GALLIPOLIS — A Bidwell man was recently found guilty, after a jury trial, of inducing panic in relation to an incident in September where he allegedly placed what was considered to be a threatening sign on the building which houses the Ohio Valley Christian School and the First Baptist Christian Church in Gallipolis.
Steven Wellington, 59, was arrested in September after being located in Gallipolis City Park. Officers were able to identify Wellington from previous incidents which had concerned citizens in the county. Officers asked Wellington if they could speak with him and Wellington reportedly replied if it was in relation to the sign placed on the church building. Officers responded in the affirmative and asked if Wellington would follow them to the Second Avenue police department location.
According to evidence presented during the trial, Detective Justice Rice interviewed Wellington about the sign placed on the building. Wellington said he wished no ill will upon those in the religious facility but that he was “compelled to do God’s will” by placing the sign on the building. According to interview tapes, Wellington said he had been removed from the facility one day while visiting as he shared his opinion that one was not saved in the Christian faith until death as that individual could still exercise free will up until death. Church members did not agree with Wellington’s assertions and led him from the building without incident.
Testimony giving witnesses, Gallipolis officers, said they had information saying Wellington had a history of putting signs on churches in the region but no police action had ever been taken in regard to their placement.
Officers conducted extra patrols around the property the weekend in question until Wellington was collected. Some families reportedly did not attend church over that weekend and some families also pulled their students from class. Church and school administration felt the sign was threatening and referenced God’s judgment. GPD reciprocated the feeling.
Wellington was ultimately found guilty by jury of the fifth-degree felony of inducing panic.
Wellington is scheduled to appear for a sentencing proceeding Dec. 14 at 9 a.m.
Gallia Prosecutor Jeff Adkins thanked Patrick O’Donnell of the Ohio Valley Christian School for helping with documents and witnessing. Adkins believed Wellington caused harm to the church and the school in placing the sign and caused serious alarm.
“The guilty verdict shows the jury who are a representative sample of our community show that an action such as this will not be tolerated,” said Adkins.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.