shots from the video to the gas station that provided the surveillance video, asking people to help identify her.
In charge of the investigation: APD's hit-skip division. Detective Debbie Stalnaker is in charge. In fact, she's the only person assigned to work the city's 130-170 hit-skip complaints every month. She can borrow help from the traffic division, but that division is "depleted tremendously." There used to be more help, but the budget constraints that started a few years ago forced the city to not replace some officers who retired or quit.
Stalnaker's one-person office has a solve rate of about 30%. She says a license plate number is often the key to finding a hit-skip driver. In that case, Stalnaker sends them a letter, asking them to stop by for an interview. Those who don't respond typically get a visit from her. Of course, that means that there is nobody in the hit-skip office, so attention to the next case is delayed.
Releasing the video on YouTube helped. It received nearly 5,000 hits in fewer than 24 hours, a number that increased to about 12,000 as of this morning. Stalnaker says it also generated some phone calls, but she can't disclose how helpful those possible tips may have been.
"I don't use social media very often because of the nature of the incidents," said Stalnaker, says it is helpful "to a certain extent."
Stalnaker is quick to remind that crimes aren't solved as easily and quickly as what we see on television crime/police dramas. She says the traffic reconstruction unit can be called for help, but wasn't initially involved in this case.
It's not a surprise that parents don't want their children reading a book like 50 Shades of Grey - the sexual content is enough to make a stripper blush. Even the people who try to protect our ability to access such works would agree, but they do not think that banning a book is the right approach. Still, people challenge the appropriateness of books on a regular basis, and they've been doing it for decades.
This is Banned Books Week, observed at The University of Akron with readings from books that have been challenged or even banned at one time.
It's not just sexual content that prompts people to look for a trash can, a shredder and a book of matches.
"Violence, sexual content, obscenities and racial themes are the kinds of things," said UA Undergraduate Outreach Librarian Beate Gersch, who put together the reading schedule today and Wednesday at Bierce Library.
You can add the Miriam-Webster dictionary to the list. Apparently, some of the words - or their definitions - are offensive. Cujo, the Harry Potter series, How to Eat Fried Worms, a Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill a Mockingbird and Mein Kampf are among the dozens of books that have been challenged. Don't forget the Captain Underpants series.
Gersch explained that challenging a book is actually a process that can go beyond simply making a complaint. It usually stops there, but formal hearings can be conducted if people want to take it that far. She says that usually parents are upset because their kids can access books with objectionable content at a public library.
"We have the freedom to read and we should celebrate diversity in any of its facets and that includes some things that might not be comfortable for everyone," said Gersch.
The U.S. birth rate has been declining the last few years, but there was less of a drop last year. That trend may be reflected in Summit County, too, if demand for services provided by Pregnancy Care are an indicator.
Pregnancy Care does not tabulate all pregnancies or life births in Summit County, so the information provided by the agency can be used as a gauge, not all-inclusive data.
Pregnancy Care Executive Director Jennifer Shartle says demand has been steady overall, but not so much among the youngest moms, something that mirrors what's going on nationally.
"We're seeing fewer teens come through that need services such as parenting classes or prenatal classes and just, overall, a decrease in the teens that we serve," said Shartle.
What is she noticing that is on the rise? Women in their late 20's and 30's asking for pregnancy tests, another indicator that many women may be waiting, perhaps strategically, to have children a little later. Nationwide, there's been a spike in the number of women in their 30's giving birth. Shartle thinks that public awareness campaigns and other education are reaching young women, prompting them to make an informed decision to avoid pregnancy until they are more established with education, a career and more maturity. Still, Pregnancy Care has had 7 clients so far this year who are under 15 years old. The report does not specify if those girls were pregnant. Sure, it seems young, but not terribly unusual. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 6 girls in Summit County between the ages of 10 and 14 gave birth in 2010 (the most recent statistics available). 160 Summit County teens between 15 - 19 years old had babies in 2010.
Data released by Pregnancy Care show that the agency served about an equal number of white and African-American clients the first eight months of the year, but a growing number of them are neither.
"We are right next door to International Institute and we do serve a lot of their clients, so we're happy to be doing that, so we're serving a lot of non-English speaking clients," said Shartle, who adds that she would like to add services in some other languages to better accommodate a larger base of women who may need help.
The agency has attracted 971 clients from Akron so far this year, followed by 64 from Cuyahoga Falls, followed by Barberton and Tallmadge. Other than classes, many clients are seeking diapers, clothing and baby/nursery supplies.
With all the talk about food trucks, you may not have realized that cooks aren't the only vendors taking their product on the road.
Meet Ryan Weiss, owner of Rock Every Wear, who is operating a clothing truck.
And Weiss says the concept may have very loose boundaries.
"People are trying to bring that exciting trend to the smaller cities like us, and bring some excitement here," Weiss tells AkronNewsNow.com. "so, I definitely see the clothing trucks and the jewelry trucks and the shoe trucks and things like that definitely coming out here in the next few years."
Weiss says clothing or other retail trucks are a little different than food trucks.
"It's going to be fully done inside, we're going to have a flat screen TV and an X-box and make it like a mobile event, and have live music and things like that," Weiss says. "So, it's definitely a lot bigger picture than just a 'mobile store'."
Weiss says it could be about more than just one truck.
"We don't want it to be just about us," Weiss says. "A big part of our business is getting the community involved, and it being more than just about us getting our product out there. So, we're really excited and we think it's going to be a very cool project."
You might spot Weiss's clothing truck outside regional sporting events for now, but he says it would be great to team up with other vendors to create more of an event --- probably like the highly successful food truck roundup recently held in Fairlawn.
The Akron Public Schools Board of Education has signed off on a new lease agreement with The University of Akron for the former Cental Hower High School building. A previous agreement dealt with transferring the property. This one pertains to use.
Board President Jason Haas says the new lease offers a little more flexibility than what they talked about originally.
"The original term would have been for four years with one year renewals through year ten," said Haas. "What it will be now is that at any time during the lease, we can exit with 12 months notice given to the university."
Haas says UA also has to give APS a year's notice if they want to take over the entire building. UA currently uses about 53% of it and APS occupies the other 47%.
Akron Public Schools will eventually open a new building to be used as a STEM school and might not want to stay in the former high school for a minimum of four years.
"It's quite likely that we'll be there in the near term," said Haas. "Going beyond year 3, 4 and 5, there will be discussion each year that the board will have to take up on whether or not they want to renew it for another year."
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