GALLIA COUNTY — A new year is upon area residents and the Gallipolis Daily Tribune is taking a look back on some of the major events across Gallia County in July, August and September of 2019.
A look at rest of 2019 in Gallia will come in future editions of the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.
On July 3, 2019, the Gallia Sheriff’s Office and Gallia Prosecutor’s Office released a statement saying that a shooting that occurred earlier in the year which resulted in the death of Keith Coon, 51, of Jackson, was done in self-defense. An unnamed woman in her 20s who law enforcement said was home alone the morning of April 12, 2019 was bathing and heard a pounding at an exterior door, a slamming and a scratching sound. She encountered Coon twice in the home, first when seeing him at her bathroom door where she kicked him to the floor and second after retrieving a gun. Coon reportedly was coming at her with a pair of kitchen shears before she shot him.
Autopsy reports indicated that Coon had methamphetamine and amphetamine in his system at the time of his death.
On July 9, 2019, a trio of shantyboaters landed in Gallipolis to speak with locals about the life and culture of the region as they continued a journey from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and on through Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River.
Jeremiah Daniels, Wes Modes and Adrian Nankivell floated down the Ohio River as part of a documentation project called “The Secret Life of American River People.” The project had traveled over 1,800 miles on five rivers as of its time visiting Gallipolis. Modes said the trio stopped in various towns to do interviews, photographing, videoing and blogging of their experiences to be then shared on their peopleriverhistory.us website.
On July 10, 2019, the Gallipolis Railroad Freight Station Museum placed its Barnum and Bailey’s and Ringling Brothers’ passenger car on rails behind the museum with a crane to a variety of spectators.
According to information provided by the museum’s board of directors, “The RBBX 41307 (the car’s formal designation) was built in 1949 (then numbered) Pennsylvania RR (PPR) No. 8267, named the ‘Lewiston Inn,’ (and built) as a 21 roomette slab-sided stainless steel sleeper by the Budd Company, using the Pullman Floor plan 9513.”
The 10-by-86 foot car was rebuilt in 1963 as a 64-seat coach with a 12-seat smoking lounge and was renumbered PPR 1505 before then becoming Penn Central (PC) 1505 in 1968. It was eventually sold in 1976 to New Jersey Transit and renumbered NJTR 5439 before being traded to a private car owner in 1992 who then in turn sold it to the circus. It ran in the circus’ blue unit with a house number of 186 and reporting marks of 41307. The car was received from private owners Nelson and Borden Black McGahee at a location in Huntington after selling the car to the museum for around $22,000, said board members. The pair purchased the car in 2017 after the circus went out of business.
A Gallia Sheriff’s deputy and area musician, Nick Clagg, was contacted by individuals across the country in August about a song of his called “A Man in Blue” that had been viewed on social media over 50,000 times and had reportedly struck a chord with viewers.
The deputy shared his music via his social media page on Facebook. He said that he had previously posted a home-recorded version of his song before Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin saw the video and encouraged him to perform during the Big Buck Jamboree featuring local talent at the Gallia County Junior Fair, Aug. 3, 2019. A video of the event was subsequently shared on the Ohio Cops Facebook page and has since garnered over 50,000 views.
Rio Grande Police department retired its police dog Smilla after seven years of service, Aug. 13, 2019. Members of the Gallia law enforcement community and area residents visited the Rio Grande Village Building Tuesday to bid Smilla well on her retirement. Smilla started with RGPD June 2012. She was purchased and trained through Pine Grove Kennels in Meigs County.
“We originally certified in tracking and narcotics and area searches,” said Rio Grande Police Chief Josh Davies. “The November of that year, we went back to train for bite work and she’s been with us until, today…She was 11 months-old when we started…There’s no ballpark figure I can give for how many cases we’ve worked. I’ve been in Gallia, Jackson, Meigs and Mason County in West Virginia. We’ve been all the way up into the Parkersburg area doing work. We’ve a good connection with other departments in the area and would get called out pretty frequent to help.”
Former Gallia Sheriff’s Deputy and Gallipolis Police Officer Andrew Holcomb joined the ranks of the U.S. Secret Service on Aug. 16, 2019 after being sworn in the service’s Uniformed Division Officers.
“We are pleased to welcome Uniformed Division Training Class 288 to the ranks and family of the U.S. Secret Service,” said Chief Thomas Sullivan, Chief of the Secret Service Uniformed Division. “Each Uniformed Division Officer completes an intensive and rigorous 7-month training program and should be proud of their accomplishments.”
Field of Hope Campus welcomed visitors Aug. 26, 2019 as it held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house in recognition of its new Faith House. Field of Hope CEO Kevin Dennis welcomed those gathered and said the Faith House was just another step in Field of Hope’s mission to “fight back against the darkness” of addiction.
“Right here, the Hope House,” said Field of Hope Executive Director Amber Richards, “is a residential (facility program) for women. It holds 16. Right now, we can hold 20 in sober living that’s off-campus. This (the Faith House) is going to be another sober living house…in between our Hope House and (current sober living programs), it’s going to be a little bit higher level care but down from our residential to sober living… This is 3.5 level care (Hope House) and this one will be 2.5 and 2.1 (the Faith House)…It’s a step in-between to help girls get back out there and integrate in a good way instead of sending them out too soon if they need a bit longer.”
Former State Representative Ryan Smith (R–Bidwell) announced Sept. 26, 2019 he was resigning his position in the Ohio House of Representatives to accept the position of president at the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College.
Smith issued the following in a statement.
“First, I want to take this opportunity to thank the citizens of Ohio’s 93rd House District for the distinct privilege of being able to serve as their state representative during the past seven years. This opportunity has been the greatest professional experience of my life, and I am incredibly proud of the work my colleagues and I have been able to accomplish to improve the lives of those in need and to give a voice to those who oftentimes feel voiceless. I have often said education is the pathway out of poverty, and I believe that sentiment is just as true today as it was when I began my career in the legislature. For several years now, I have worked to reform state education policy as a means to address the hurdles that unduly burden students living in Ohio’s urban and rural communities. Now I believe it is time for me to take on the challenge of bringing about meaningful educational reform on a more local, community-based level.”
Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin held a press conference Sept. 29, 2019 in front of the Gallia Courthouse where he discussed the conditions behind a wave of jail troubles with the escape of four inmates and the deaths of two others in separate incidents. Mother of deceased David “Tommy” Gibson, 27, of Patriot, Sherry Russell, questioned the sheriff regarding issues surrounding her son’s reported suicide in the jail during the conference.
Four male inmates reportedly escaped from the Gallia Jail the morning before the press conference and overpowered two female corrections officers with a “homemade weapon” that was later identified as a shank by the sheriff. Three were recovered in Cary, North Carolina, the Monday following with the last recovered in Durham, North Carolina.
Jail woes in Gallia County also included an incident in early September 2019 where one of the previously mentioned escaped inmates and one other inmate escaped from transport before being recovered by law enforcement a few days later. Another escape was attempted in August 2019 by other inmates. The investigations of the circumstances behind the deaths of inmates Gibson and Lacey Wolford, 35, of Bidwell, were also questioned by Russell and members of the public at the conference. The sheriff’s office said that Gibson died of suicide on Sept. 14 and Wolford died of drug overdose Sept. 23, last year, in the jail.
Champlin said that law enforcement and the Gallia Commissioners had been discussing and planning before and over the course of 2019 to replace the aging Gallia Jail facility that had been experiencing issues for years due to structural problems and overcrowding due to the opioid epidemic. Russell challenged jail policy regarding inmate health examinations.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.