Ohio's unemployment rate continues to fall
Ohio's unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in March, down from 6.5 percent in February, according to data released this morning by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in March was 353,000, down 24,000 from February. The number of unemployed has decreased by 68,000 in the past 12 months. The March unemployment rate for Ohio was down from 7.3 percent in March 2013. Ohio’s nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 600 over the month, from a revised 5,282,300 in February to 5,282,900 in March, according to the latest business establishment survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) in cooperation with ODJFS.
Ohio sees record number of heroin overdose deaths
The state says a record number of Ohioans died from heroin-related overdoses in 2012 as it released the newest available figures for a problem that's been called an epidemic and public health crisis. The Department of Health says 680 people died of heroin overdoses in 2012, up from 426 deaths in 2011, a 37 percent increase. The state says the number of fatal prescription painkiller overdoses decreased for the first time since 2003, a drop attributed to a statewide crack down on pill mills.
Man on death row asks the state for clemency
Defense attorneys say a man sentenced to death for a Cleveland produce vendor's 1983 slaying should be granted clemency in part because a second defendant repeatedly admitted being the shooter. A clemency application filed Thursday for 54-year-old Arthur Tyler also alleges that a jury was coerced into issuing a death sentence verdict and that a prosecutor and some of Tyler's defense attorneys had a conflict of interest. A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office said it had no comment Thursday but plans to file a statement next week with the state parole board. The board makes a recommendation to the governor, who has the final say. Tyler's execution is scheduled May 28. He's arguing in a lawsuit that health problems put him at risk of suffering during lethal injection.
Bodies of missing Lake Erie boaters found; others still missing
Authorities are preparing to resume the search for two missing men in western Lake Erie following the discovery of the bodies of a woman and a teenage girl. The Ottawa County Sheriff's Office has identified the victims as 33-year-old Amy Santus of Perrysburg near Toledo and 16-year-old Paige Widmer of Leesville, South Carolina. A marine patrol will resume its search this morning for the two men who were with Santus and Widmer. Searchers on Thursday found a partially submerged boat on a reef near the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant east of Toledo and later spotted the two bodies. Both of the victims were wearing life jackets.
New rule banning synthetic drugs now in effect
The state says a new rule has gone into effect that permanently bans two new chemicals abused as illegal synthetic drugs. The rule announced by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and State Pharmacy Board Director Kyle Parker classifies the chemical compounds as controlled substances illegal under Ohio law. Authorities say the compounds appeared after a 2012 law went into effect banning all synthetic drugs that existed at the time. The chemicals are often sprayed on plant material to mimic the effect of marijuana. The drugs can have effects similar to, but longer-lasting, than amphetamines. DeWine has asked for the authority to ban compounds that are a threat without the need for legislation.
Death of Chardon shooting victim's father ruled accidental
The death of the father of one of the shooting victims killed at Chardon High School two years ago has been ruled accidental. 48-year-old Russell King Sr. was discovered dead by family members on February’s second anniversary of the death of his son Russell Jr. and two other Chardon students. The Plain Dealer reports the Geauga County coroner's office has ruled that King died of acute intoxication by the combined effects of heroin and ethanol.
Deadly shooting by off-duty Cleveland officer ruled justified
Cuyahoga County’s prosecutor has ruled that a deadly shooting by an off-duty Cleveland police officer was justified. Cleveland Patrolman Roger Jones shot and killed 20-year-old Kenneth Smith in 2012, after Smith allegedly lunged for a gun in a vehicle. It happened following a gunshot during a fight outside a bar. Smith’s family has sued the city of Cleveland, arguing he was on the ground raising his arms in surrender when he was shot in the head. A man who was with Smith at the time, Devonta Hill, has been charged with his murder. Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said Hill was firing "wildly" into the air and into a crowd of people, then fleed in the vehicle, ultimately leading to Smith’s death.
Cleveland Zoo's director wants to enhance habitats
The Cleveland Zoo hopes to enhance the habitats of some of its most popular animals over the next decade. The Plain Dealer reports the zoo’s director, Chris Kuhar has proposed to Metroparks commissioners to give the zoo's tigers more space by reworking their home instead of rebuilding it. He also says a new exhibit for grizzly bears would give them more space and the chance to live in one place most of the day instead of rotating between night quarters and the exhibit. And he says more bears could be in the zoo's future since cubs are often orphaned in the wild.
KeyCorp profits up 19 percent
Cleveland-based KeyCorp says profits were up 19 percent in the first quarter to $236 million. That growth was largely due to nearly 10-percent increase in commercial loans. Loan losses continued to fall, dropping almost 50 percent. Key is planning an 18 percent increase in its quarterly dividend, to 6.5 cents per share.
Federal funds to help Ohio small businesses
More than $18 million in federal funds will be headed to Ohio help small businesses. It comes from a program that aims to increase lending to locally-owned businesses. The Ohio Development Service Agency plans to use it to encourage more private lending and investing through local banks, to help businesses that may have trouble getting financing expand and create jobs. Three programs will distribute the money in the state: the Collateral Enhancement Program, the Ohio Capital Access Program and the Targeted Investment Program.
Study: People with mental illness 10 times more likely to be in jail, prison than psychiatric hospitals
A new report says that people with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be in prisons or jails than in state psychiatric hospitals. The study by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association makes several recommendations, including improving mental health treatment programs inside prisons, a greater focus on mental health courts, and allowing authorities to give medication involuntarily. The Beacon Journal reports that Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry did away with a policy enacted by former Sheriff Drew Alexander that kept the jail from accepting inmates with mental illness until they were first treated at a hospital.
Garrettsville community group asks for Portage County grant money
A group formed to help a Portage County village recover from a fire that destroyed a large portion of downtown is asking the county for a grant. The group ‘Garrettsville Strong’ has requested $76,000 in Community Block Development Grant money from commissioners. The Beacon Journal reports the money would go toward installing a wide sidewalk, landscaping and vintage light posts. An entire city block was destroyed in the March 22 fire, including 12 businesses. Commissioners have until June to make a decision on the spending.
Former Bridgestone executive to plead guilty
A former Bridgestone executive has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to fix prices for auto parts, and is cooperating with a massive U.S. Justice Department investigation into the auto parts industry. Yusuke Shimasaki has agreed to pay a $20,000 criminal fine and serve 18 months in prison, according to the U.S. attorneys office. His plea deal came the day after three other current and former Bridgestone execs were indicted in Toledo on antitrust charges related to the sale of anti-vibration parts sold to auto makers. The company itself has agreed to pay a $425 million fine. And in all, the investigation into the auto parts industry has resulted in nearly $2.3 billion in criminal fines. Ohio is ranked second in the nation in the number of auto-related jobs. One of Bridgestone’s two research centers is in Akron and employs 600 people.