Stabbing suspect arrested
Motive in Roselawn attacks unknown

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati police arrested a 17-year-old Springfield Township boy on three counts of attempted murder in connection with a series of stabbings that has shaken the community of Roselawn.

As the three female victims recover from the weekend stabbings, their alleged attacker, charged as a juve nile, is being hospitalized for emotional problems.

The suspect, who has a history of psychiatric problems, was being held Monday night at a hospital instead of in juvenile detention, Cincinnati police said.

In Roselawn, a historically Jewish community, some residents first feared the attacks were anti-Semitic. But investigators found no indication that the attacks were racially or ethnically motivated, homicide commander Lt. Mike Jones said.

Lynn Roth, 43, of Burlington, a day-care teacher at the Jewish community center, was the first victim. The teen is accused of approaching her at 1:20 p.m. Friday as she walked outside the center, punching her in the face and stabbing her twice in the abdomen. She is in fair condition at University Hospital.

Irene Shubowitz was the next to be attacked. The 59-year-old was walking behind Valley Shopping Center about 3 p.m. Saturday when a man came up and stabbed her in the right elbow, left hand and lower abdomen. She also is in fair condition.

Dora Lertgolts, 72, suffered the worst wounds. She was attacked on Greenland Place about 5:40 p.m. Saturday. Two stab wounds to her abdomen put her in critical condition.

Police would not discuss a possible motive Monday, nor would they say what led them to arrest the teen.

But at the barbershop, the bagel shop and across the counter at Roselawn Health Mart Pharmacy, word that police had a suspect in custody left customers relieved.

“This should never have happened,” said Ethel Malof, 73, a longtime Roselawn resident who fears for her safety. “It used to be the nicest neighborhood, but it's not anymore.”

Built in the 1940s as a Jewish cultural center, Roselawn was one of Cincinnati's first suburbs.

But for several years, the neighborhood has been in transition as many of the Jewish families and businesses have moved farther out into the suburbs. Roselawn now is home to an increasing number of Asian, Indian and Russian immigrants. It also has more black families. In 1970, the neighborhood was 6.8 percent black; in 1990, it was 55 percent black, with an estimated 1 percentage point increase every year since.

“There's been a transition of different people and races and creeds,” said Cincinnati Police Spc. Jerry Ernst, who has worked details in the neighborhood for 25 years. “It's really been a melting pot, which many people like.”

The transition has been relatively smooth, but a few acts of violence have been spotlighted in recent years. Three years ago, it was because a multiracial gang beat up Jews as an initiation rite. In 1991, it was because black teens pelted members of a synagogue with rocks.

But Roselawn residents have responded to such incidents by marching through their neighborhood in support of racial reconciliation.

Many people such as Jerry Lehrer, 74, who has lived in Roselawn nearly all his life, intend to stay. It is a community of quaint tree-lined streets, where the biggest crime usually is a car break-in. About 3,300 families with an average income of $30,000 call it home.

“I'm a little bit of an idealist,” Mr. Lehrer said. “I just feel I have wonderful neighbors on our street, and we get along fine. But in between the wonderful neighbors, there's a rough element. A few people can cause a lot of problems.”

Spc. Ernst tries to soothe fears about random violence. Crime statistics show the neighborhood has had only one homicide in three years, and thefts far outweigh other crimes.

Monica Lukas, 56, of Anderson Township works in Roselawn and said the security guard recently hired at her office at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati gives her some reassurance about her safety.

In a neighborhood where many people walk alone to grocery stores and synagogues, fear must be replaced by caution, she said. “You just have to be aware of your surroundings no matter where you live.”

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