Kidnapping, $500K theft, attempted murder cases inch forward

Staff Report






The man accused of holding three South Amherst firefighters at gunpoint for hours and demanding beer now has a trial date.

Roy Griffith Jr., 53, of Amherst Township, is scheduled to appear before a jury at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 3 in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas with judge Michele Arredondo presiding.

The date was set Feb. 8 in a pre-trial hearing. Another pre-trial date is scheduled for March 18.

Griffith has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of kidnapping and abduction, as well as misdemeanor counts of aggravated menacing and using weapons while intoxicated.

He ran afoul of the law in late October when South Amherst crews responded to a brush fire in the woods near Hornyak Court. Village fire chief Al Schmitz said “the guy became a little agitated” when firefighters tried to talk with Griffith about the blaze.

Retreating, he allegedly returned with a .308-caliber assault rifle and forced Dennis Hevener, John Wright, and Greg Burgess to the ground while other firefighters took cover in the nearby woods.

Griffith repeatedly apologized to the hostages and said he didn’t want to hurt anyone, according to investigators. He eventually let Burgess free on the promise he’d return with a six-pack.

The suspect’s mother told authorities her son had a long history of mental illness, had not been taking medication, and had been drinking for days.

Eventually, Griffith gave himself up. Though no shots were fired, Lorain County sheriff’s deputies noted there was a round in the chamber of his rifle.

His is not the only high-profile court case with Amherst connections that has seen recent progress:

• The prosecution of ousted South Amherst clerk Kimberly Green, 54, is also limping along in county court.

Green, accused of stealing nearly $500,000 from village accounts over a two-year period, had a sixth pre-trial hearing Feb. 1 with judge James Miraldi. A seventh has been slated for March 10.

A grand jury indicted Green last May on multiple counts of felony theft, tampering with records, and withholding of retirement benefits.

South Amherst police said they believe she siphoned public money by cashing village checks in her own name to support a lottery habit.

The problem was discovered when South Amherst officials noticed bills were not being paid.

Even a state audit missed the issue, resulting in a very public firing of two Columbus-based employees by Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost. During a press conference at the Amherst Public Library, he announced auditor William Barile, a 23-year employee of the state office, and his direct supervisor, Donna Busser, the audit manager, were terminated.

• A jury trial is set for March 29 in the state’s attempted murder case against Zachary Spurlock, 18, of Amherst.

He is charged with shooting 18-year-old Christopher McNeil of Lorain in the face this past September at Amherst Township Park on Middle Ridge Road.

Spurlock has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder counts as well as felonious assault, tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property, and aggravated menacing.

Investigators said the 2015 Amherst Steele High School graduate shot McNeil at close range with a .38-caliber gun. McNeil was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland with a bullet wound to his jaw.

Detective Sgt. Randall Koubek said the shooting followed an argument over alleged thefts and racial comments made on social media.

Another suspect, Paul Kilgore, 18, of Lorain, fled the park with Spurlock after the incident. He has also been charged with attempted murder, felonious assault, theft, tampering with evidence, having weapons under disability, and aggravated menacing — to which he pleaded not guilty.

Pretrial hearings for both Spurlock and Kilgore were held Feb. 2 and each will have another Feb. 22.

Kilgore’s jury trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on May 10.





Staff Report