Thursday, September 21, 2000

50-plus indicted by Butler grand jury

Murder, rape kidnapping among pending charges

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A Butler County grand jury on Wednesday indicted more than 50 people, including defendants in at least four notable cases:

        • Lavell Hamilton, 49, of Hamilton, was indicted on charges of murder and having weapons while under orders not to do so.

        He is accused in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Christopher Darnell Johnson, 25. Mr. Johnson was shot in the heart after an argument at a trailer park in the 1900 block of Dixie Highway. Mr. Hamilton, who was arrested after a four-day manhunt, has claimed self-defense, but witnesses told police that Mr. Johnson was unarmed.

        • John A. Koller Jr., 31, of Kings Mills, Warren County, was indicted on two counts of aggravated vehicular assault, charges that stem from an alleged attack on his wife while she was driving.

        The Ohio State Highway Patrol has said that Debra K. Wells, 45, was driving her husband to his Hamilton workplace on July 11 when he became angry and began assaulting her, causing the vehicle to wreck on the Butler Regional Highway. Ms. Wells and her 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer Wells, were seriously hurt. They no longer live with Mr. Koller.

        The grand jury, however, refused to indict Mr. Koller on two counts of felonious assault and domestic violence.

        • Lucila Padilla, 22 — whose father, Jesus, is accused of skipping out on a $200,000 bond and failing to stand trial in a double-fatal, drunken-driving case — was indicted on two counts of tampering with records.

        Authorities allege Ms. Padilla improperly renewed her father's vehicle registrations. Police believe Jesus Padilla has fled to Mexico.

        Her attorney, John David Smith of Springboro, alleges that Ms. Padilla is being punished for her father's alleged offenses.

        • Eric B. Brister, 31, of Hamilton, was indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and aggravated burglary.

        The charges stem from the alleged knifepoint attack on a 40-year-old woman in her home in the 1100 block of Ludlow Street last month.

        He had been released from prison in February after serving time for two 1999 sex offenses.


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