Returning to normal in a small town

Reuben Mees

It’s cold as the April showers patter into pools on the asphalt of downtown Bellefontaine.

Albeit an unwelcome sight, it’s entirely normal. 

It’s a quiet week when tearing down emerald ash trees and the arrival of a new restaurant make front page headlines.

That’s not an entirely unwelcome normal day in newsprint.

And it’s been nearly a week since the last television news trucks left downtown Bellefontaine.

That’s an entirely welcome sign that a community torn by the tragedy of a triple homicide is starting to return to normal.

When I first heard that a woman went missing and was presumed dead, I wasn’t entirely shocked. It’s not completely out of the ordinary that our community and law enforcement officers respond to a homicide.

Certainly not a shiny spot on the surface of humanity, but there to be dealt with nonetheless.

It was only after news spread that the missing young woman was found brutally murdered and an elderly couple was also missing and presumed dead that the story began to take on a sinister tone that attracts the news trucks.

And that’s when the abnormal began.

Bellefontaine and Logan County were turned into a spectacle for national and regional news agencies to show the grim side of life in Middle America. The same newscasters that yawn at stories about life in small towns were salivating to feed the gruesome details to their audiences.

All at the expense of the people who live here.

The gem in all this is that within two months, authorities here and in West Virginia, where the suspect was located, were vigilant and quick to bring the case to resolution.

It’s been two months to the week that the manhunt was in full swing and already the case is closed.

The perpetrator is locked safely away in an Ohio prison, already having admitted to three counts of murder and sentenced to spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The death sentence was dropped in the process; so there won’t be a drawn out series of appeals as the convicted man waits for his turn on death row.

Now there only remains the difficult healing process for the two families. On one hand, there is the loss of a young mother whose two sons must still be provided for and, in the other case, mourners must come to terms with the cruel end to the golden years their beloved family members experienced.

However, the prosecutors who tried the case and the defense attorneys who represented the accused are to be commended for their speedy work in bringing this tragic case to a quick resolution.

In offering the plea, the two parties worked together to avoid a trial that would have been costly to the taxpayers of Logan County. What they and the families gave up in return was the opportunity to execute the defendant.

While his crimes certainly warrant that consideration, debate over the future of the death penalty in Ohio as well as the cost and stress the families must endure as they prepare for a lengthy jury trial is a just argument for offering the plea agreement.

I am thankful that despite the madness that drove the man to commit these crimes, he had the presence of mind to enter the guilty plea, go immediately into prison and put this sordid affair to rest.

In my opinion, the normalcy and closure we all get from this far outweigh both the potential costs and benefits of seeing the murderer executed.

I sincerely hope the families agree and find their own path to normalcy in these difficult times.

Reuben Mees is an Examiner staff writer, Bellefontaine native and general proponent of the death penalty. He can be reached by email at