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Agreement reached, Jones pleads guilty to Aggravated Murder of Danville Officer Thomas Cottrell

By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor

MOUNT VERNON - Emotional statements from Thomas Cottrell's family preceded the life sentence plus 35 years that was meted out by Judge Richard Wetzel for 33 year old Herschel Jones, III, in Knox County Common Pleas Court Wednesday. In a plea agreement, Jones pleaded guilty to Aggravated Murder in Cottrell's death January 17, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to several other charges related to the murder including Grand Theft, Grand Theft of a Motor Vehicle,Tampering with Evidence, Kidnapping, and Theft of a Firearm.

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Herschel Jones, III, looks over a document with public defender William Mooney in Knox County Common Pleas Court - photo credit Mount Vernon News

A statement was read from Cottrell's mom Melissa Osborn. "There are no words that can adequately address the loss and pain of losing my son. I can only beg for no mercy to be shown to my son's killer. There was no mercy for my son as he was cowardly ambushed and killed all because of the uniform he wore. My son lived his entire life for others, he gave all he had." 

Tanya Elliott, Cottrell's life partner, said, "Where were Tom's rights the night he was ambushed and murdered? When does Tom get to talk to us again? Tom's life mattered. The night he was ambushed, [there was] no chance of a fight. Had he been given a chance, the outcome would have been different. He was driven to another location, stripped of his vest, robbed of his gun that he bought himself after graduation from police academy, and his cop car was taken for a joy ride."

Danville Police Chief Dan Weckesser called Jones, "A cold-blooded murderer." And Weckesser called for a moment of silence in the courtroom for time to reflect on Cottrell''s life.

No one from Jones family offered comments to the court. 

After the sentence was read, deputies led Jones out of the courtroom while he spouted off numerous obscenities. 

Following the proceedings McConville said, "It's a case that could have gone to the death penalty. The family, after some consultations, authorized me to enter into this plea because it's going to bring some finality for them. On average a death row inmate spends more than 16 years on death row with appeals. They didn't want to put up with hearing his name time and time again as appeals got filed and last minute continuances came up through the legal process. This brings some closure for them, it brings closure for the community."

"Herschel Jones doesn't care about the justice system," McConville continued, "He doesn't care about the victims of these crimes. What you saw today is the sort of thing that has been demonstrated throughout his lengthy criminal record. He has been in this court several times before. He's known for his turbulent behavior, today was no exception."

Law enforcement officers from Danville, Fredericktown and the Knox County Sheriff's Office were in the courtroom for the sentencing. 

For an earlier story on the Herschel Jones case click here.

Here is an audio clip of Prosecutor McConville reading a portion of the lengthy plea agreement reached with Jones and his attorneys.

Memorial Building rededicated as part of MV Memorial Day festivities

By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor

MOUNT VERNON - Dozens of veterans were saluted at the beginning of the annual Memorial Day parade as they led off the procession in all sorts of vehicles Monday morning. The grand marshall was World War II Army veteran Mel Helmich. Crowds gathered along E. High and nearby streets to witness the spectacle which included the JROTC color guard from the Knox County Career Center, the MVHS marching band, scouts, youth softball and baseball players, llamas, horses and more.

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Grand Marshall and WWII U.S. Army Veteran Mel Helmich led the Mount Vernon Memorial Day parade

Following the parade a ceremony was held on the steps of the newly refurbished Memorial Building. Speakers included Jim Gibson, of the Knox County Historical Society, Bob Monette, U.S. Army veteran, and Kevin Henthorn, director, Knox County Veterans Service Office.

Gibson gave a brief history of the building before an attentive crowd. Over a hundred years ago plans were discussed to build a memorial building to commemorate the services of the soldiers, sailors, marines and the pioneers of Knox County. The budget was not to to exceed $250,000. There was spirited debate and controversy about the cost, location, and use of such a building. On November 4, 1919 voters of Knox County narrowly approved a bond issue.

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Jim Gibson of the Knox County Historical Society giving a history of the Memorial Building Monday - KP Photo

Over the next few years planning and oversight was done by a five person local memorial building board of trustees apppointed by Ohio's Governor Cox to represent all parts of Knox County. Serious consideration was given to a wide variety of proposals including constructing the building on the Public Square and also others proposed construction of four separate memorial buildings in Mount Vernon, Centerburg, Danville, Fredericktown.

But by May 1923, the site of the memorial building was agreed upon and an architectural firm had been selected. A large house on the site was divided and relocated to nearby lots.

The cornerstone was laid October 23, 1923 and the building was officially dedicated May 27, 1925. An additional $15,000 in bonds were required to properly finish the roof. By February of 1926 the building was available for public gatherings and meetings for community organizations. The first general meeting of the Knox County Historical Society was held there in June, 1942. It has served as the headquarters of the local American Red Cross chapter, serving as headquarters during the major flood of 1959.

Gibson shared that the building has served us well as a venue for movies, for musical and theatrical productions that has drawn visitors from well beyond Knox County who frequently comment on the beauty and comfort of the theater.

Gibson said, "We should be very proud of our Knox County Memorial Building, it has been well cared for nearly a century by those responsible for its care. I am certain that those countless veterans who served their country and Knox County would be proud to see this beautiful facility that we rededicate today."Monnette

Bob Monnet, U.S. Army Retired, spoke at the Memorial Day ceremony Monday on the steps of the Memorial Building - KP Photo

Featured speaker for the event was decorated Vietnam veteran and Mount Vernon native Bob Monnet. "Today we must take pause to honor, reflect and remember those who served." He said the day is designed to honor those who defended our democracy and lost their lives. We must never forget their sacrifices. He said, "Heroes don't have to have a chest of medals. Heroes are all around us - parents, teachers, firefighters, paramedics." In his closing remarks Monnet said, "A patriot loves their country every day."

Veterans Service Office Director Kevin Henthorn, an Air Force veteran, also spoke about giving gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives and their future for our freedom. He said, "Let's pause, respect and honor those who have served. We owe them regard, respect and honor." 

The ceremony also featured patriotic music performed by the MVHS Marching Band, the Heritage Singers, and "Amazing Grace" by a bagpipe trio. 

Following the ceremony guests were invited in to the Memorial Building for refreshments, tours, and a showing of the film "Uncommon Brilliance", and more music from Megan Campbell and the Mount Vernon Community Band. Visitors found the newly refurbished ballroom with new decor, beautiful colors and more light. An elevator has been installed to make all floors accessible. The facilities are available for rental for meeings and events 365 days a year.  Hear more about the building from Executive Director Sara Lynn Kerr in a KP Radio mini podcast at this Soundcloud link.

Larcomb: Whirlwind year at EK Schools

 

HOWARD - East Knox Schools Superintendent Steve Larcomb says it has been a "whirlwind school year" as the district graduation ceremony is set for Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m.

Larcomb said in a Facebook post, "There are so many positive things happening that I’m not sure I can even begin to do it justice in the form of this letter. Our students, staff and indeed this entire community are reinvigorated thanks to passage of our school levy last November. Our school board soon afterwards passed a resolution doing away with pay-to-participate fees as they said they would do. Promise made. Promise kept. The Board recently negotiated with our teachers and on March 7th approved a new three-year contract in which our staff received the first base salary increases in seven years."

Larcomb shared that he has spoken with Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer to discuss the possibility of a part-time school resource officer (SRO) for the coming school year. The funds would come from county sales tax receipts with no cost to the EK school district.

Larcomb said, "I remain confident that our school campus is a safe environment especially with the tools and procedures put in place since my arrival in 2012. Some examples include, but are not limited to: improved camera security, better lighting, implemented a phone notification system, wrote/updated school security plans, coordinate emergency procedures with local law enforcement officials and other appropriate agencies and practice evacuation drills with students and staff. Adding an SRO will certainly benefit our students and staff."


Larcomb said the district is moving toward a paperless registration process. The district is partnering with eSchool View to establish the availability to fill out forms online. Once the forms are in the system, parents will only need to make changes as needed rather than start from scratch each year. The goal is to have it in place on or before August 1st and no later than August 14th.

 

Memorial Building rededicated and now available for facility rentals

MOUNT VERNON -  Following the Memorial Day parade Monday a ceremony and open house was held to commemorate the renovation and rededication of the Knox County Memorial Building.  Sara Lynn Kerr, Executive Director, tells KnoxPages.com about the changes in a KP Radio mini podcast posted below. 

 

Koenigsberg shares Holocaust survival story with Centerburg students

By Alan Grove, KnoxPages.com Reporter

CENTERBURG - Gahanna resident John Koenigsberg, a Holocaust survivor born in 1937 in Amsterdam, Holland, came to the Centerburg High School May 23 to tell his story to students who have been studying the Holocaust. Koenigsberg said he gives these talks because he does not want to forget.

Koenigsberg has been speaking for approximately 20 years and has spoken at the school for approximately 10 years now. “There are not many who are as documented as I am,” Koenigsberg said. “I like to research.”

“I just don’t want it to go away,” he said. “We’re trying desperately to try to have the second and third generations speak, but it’s hard, because public speaking is normally a little bit tough.”

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John Koenigsberg, a native of Holland, shared his Holocaust survival story with Centerburg students Tuesday - KP Photo by Alan Grove

Koenigsberg said seeing students’ reactions makes him a little sad sometimes.“A lot of these kids don’t have a clue what happens because they weren’t taught,” he said. “I’ve also seen a little bit of decline in some of the public schools, but most of the time I am very, very happy.”

Koenigsberg said he always asks for input from the kids because he always finds out more about how he impacts them. Centerburg students wrote letters telling him what they learned and thanking him for coming. “My wife is the first one to get to the letters to start reading them,” he said.

Sophomore Blissann Treffert said Koenigsberg made her feel grateful that she didn’t have to go through the Holocaust. “I didn’t have to worry about anything that he did when I was six,” Treffert said.

Koenigsberg’s life turned upside down at age six, when the Germans occupied Holland and began deportations of the Dutch-Jews. First, his grandfather, whom he was closest to, was deported. Then, he and his parents avoided deportation because of his father’s medical worker’s immunity stamp on his I.D. He worked at a Jewish hospital in Amsterdam. Koenigsberg himself avoided deportation through an induced illness and a fake appendix operation.
Later, his parents decided it would be safest to split up and go into hiding.

Koenigsberg’s parents arranged for him to stay with a Dutch family who turned out to be Nazi sympathizers. He said the only reason they did not turn him in was because of the money his parents had given them and the promise of more. His parents found out and moved him to a new family named the Snijckers.
When American GI’s freed them and Germany finally surrendered, his parents, who had both survived the war in hiding, began frantically looking for him and eventually found him. The Koenigsbergs visited the Snijckers often, but Mrs. Snijckers suffered severe bouts of depression every time because she missed him and wanted him to stay. Eventually, the families ended all contact for her sake.

Treffert said the part of his story when he had to leave the Snijckers stuck with her the most. “It really showed how much he loved them because he did it so Mrs. Snijckers would get better even though he would never talk to her again,” she said. Treffert said she found the story very interesting. “Seeing how their daily life changed as they were discriminated against really put into perspective how much people were affected even if they weren’t put in camps,” Treffert said.

Sophomore Morgan Mead also said the speaker made him feel really grateful that he was born in this time period and no one had to go through that.
“The person closest to him in his life [his grandfather] was taken away in a matter of minutes,” Mead said. “It shows me not to take my family or friends for granted.” 

Mead said he highly recommends that people listen to Koenigsberg speak. 

“It’s really heart-wrenching, and some parts of it you can tell he is a bit emotional,” Mead said. “There aren’t many survivors left, and to be able to hear it in person is something that you won’t forget.”

Visit the Holocaust Memorial Program Facebook page to find out where upcoming events will be where Koenigsberg will speak in the future.

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