Top 10 stories of 2010

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2023

Political, infrastructure developments made headlines in 2023


Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens. (Submitted photo)

1. Stephens elected as Speaker

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A familiar face to Lawrence County became a force in statewide politics in January. State Rep. Jason Stephens, of Getaway, whose multi-county district covers Lawrence County, was elected as Ohio’s speaker of the House.

Stephens, a former county commissioner and auditor, announced his intention to seek the position in 2022, but lost in his party’s caucus vote to Rep. Derek Merrin, of the Toledo area. However, when the time came for a vote by the full chamber in January, Stephens and his supporters allied with all of the House Democrats to outnumber Merrin’s supporters and win him the position.

Initially, Stephens faced backlash in his own party, with he and his supporters being on the receiving end of a censure vote by the state Republican party, though, as the year progressed and the House passed a number of items on the Republican agenda, that resistance appeared to fade and go quiet.

Allyn’s Jewelers, shortly before its closure. (the Ironton Tribune | heath Harrison)

2. Allyn’s jewelers closes

It was the end of an era for the Ironton business community when it was announced that one of its oldest establishments would be closing after 93 years

Allyn’s Jewelers closed its doors in July after the passing of owner Tom Allyn on June 26.

The store had supplied generation after generation with jewelry.

Allyn had owned and operated the store since 1984, taking over the family business after the death of his father, Ted Allyn.

Ted Allyn founded the store in 1930, during the Great Depression, and owned and operated it with his wife, Martha. The store’s last address, 502 S. Second St., was its third location over its history.

Tom Allyn began working in the shop under his father in 1950, moving back from Columbus. Within six years, he was a certified gemologist.

“I always said we were in the white wall tire business,” Allyn said in a 2014 interview for The Tribune’s Profile magazine. These are not things that most people need but it’s a little of the balm, spice and honey. Most of the people, when they are buying, they are happy. We try to make sure they stay happy.”

Allyn attributed the success of the shop to its reputation it got from word of mouth and the multi-generational families of customers over its history. 


In March, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced that, in an effort to cut down on the number of accidents, the interchange at State Route 93 and U.S. 52 near Ironton would have two roundabouts put in.

The site was chosen due to the ongoing traffic issues and a high number of crashes, the

intersection had been included in several studies, including the 2019 Governors Top Safety Location List.

In a four-year period, from 2013-2017, more than 60 crashes had occurred there, with 73 percent of those crashes being rear end collisions, and another 33 percent injury-related collisions.

The $3.9 million project started in April and was scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2024. The project included sidewalks.

Instead, in early December, ODOT announced that the contractor Allard Excavation, LLC. completed the roundabouts six months early.

“With the early completion of the project, the community can now enjoy the benefits of a safer and more efficient transportation network,” said Ohio Department of Transportation District 9 Deputy Director Mike Dombrowski. “I want to express my gratitude to the residents, businesses and commuters of Ironton for their patience and cooperation during the construction period.”

ODOT estimated 15,000 vehicles went through the interchange daily.


In addition to the roundabouts, Ironton saw likely the biggest and most immediate projects in the county, with two phases of long-awaited paving projects beginning and heading toward completion.

In October, groundbreaking took place on one of the largest infrastructure upgrades in decades, with a stormwater project for the city’s north end. The multi-million-dollar project will involve the installation of 15,000 feet of storm sewer pipe, along with new asphalt streets and concrete curbs and the construction of a new stormwater pump station.

In South Point, the village undertook the repair of Tiffany Lane, a street that has long plagued the village with slippage issues, while work continued on water line replacement projects, with work on Phase Two taking place. In addition, the village’s sewer plant saw electrical upgrades and more projects for the village are set to begin next year.

On the eastern end of the county, welcome news came on the long-in-development Chesapeake Bypass.

Twenty years in the making, it will expand State Route 7 to a four-lane highway, connecting U.S. 52 at Chesapeake to Rome Township.

No doubt because of the support of Jason Stephens, now Ohio’s speaking of the House, funding was allotted for the project and Phase 2 is set to begin in 2024.

The former Lombard Elementary School being demolished earlier this year. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)


After 180 years, the Lombard building was torn down after serving generations of students, first as an elementary school, then as a Head Start building and finally as the Open Door School.

The school was built in 1915. In 1977, Ironton consolidated schools and closed the elementary. It was leased to the St. Lawrence Central Catholic School Board and later used by the Lawrence County CAO for its Head Start program.

The land is owned by the county and are no specific plans at this time for the property, which had been used for storage since Open Door School vacated the building in 2019 and moved to Coal Grove.

Lawrence County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday described it as a “beautiful building,” but said the county had to move forward with the demolition because of the expense.

“It has so much history for so many people and we all love the idea of keeping older buildings, but it was too expensive to maintain,” she said, citing the liability insurance.

Holliday said the building had become the subject of vandalism, following Open Door moving out.

Last year, a fire was set on the playground, damaging much of the equipment.

In 2022, the commission had chosen the property as the site of the new county jail, but following objections from residents of the surrounding neighborhood, voted to take the site out of consideration.

Chinese-based company Capchem announced they will be building a factory in Lawrence County. (The Ironton Tribune | heath Harrison)


Lawrence County got some major economic news in June, with an announcement from an international company. Capchem, headquartered in Shenzen, in southern China, the company said it to open a factory on County Road 1A in Ironton, adjacent to PureCycle, by 2025.

The announcement for the plant, which will produce lithium-ion battery electrolytes, came at the Lawrence County Chamber of Congress, where business leaders and county officials were present after successfully attracting the company to the region.

The plant is expected to employ 60 people initially.


When new terms of office begin in 2024, there will be some major changes across the county.

Coal Grove elected a new mayor in November, Andy Holmes, who will take over the position of the retiring Gary Sherman. In Proctorville, voters elected Bill Elliott as mayor, who will follow the retiring three-term Richard Dunfee in the position.

In Ironton, while incumbent Mayor Sam Cramblit II won a second term in office, there was one change on city government, with Shakery owner and Be Hope Church pastor Robbie Brown elected to city council and incumbent Mike Pierce defeated for re-election.

In addition to Dunfee and Sherman, the year also saw a number of retirement announcements.

In Chesapeake, one of the longest tenures on a village council in the county’s history came to an end, with Paul Hart retiring just short of four decades in office. 

At the Lawrence County Courthouse, Sharon Gossett Hager announced she will leave office when her term ends in December 2024.

While, in Washington D.C., U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, whose district covers Lawrence County, says he will retire when his current term ends in December 2024. Wenstrup became Lawrence County’s representative at the beginning of 2023, when the county was moved into his district from that of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, following statewide redistricting. Johnson similarly announced this current term will also be his last in the House.


It was an up and down ride for the Lawrence County Jail in 2022 and 2023.

In October 2021, the State of Ohio had approved $16.8 million to fund a new jail in Lawrence County to replace the current jail that had been built in 1974 and was no longer big enough.

Then in February 2023, the Lawrence County commissioners learned the state was taking the money back.

Lawrence County commissioners learned the state was taking the money back.

Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said the move was expected, but was still “deflating when you get the call the funding is being pulled back. We desperately need the state’s participation with this build. They know Lawrence County is in dire need of a jail.”

She said the county was approaching the deadline for that capital round of funding and the state wanted to reallocate the $16.8 million since Lawrence County was not been able to use the funds at the current time.

The Lawrence County Jail was built in 1974 and has had overcrowding issues for years, but the county had never had sufficient funds to build a new facility until the passing of Senate Bill 310 in 2020 that meant there were finally funds to do something.

The total cost of the jail project was estimated to be $32 million and the county commissioners put a half percent tax on the May 2022 ballot to help fund the county’s part of the project.

But voters resoundingly rejected the tax, with 65 percent of the voters voting no.

The commissioners have said they will continue to apply to the state government for funding for the jail.


The Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade had a new entrant this year, with the debut of the final results of a project long in the works for the Village of South Point.

The village’s first fire truck, a 1928 Model AA Ford, was purchased by a former resident David Brubakaer, in 1959, after its three decades of service.

Brubaker had intended to restore the vehicle, but his plans were interrupted by college. Following his death in 1979, the truck sat in a barn in Tipp City until recently, when Brubakaer’s family donated it to South Point.

Village workers and volunteers began restoring the vehicle to its prime for use as a show truck. Days before its debut in the parade, Brubaker’s family visited South Point, where they saw firsthand the results of the restoration effort.


It was a tough year for law enforcement when it came to crime.

Besides the typical traffic tickets and drug cases, officers had to deal with three murders and a man who repeatedly choked a two year old until he was unconscious.

In August, Kace Pleasant was found guilty of murdering his grandfather, 72-year-old Harold “Tim” Pleasant, in October 2023. The case began when a crew picking up trash noticed a bag with a lot of bloody items.

An officer from the Ironton Police Department arrived at the scene and called detectives after confirming that the bags did contain blooding clothing and that the bags and the person trying to discard the items had both come from a red house located at 1217 S. Ninth St.

As officers were trying to do a well-being check on any residents of the house and get a search warrant for the residence, they said a man, later identified as Kace Pleasant, came out of the house, got into a vehicle and left the scene. He was arrested on a charge of fleeing and eluding by the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office in Lucasville.

Once the IPD officers got a search warrant of the house and grounds, and they said what appeared to be a dead body wrapped in a rug was found under the back deck of the house. It was later confirmed to be the body of Harold Pleasant, who had died of three gunshots.

In July, after a four-day jury trial, Kace Pleasant was found guilty of guilty, in addition to aggravated murder, of abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, theft of a motor vehicle, failure to comply/ fleeing and eluding, robbery and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole

“So there’s no possibility that he ever gets out of prison,” said Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson.

In February, the Ironton Police was called about a fatal overdose at Lewis’ apartment at 116 ½ S. Seventh St. When officers arrived, they looked in the kitchen window and saw a man and a woman lying on the kitchen floor. When they entered, officers saw Joseph Lewis sitting next to a Jeri Crabtree, who appeared to have severe injuries. She was pronounced dead at the scene by the coroner. Lewis was arrested and jailed.

In November, Lewis was found guilty of murder, tampering with evidence, and violation of a protection order in a unanimous verdict by a jury.

Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said the state had seven people testify and that Lewis testified in his own defense.

Anderson said the jury didn’t find Lewis’ testimony credible and found him guilty after an hour and half of deliberation.

“He did not do well testifying,” Anderson said. “He probably would have been better off not testifying. He was just a liar and it was obvious.”

In April, Shane Blanton was indicted on eight counts of first-degree felony attempted murder, 12 counts of third-degree felony felonious assault, eight counts of second-degree felony felonious assault, two counts of second-degree felony pandering obscenity involving a minor or impaired person, one county fourth-degree felony resisting arrest and one count of fifth-degree felony violating a protection order.

He was accused of choking a two-year-old boy until he passed out.

The case began on April 5 after the Ironton Police Department got a call from the Lawrence County Children Services about a child abuse case and need law enforcement.

A patrol officer was sent and once they realized the severity of the case, called in the IPD detective bureau to investigate.

Blanton was not on the scene when officers arrived. He was later arrested in Coal Grove after running from the Coal Grove Police Department and striking Coal Grove Police Chief Bill Murphy in the throat as he tried to arrest Blanton.

In October, Blanton pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted murder and four counts of felonious assault. He was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Christen Finley to the maximum of 76 to 81.5 years in prison.

In one case that never made it as far as the courtroom, people in the Tri-State were on edge in September after an Ironton man killed someone and then went on the run before  

On Friday, Sept. 8 Ironton police after they were called to a home at 2607 S. 3rd St. and discovered the body of David Maynard’s stepfather, Donald Wood, 78, dead from a gunshot wound. Maynard’s girlfriend, 39, was found tied up with cords in the home, but was uninjured.

Police advised the public that Maynard was dangerous and not to approach him. 

On Saturday, Sept. 9, the Lawrence County (Kentucky) Sheriff’s Office reported that Maynard had abducted a woman and stolen her vehicle. Maynard also abducted a woman in Carter County, Kentucky and stole her vehicle as well. Both women were unharmed.

Maynard was then spotted around 9 p.m. on foot in Kenova, West Virginia, on foot, and the community was ordered to shelter in place and remain inside.

Maynard entered the gas station, a Speedway in Ceredo, after midnight on Sunday.

A police sergeant stopped at the station and recognized the man standing behind the counter as Maynard.

Maynard pointed his pistol at the sergeant and a State Police Special Response Team was called in. 

Police say a negotiator successfully got two hostages released before Maynard requested that a blanket be placed at the door for the third hostage.

Officers fired shots after Maynard “exited the door and engaged” members of the State Police Special Response Team, according to a press release. Maynard died of his injuries at a nearby hospital.

In the next edition of The Tribune, we take a look at notables from throughout the Tri-State who passed in 2023.