COLUMBUS, Ohio — The brutal killing of four people, including an 8-year-old child, justified the death sentence for an Ohio man and outweighed evidence presented on his behalf including a variety of mental health diagnoses, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In 2017, Arron Lawson killed his adult cousin Stacey Holston, her 8-year-old son Devon Holston, and her mother and her stepfather Tammie McGuire and Donald McGuire, after claiming Stacey Holston broke off an affair with him, according to court documents. A two-day manhunt followed the murders as law enforcement scoured the Pedro area of Lawrence County looking for the man. A three-judge panel sentenced Lawson to death in 2019.
At different times, Lawson, 27, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and PTSD, and did not receive adequate treatment for those conditions, Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote for the 5-2 majority. His lawyers also argued he was abused as a child. But the facts of the quadruple killing justify a death sentence, Kennedy concluded.
In January, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law banning the execution of the severely mentally ill, including killers diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or delusional disorder at the time of their crimes.
Justice Michael Donnelly “reluctantly concurred” with upholding Lawson’s death sentence. But he noted that Lawson has the ability to appeal under the new mental illness law.
“On October 11th, 2017, Arron Lawson brutally murdered four people in Lawrence County, Ohio, and since that day it has been my mission to assure justice was served for the victims, victims’ families and the entire community,” said Prosecutor Brigham Anderson in a news release Thursday.
Lawson is set to be executed Jan. 6, 2026.
HUNTINGTON — Organized under a theme of “Back and Better Than Ever,” Marshall University’s homecoming parade weaved its way through Huntington on Thursday.
The parade, which was offered in a virtual format in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, featured floats, members of the Marching Thunder and university officials entertaining bystanders as it moved along 4th Avenue, Hal Greer Boulevard and 5th Avenue toward campus.
The parade was followed by a bonfire on Harless Field, where people could play yard games and listen to music played on site by Marshall’s radio station, WMUL-FM.
A livestream of the parade was available for people who were unable to attend the event in person.
Homecoming festivities continue Friday and Saturday, leading up to the Herd’s game against the Old Dominion Monarchs at 2 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
CHESAPEAKE, Ohio — Chesapeake council member and acting mayor pro tempore Nathan Ittig will be sworn in as village mayor at noon Friday following a spate of resignations earlier this week.
Currently Ittig and council member Paul Hart are the only elected members left in village government. Ittig was appointed to council earlier this year and has opted to seek the top job. He will serve as mayor through November 2023.
Former Mayor Kim Oldaker resigned during a council meeting earlier this week. Council members Larry Estep, Lenny Sawyers, Allen Barrett and Beth Brown also resigned from their seats on council Monday.
Council members did appoint Ittig as mayor pro tem prior to resigning. Under state law, he will serve as mayor. Hart is the lone remaining council member. However, one member can’t appoint new council members to council, according to state law.
Ittig can appoint new members to council during a meeting Nov. 5. He has opted to name Lisa Blake, Drew Griffin and Jacob Wells, who are running opposed in next month’s general election, as council members.
After Jan. 1, council can appoint a sixth member to serve in Ittig’s open council seat, according to Derrick Fisher, legal counsel for the village. Ittig can appoint a fifth member to council during the November council meeting, Fisher said.
“If people bear with us, we can get through this,” Hart said. “I am dedicated to the people who put me in office.”
“The goal is to have a council (in place) by the next meeting,” Ittig said. “We still have an operational government. The police department is still working. The fire department is still working.”
Lenny Abrams, the village’s fiscal officer, also plans to resign but will stay on and help Ittig through the transition, Ittig said. Abrams had been planning to resign for a while and his resignation wasn’t part of the mass resignation earlier this week, Ittig said.
Ittig had the option of taking the mayor’s job or going back to council and chose to serve as mayor, Fisher said. The appointment allows him to serve as mayor through 2023. It was too late to put the seat up for next month’s election.
CHARLESTON — West Virginia is sending out funding to help reimburse stressed hospitals for staffing issues during the coronavirus pandemic, a state health official said Thursday.
About 40 hospitals will receive $17 million in the next few days, Bill Crouch, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, said at a news conference.
Many hospitals have received federal relief funding covering other parts of revenues lost during the pandemic. “That’s why we chose the staffing costs,” including overtime and staff retention efforts, Crouch said.
The first phase of the funding will help cover staffing costs from the pandemic’s surge in August. A second phase will cover staffing costs from September, Crouch said.
He said the total cost of the initiative could reach $35 million.
“We’re using a variety of funds, trying to maximize federal dollars, so that we can save our state dollars as much as possible as they’re needed,” Crouch said.
According to state health data, 870 people are hospitalized for COVID-19, down from the record of 1,012 on Sept. 24. Records also were set last month for the number of virus patients in hospital intensive care units and those on ventilators.
Some rural hospitals reached their critical bed capacities last month, and health officials have pleaded with the public to avoid unnecessary emergency room visits to allow hospitals to focus their resources on treating COVID-19 patients.
West Virginia Hospital Association President and CEO Jim Kaufman said the funding for staffing “will put West Virginia hospitals in the best possible position to directly support their health care workers while also ensuring all West Virginians receive the care they need.”
There were 11,629 active COVID-19 cases in the state Thursday and 27 virus-related deaths, for a total of 3,866.
Fifty-two percent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, according to data from the DHHR’s COVID-19 dashboard. Breakthrough cases account for 20% of people hospitalized in the state, although most of those people are older and have underlying conditions.
Gov. Jim Justice said he believes the current surge is starting to slow in the state but that people still need to get vaccinated to ensure as many lives as possible are saved.
Also Thursday, Justice diverted his COVID-19 briefing to criticize Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin’s request to have a special session to address challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.
Goodwin’s letter was addressed to Justice and legislative leaders. In it, she listed initiatives undertaken by the city to support people struggling with homelessness, substance use disorder and mental health.
There also were seven recommendations for the West Virginia Legislature to implement statewide that Goodwin believes will improve support systems locally for all municipalities.
“Make no mistake — what is this really all about?” Justice said. “It’s nothing but a political move to cover up (Goodwin’s) deficiencies.”
Justice railed against the city of Charleston, questioning why anyone would want to replicate social service models created in Charleston — which service providers in the region regularly praise. His diatribe included no mention of the pandemic’s effects on marginalized groups, including those who are homeless and who use drugs.
As he finished, Justice took one last shot at Goodwin, calling her “baby.”
“Amy, baby, listen,” he said, “if you can get the Legislature to go along with this, I’m all in.”
In a statement sent via text message Thursday, Goodwin urged people to look past the “sexist remarks” and realize that this is “unfortunately what women across the country experience daily.”