In the News...

U.S. high court refuses to review Hill appeal

Danny Isom gets 11 to 15 years in prison

11th District Court rules against defendants in murder case

Sharpsville, Pa., man sentenced for fatal crash

Mom guilty of involuntary manslaughter in child’s overdose death

Conviction, sentence upheld in Menards robbery

Tyrell Williams gets 26- to 31-year prison term

42 indicted by Trumbull Grand Jury


Prosecutors on Hill team file brief with high court; OPPA’s friend-of-court letter in support also filed

Goals for 2024

Six-month Update

Parole Hearings

Mr. Watkins letter to the parole board

Christopher Ferrell up for parole; Prosecutor says no

This office is opposing parole for inmate Christopher Ferrell. Ferrell is currently serving a life sentence with consecutive gun specifications along with multiple concurrent 10- to 25-year and 8- to 15-year sentences.

He was convicted of aggravated murder in the Feb. 11, 1992, shooting death of 19-year-old Douglas Lash in Newton Township. Evidence showed Ferrell, then age 17,  used a .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol to deliver at close range one gunshot to the back of the head of Lash, who was kneeling down.

Ferrell was also the leader of a burglary ring of area juveniles and also was convicted of aggravated burglary, attempted aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

One of the home invasions resulted in the aggravated murder of Douglas Lash. As the juvenile gang was burglarizing Douglas’s home, he returned and interrupted the crime. Douglas tried to defend his home with a machete. Ferrell, who was one week away from his 18th birthday, forced Douglas into the living room at gunpoint, commanded him to kneel and shot him in the head.

Ferrell, now 49, is incarcerated at Lebanon Correctional Institution. He was denied parole in 2013 with the state board giving him the maximum 10-year wait until his next hearing. That hearing will take place in March 2024 and in his letter to the parole board chair Lisa Hoying, dated Feb. 23, 2024, Prosecutor Watkins continues to voice his strong opposition to Ferrell’s release.

“In short, Ferrell is a sociopath who needs to be locked up for the rest of his natural life. The best proof to justify this recommendation is actual behavior. With him there is a disgusting overload of it,” wrote Watkins who pointed to inmate Ferrell’s guilt in five recent rules infraction violations after serving about 30 years in prison as well as his reluctance to follow instructions given by correction officers.

Both Watkins and former Assistant Prosecutor and retired Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos noted that because of his youth, Ferrell was spared the death penalty.

Former Assistant Prosecutor LuWayne Annos in a 2008 letter to the parole board wrote: “As one of the original prosecutors in this case, I can say without hesitation that Christopher Ferrell is holly unworthy of any grant of parole,” pointing to an impressive criminal history as a juvenile.

Annos wrote that this inmate is not an example of an otherwise good boy gone bad:
“Inmate Ferrell led an outlaw band of other teenage thugs who committed armed burglaries of numerous homes throughout Western Pennsylvania, and Trumbull, Portage and Geauga counties in Ohio.”

Prior to Lash’s murder, Ferrell had duct taped and terrorized an elderly deaf woman with a sawed-off shotgun he regularly carried to “his jobs.”

For more information, contact Guy M. Vogrin, investigator and public information officer of the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office at 330-675-2485.

UPDATE, DEC. 21, 2023
Convicted murderer Gary Betz denied parole

A convicted murderer from Trumbull County has failed in his fourth request for parole from prison.

The Ohio Adult Parole Authority has extended Gary Allen Betz, scheduling his next parole hearing for November 2025, according to information released this week to the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office.

Betz, 69, is incarcerated in Marion Correctional Institution serving a 22-year-to-life prison sentence for convictions of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. Betz was guilty of the shotgun shooting death of Lake Milton area tavern owner Ron Goche in late 1976.

Prosecutor Dennis Watkins is pleased with the decision by the state parole board.

“Any day that a convicted repeat violent offender like Betz can be kept off the streets is a good day for Trumbull County,” Watkins said.

Watkins has stated in previous letters to the parole board that Betz was paroled twice from prison before murdering Goche and robbing him of $138 in bar receipts.

The prosecutor called Betz’s crime “one of the worst of the worst cold-blooded, premeditated murders of a helpless person one person could envision.”
After spending 30 years in prison for the killing of Goche, Betz was paroled for a third time in 2007 despite strong opposition from the victim’s family and the prosecutor’s office.

The criminal streak continued as Betz landed himself in more trouble while on parole. Betz violated terms of his release by accumulating three DUI charges in 2008, 2010 and 2011. He was sent back to prison following these offenses.

In Nov. 20, 1975, records show Betz was sentenced to the Ohio State Penitentiary for a second time on a breaking and entering conviction in Columbiana County. He
was released from his second prison term’s parole supervision about a month before Goche was murdered, Watkins said. Within six years’ time, Betz does back-to-back-to-back prison sentences.

Testimony at the trial before a three-judge panel in 1977 showed Betz shot Goche in the face with a sawed-off shotgun at point-blank range, after entering Goche’s bar — the Riviera Inn — to rob it. A witness overheard the bar owner tell Betz to take the day’s receipts of $138 and he wouldn’t do anything to him. Betz fatally shot Goche anyway, Watkins said. Betz’s last words to the victim were: “… don’t worry, we won’t get in trouble.”

“Only a sociopath could commit such a crime, and that is why he always will be a risk to the public,” Watkins wrote to the parole board. “Please don’t release him on parole for the fourth time. You’re dealing with quintessential evil.”

According to the case file, Betz told the parole board in 2007 he had an autoimmune deficiency that causes skin and joint problems, and that 50 percent of victims die within five years, but Watkins said he was not allowed to examine medical evidence of the condition.

In fact, Betz apparent joint problem didn’t prevent him from repeatedly driving a vehicle drunk after he was released for a third time on parole in 2007. The DUIs returned him to prison. One police officer who arrested Betz gave him the moniker “super drunk.”

For more information, contact Guy Vogrin, investigator / public information officer, Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office, 330-675-2485.

Mr. Watkins letter to the parole board

Last of violent trio of rapists denied parole


Last year, a trilogy of violent child sex offenders were considered for parole by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority.

David Lockney, at left, was the last of the three to have a parole board decision regarding his release.

On Jan. 22, 2023, the Prosecutor learned from Mary Jo Hoso, administrator of the Victim/Witness Division, that violent repeat sex offender David Lockney would be remaining in prison at least until his next parole consideration in October 2027. If parole is granted, then Lockney, 68, would be released in December 2027. He is presently incarcerated in Lake Erie Correctional Institution and will have to stay there at least four more years.

This office is thankful that the state parole board, through the efforts of victim/witness testimony from this office, had previously extended the prison terms for Willis Reitz, age 66 pictured at far right, for five years, and for William Fisher, age 74, shown at near right, for 10 years. Now, it has extended Lockney for four years.

“In my career I have never seen a worse group of vicious sexual predators come up for parole release at the same time. These convicted child rapists were all prosecuted by the Trumbull County Prosecutor Office’s Child Assault Division that was formed in 1987 as one of the first such division in the nation to specialize in the investigation and prosecution of

sexual and physical abuse cases involving children in the county,” Prosecutor Watkins said.

“This is indeed good news that the board had extended the prison term of Fisher for 10 years, Lockney for four years and Reitz for five years before having eligibility hearings for possible release on parole,” Watkins said noting the trio have already been incarcerated for more than 93 years.

In the Lockney case, Watkins personally went to a full parole board hearing in Columbus in 2002 with the victim, whom he has known since she was 7 years old in 1987. In that hearing Watkins argued for Lockney’s continued imprisonment on his four life sentences for the rest of his natural life.

“We are grateful that the parole board has carefully considered our evidence and the testimony of victims that public safety and appropriate punishment is important to the welfare of society when extreme violence and serious injury is involved in crimes against children,” Watkins said.

We as prosecutors, along with police and citizens, will remain vigilant and stand firm against the paroles of these type of individuals. For more information about the three cases, please refer to the attached letters that Prosecutor Watkins has written to the parole board opposing the release of this trilogy of violent child sex offenders.

For more information, contact Guy Vogrin, investigator/public information officer for the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office at 330-675-2485.

Trumbull County sex offender denied parole

The Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Victim/Witness Advocate Mary Jo Hoso learned today from the Ohio Adult Parole Authority that Trumbull County sexual offender Franklin Bumgardner, 50, has been denied release on parole.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website, Baumgardner, at left, who is housed at Grafton Correctional Institution, will next be eligible for a parole hearing in February 2029. He went before the parole board last month seeking release.

In September 2007, Bumgardner pleaded guilty to four counts rape, one count attempted rape and three counts gross sexual imposition and was sentenced by retired Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay to 10 years to life in prison in September 2007. Judge McKay also labeled him a sexual predator which requires him to register his address for life with the sheriff’s office if he is ever released from prison.

Bumgardner’s victim was a juvenile and the case was investigated by the Trumbull County Sheriff’s office, Trumbull County Children Services, and the county’s Child Advocacy Center.

For more information, contact Guy M. Vogrin, investigator/public information officer for the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office at 330-675-2485

Convicted murderer denied parole; to stay in prison until ’28