DARKE COUNTY — As 2018 draws to a close, The Daily Advocate staff has selected the most memorable local stories of the year.
The decision to choose these was not simple, as so many events happened in 2018 which impacted the lives of Darke County residents, in ways both good and bad. Following, in chronological order, are the top stories of the year:
In January, four juvenile males committed an armed robbery at the Greenville Walgreens. Two of the suspects jumped over the pharmacy counter, pointed handguns at pharmacy employees and demanded drugs. A third juvenile suspect lingered at the front of the store as a lookout while a fourth juvenile acted as the getaway driver. The four were quickly apprehended in Greenville City Park. Two of the suspects, Ishmael Luster and Antwan Thompson, were tried as adults and each sentenced to six years in prison.
For a second consecutive season, the Versailles girls basketball team fell just one win short of its goal, losing 53-47 to Columbus Africentric Early College in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III state championship game. Versailles trailed for most of the game in March at The Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus but erased a double-digit deficit to take a lead in the fourth quarter. The Tigers couldn’t quite pull it out, though, as they finished as the state runner-up to the Nubians. “These girls, they’re tough cookies,” Coach Jacki Stonebraker said.
In April, the Darke County Jail was closed down after the ventilation system was contaminated with methamphetamine powder, causing several deputies and correction officers to become ill. The contamination happened when deputies were in the process of booking an inmate into the jail when they were exposed to an unknown white powder, which the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab identified as methamphetamine. During the cleanup, inmates were temporarily housed at the Mercer County and Miami County jails. The cleanup cost was estimated at $100,000.
June saw the 1 millionth chicken dinner sold during the 67th annual Poultry Days Festival in Versailles. The winning dinner was sold to Ryan Stoneberger, an Ultimate Frisbee player from Columbus. Stoneberger purchased the dinner shortly after 5 p.m. June 9. Stoneberger, a fine arts major studying at The Ohio State University, was accompanied by his fiance, Alora Rieff. Stoneberger said it was only his second year attending Poultry Days. In addition to a $2,000 voucher for a trip to Las Vegas, Stoneberger received a handful of platinum chicken dinner tickets with no expiration, a year’s supply of Mikesell’s potato chips and a commemorative plaque from the Poultry Days Committee signifying his award.
June also saw Versailles’ Joe Spitzer cross the finish line nearly eight seconds ahead of Buckeye Valley’s Zach Kreft to claim the state title in the 3,200 meter in 9 minutes 14.97 seconds at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus. He stayed with the front runners for most of the eight-lap race and made his move on the final few laps. “I still can’t believe it,” Spitzer said. “This is such an amazing end to my career. In my whole high school career I had that dream of getting a state title, and the last race of my career I finally did it. It’s just amazing and such an honor.”
In July, music returned to Greenville City Park as hundreds gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Marling Band Shell. Greenville City Park Board President Dale Musser welcomed spectators and dignitaries to a Darke County Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate the rebuilt structure. Musser extended his thanks to the City of Greenville, those who designed and constructed the band shell, as well as corporate and individual donors.
August saw the Darke County Fair, and with it, controversy. Mikayla Setser of Greenville and Amanda Mote of Union City both contend their artworks were removed from display without cause. Setser’s work is a color photo of a friend’s baby daughter. It was displayed at the Fair’s Fine Arts Building, was awarded a first-place ribbon but then removed from view. Mote’s artwork, pastels and drawings, originally were hung but then removed from display before judging. All three of her works feature subtle nudity. Both women described themselves as perplexed and disappointed by the move. Setser said the Fine Arts Director Nancy Foureman told her the photo was removed because it was considered “child pornography.” The Darke County Fair Board voted to accept the resignation of Foureman at its monthly meeting in September.
While kids wrapped up trick or treating at Greenville’s downtown Halloween festivities in October, a three-alarm fire laid claim to the Swine Barn at the Darke County Fairgrounds. At approximately 9:15 p.m., emergency personnel from Greenville City Fire Department, Greenville Township Rescue and officers from the Greenville City Police Department were dispatched to the Darke County Fairgrounds in reference to a fully involved structure fire at the Swine Barn. Greenville City Fire immediately called for a second alarm and eventually a third alarm with the need of additional ladder companies from Piqua and Burkettsville fire departments. Arriving units found the Swine Barn fully engulfed in flames and quickly worked to knock down and control the blaze.