2007 Year In Review

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Ironton Tribune

During 2007, there were murders that garnered intense local publicity, trials both long and short, admissions of guilt from people who opted to avoid a trial and a murder-for-hire plot worthy of any television soap opera.

In May, former Hamilton Township resident Megan Goff got her day in court— actually she got several days over the course of three weeks. Goff shot her husband, the late Bill Goff, at his home in March 2006. She testified the shooting was in reaction to years of abuse and his threats to kill her and their two children — in other words, an act of self-defense.

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“Every night he would point a gun at my face,” she said. “He said ‘I will not be responsible for my actions if you leave me.’”

But visiting Judge Fred Crow contended otherwise. In finding her guilty, he pointed out that Megan Goff had gone to the home of the man she had said she feared, armed with two guns and shot him numerous times.

“The fact she approached her husband on her own initiative suggests to me she was not as terrified as she stated she was,” Crow said.

He sentenced her to life in prison. She will not be eligible for parole for 33 years, making her nearly 60 before she even has her first chance to see freedom. The Goff trial was on a plane of its own for many reasons: Goff opted not to have a jury seated and chose to have Crow hear the evidence and decide her fate. The trial was also long: Most Lawrence County trials are wrapped up in a week. This one took several days stretched over three weeks.

If May was the month for a lengthy trial, February was a month for murder. On the 19th, elderly Thelma Mooney was found dead in her Ironton home. Her grandson, Jason Mooney, and his wife, Lisa, were arrested in connection with her death a few weeks later. Charges were eventually dropped against Lisa, but Jason Mooney will stand trial in February 2008.

That same month, Christina Galloway was stabbed to death at her Miller home. Her ex-husband, Kirk T. “Tommy” Galloway was charged in connection with her death. Later in the year he pleaded guilty to the crime and faced Christina’s angry family who demanded to know why he killed a woman he once said he loved.

“Why did you do it, Tommy?” Christina Galloway’s mother, Bonnie Fields, asked. “Why did you take my baby away from me? I want to know why? Can you tell me why you did this? You broke my heart.”

Galloway could provide no answers acceptable to the woman’s grieving loved ones. He must serve 30 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

Though Irontonian Kenny Hurst was killed in the summer of 2006, Michael Wilson did not admit his guilt until February 2007. Wilson got 10 years for the involuntary manslaughter charge.

In January, James Jones, of South Point, pleaded guilty to shooting to death his ex-wife, Tina Lovejoy, and injuring her son, Jeremy. He also admitted he tried to shoot Crystal Lovejoy, Jeremy’s wife. Though the shooting occurred in 2006, closure came early in 2007. Now serving a life sentence in prison, Jones will not be eligible for parole for 35 years.

In March, South Point was rocked by an apparent murder-suicide. Authorities said Marcel Linthicum killed his estranged wife, Katherine, before taking his own life.

In June, Ironton resident Damon Pringle was shot to death. Isaiah Sudderth, of Columbus, contended he acted in self-defense after Pringle and others barged into the home of Sudderth’s girlfriend and Pringle assaulted him. A jury found him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 18 years.

In September, the headlines could have been the grist for a made-for-TV movie: A mother and daughter plot to kill a man the daughter once loved and lost. Their search for a hit man connected them instead to an undercover cop. Valerie and Barbara Mantle each pleaded guilty in the scheme and are now in prison serving eight-year sentences.

2. New schools

Ironton, Dawson-Bryant and South Point have more in common than they used to: new school facilities started or finished in 2007.

In August, kids at Dawson-Bryant Elementary returned to school to find a larger, more modern building awaiting them. The addition to and renovation of the existing grade school meant bigger classrooms, a larger gymnasium and, perhaps most importantly in the eyes of the kids, space for new playgrounds.

In November, Ironton residents gathered to watch ground broken on a new combined elementary/middle school. The groundbreaking for the new high school will in 2008, once the existing high school is demolished. For Irontonians, the groundbreaking meant they were now included in a group from which they had long been excluded: Every district in the county had gotten new facilities years before the city district. Now it was their turn and faces were glowing.

“From the building pad behind this stage will come the most technologically advanced schools in the state of Ohio,” Superintendent Dean Nance boasted. “The architects have designed a complex that will meet the needs of youth in this community for decades to come.”

In December, the new South Point High School was ready for student use and showcased at an open house. The new, state-of-the-art high school sets perched on a knoll along U.S. 52, as if it is presiding over the community it now serves. Two new elementary schools are also being built, one in Burlington and one in South Point.

All totaled, these new school construction projects amount to more than $90 million.

3. McCown, Patterson

The local government and judicial landscape underwent drastic changes in 2007.

In May, Frank McCown lost his battle with cancer. McCown was known by many as one of Lawrence County’s common pleas judges.

“I’ve known him for at least 60 years,” retired judge Richard Walton said.” I lawyered with him and against him since 1966. He has been on the bench with me since 1996. We did not always agree but there was never a harsh word between us. I respected him as an attorney and as a person. I really am going to miss Frank.”

He was also a college professor, attorney and a tireless community servant, lending his time and devotion to the Ironton Lions Club, Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade and many other civic causes.

“It was wonderful to work with him, and we have worked together on so many different things,” his friend, Lou Pyles said. “He was always doing what he could for the community. He was a wonderful guy and such a kind man. Hr truly cared about the community.”

The following month, another veteran on the Lawrence County landscape lost his fight with cancer as well. George Patterson had served as county commissioner longer than anyone else and was a well-known political figure, not only because of his tenure in office but also because of love for Lawrence County and its people.

“George loved people. Almost everyone in the county knew George,” fellow Commissioner Doug Malone said. “This is a tremendous loss.”

2007 was the year new faces were found in new places. In January, Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Charles Cooper took the oath of office as common pleas judge, replacing Richard Walton, who retired from full-time service on the bench. Later in the year, Attorney D. Scott Bowling was appointed to fill the remainder of McCown’s term.

In August, Democrats appointed newcomer Tanner Heaberlin to the county commission to fill the remainder of Patterson’s term.

Although it was not a human being, its contribution to western Lawrence County and its passage into history merited attention: in the fall of 2007, local residents gathered for a decommissioning at the old River Valley Hospital. The medical center, shut down in 2001, will be torn down to make way for a new residential development.

4. Lutz returns

In 2006, legendary football coach Bob Lutz announced he would no longer lead the Ironton Fighting Tigers. His departure caused a firestorm of accusations, innunendo and bickering at school board meetings— something that doesn’t happen often in Ironton. The school board hired Merrill Triplett to replace the veteran Lutz. Then in 2007, Lutz returned.

“After a year away you’re not thinking about it The opportunity was there after (Triplett) quit. I thought long and hard about it. It wasn’t something I thought I was going to do,” said Lutz.

“When they came to me and asked, a lot of people came to me and encouraged me. I talked to my wife and I decided to take a crack at it.”

5. A community’s sorrow

There is something so very wrenching about the unexpected deaths of young people. So it was in January when two Ironton Junior High School students were hit and killed while walking on railroad tracks near McPherson Avenue and U.S. 52. Irontonians came together to mourn the loss of Lacey Parnell and Jamiesue Barker. Another girl walking with them managed to avoid the train.

6. Development, past, present and future

After years of economic stagnancy, the region’s future had some bright spots in 2007 and within the year there were flashes of possible good things to come in the future.

Ohio University Southern opened its new Proctorville Center opened in January, giving eastern residents easier access to higher education and the university an even greater preeminence locally.

Plans to build an ethanol plant at The Point industrial park moved forward in 2007. In January, executives with the Columbus-based Buckeye Ethanol said their plans for the $150-million plant were moving ahead.

In February, the state legislature okayed $1 million in funding for construction at The Point, insuring the industrial park could grow to meet the demands of an interested business community.

Also in February, plans were unveiled for a beautification project along State Route 7 from Chesapeake to Proctorville. The Operation TLC plan calls for the removal of eyesores that dot that stretch of roadway s well as bike paths and other amenities.

In February, Sun Coke officials said they would go ahead with the construction of 100 new ovens at the Haverhill coke plant. This expansion was a $230 million investment in southern Ohio.

In July, area residents learned they may be an attractive commodity on an international stage. Sources revealed the Russian firm Magnitogorsk wanted to build a steel mill in the United States and was considering a tract of land in Haverhill. The mill would be a $2 billion investment in the region.

Lawrence County leaders moved forward with plans for a bus system during 2007. Using grants and some help from the West Virginia-based Tri-State Transit Authority, the plans call for buses to be operational by summer 2008.

In December McGinnis Inc., got a $10 million loan to expand its operations. Plans call for a sandblasting and painting facility as well as barge servicing and dry dock facilities.

7. Elections

Ironton residents made it clear, they wanted change. When incumbent mayor John Elam announced he would not seek a second term, city councilman Rich Blankenship threw his hat into the mayoral ring and won. But the election left Irontonians wondering who else would represent them. Even a day after the November general election, the race between incumbent councilman Chuck O’Leary and newcomer Mike Lutz was hanging by just four small votes. In the end, Lutz chose to let O’Leary have that seat, but council then appointed Lutz to replace the promoted Blankenship.

In Hanging Rock and Coal Grove, voters kept incumbent mayors Chris Davidson and Larry McDaniel right where they were. South Point Mayor Bill Gaskin sailed into another term unopposed. But voters in Chesapeake replaced their incumbent Mayor Jimmie Justice with businessman Dick Gilpin while their neighbors in Proctorville also chose a new mayor, Charles Stapleton, over the old one, Jim Buchanan.

8. Ironton’s re-creation

2007 was the year Irontonians made giant leaps toward change and reached some milestones in their goal to revitalize their city.

In April, Ironton officials came forward with their plans to revitalize the downtown. Poggemeyer Design Group’s formula for change calls for implementation of a Main Street program or similar umbrella entity to help coordinate storefront refurbishments, new lighting, signage and other work.

Making Ironton a more attractive place to live and visit got a major shot in the arm in May, when the Ironton Port Authority got a $150,000 grant to purchase land for a riverfront park. The IPA also secured assistance in tearing down the old River Valley Hospital as well as other projects.

Officials at the Brigg’s-Lawrence County Public Library showed off their $2.1 million expansion in June. Eighteen months of construction added 40 percent more space, a new reading area and a showy new front entrance, among other amenties.

The city of Ironton got a $3 million grant to clean up the old Ironton Iron/ Intermet site. The cleanup will allow the neglected old industrial site to be used again for commercial development.

Ironton city leaders have long used a plot of city-owned land off Lawrence Street Road as a compost site. But Friends of Ironton said they had a better plan for the lot: an events park from which to stage such activities as Rally on the River and Oktoberfest. The city leaders agreed and will find someplace else to take the compost. The events area will be known as Veteran’s Park.

And some of the news was good enough to eat: Both Buffalo Wild Wings and Austyn’s opened their doors in 2007, giving area residents new options for dining and folks from outside Lawrence County two new reasons to see what we have to offer.

2007 ended on a high note: The Ohio Department of Development gave the city of Ironton $400,000 for its downtown improvement project.

9. Burlington soldier laid to rest.

The war in Iraq may not make the news daily as it once did, but one event in the summer of 2007 reminded us that the fighting in the Middle East still continues and can still touch our lives from thousands of miles away. Burlington native and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Theodore “Tuc” Church died when the helicopter he was riding in was shot down on Memorial Day. After a funeral at South Point High School, he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

10. The drought

Farmers found 2007 an inhospitable and unaccommodating year. The high heat and lack of rain killed crops and sent hay and other feed prices skyrocketing— when they could find it. From May to August, the lack of rain and high temperatures set new records.