James Geran pleaded guilty in Butler County Common Pleas Court to murder and aggravated murder for the deaths of two women last June after a standoff in Trenton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Butler County homicide investigations increased 36 percent in 2018

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The office investigated 15 homicides in 2018 and 11 in 2017, according to statistics. The 15 homicides were the second highest in recent years, according to the coroner’s office.

There were 17 homicides in 2016, and before that, the highest number in recent years was 10 in each of 2011, 2012 and 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Safety annual reports.

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The actual number of homicides connected to Butler County was higher than 15, but if the person was pronounced dead in another county, that county would be listed on the report. For example, if a shooting victim was transported and died in a hospital in Dayton or in Cincinnati, the coroner’s offices in those counties determined the cause of death.

Of the homicides investigated by the Butler County Coroner’s Office in 2018, victims included 11 males and four females. The average age of the victims was 33; the youngest was 3, the oldest was 63.

MORE: Man charged with murder after stabbing victim found in Middletown road

Hamilton (six) had the most homicides in the county, followed by Fairfield (three), Middletown (two), and one each for Ross Twp., Madison Twp., Trenton, and Fairfield Twp., according to the coroner’s office.

The deadliest month was June when there were five homicides.

The increase in the county homicides also was seen in the state. There were 721 homicides in Ohio in 2016, up 41 percent from 513 in 2009, according to the Ohio Department of Safety.

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The year’s first homicide in Butler County occurred when Zachary Welsh, now 18, killed fellow Ross High School student Austin Hensley on Jan. 30.

Welsh will be nearly 50 when he is released from prison for the shooting death of Hensley. a fellow high school student, in January. Welsh pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery and two counts of tampering with evidence for the fatal shooting at his Hine Road home.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens sentenced Welsh to 30 years in prison, agreed upon by the defense and prosecution in exchange for the guilty plea. Welsh was originally charged with murder, aggravated robbery, felonious assault and tampering with evidence.

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The most recent homicide occurred on Christmas Eve when a Middletown man was shot and killed during an apparent robbery attempt in Fairfield Twp.

Keywontae Smiley, 22, was shot about 1:50 p.m. Dec. 24 in Tyler’s Creek Apartments, according to police.

Two adult males were in their car in the 3400 block of Waterfowl Lane when a person approached them and tried to rob them, police said. The robber brandished a firearm and fired several shots, striking the vehicle’s passenger. The shooter then ran westbound across Wildbranch Road toward Gateway Avenue, police said.

One of the homicides came at the hands of a Fairfield police officer.

Fairfield police were called to the 1500 block of Gelhot Drive at 5:59 a.m. on June 22 for a domestic dispute. Officer Bryan Carnes, a three-year veteran of the force, broke open the door to the residence and bathroom where a man was actively stabbing a woman, according to the investigation.

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In an attempt to stop the stabbing, Carnes fired two shots, striking Logan A. Williamson, 37, who died at the scene. The stabbing victim, 37-year-old Michelle R. Henry died at Mercy Hospital-Fairfield.

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A Butler County grand jury declined to indict Carnes.

There were two homicides in Warren County in 2018, according to the coroner’s office.

On April 23, Kevin Nill, 40, of Piqua, was less than a month from the end of an 18-month sentence for domestic violence in Miami County when he was pronounced dead at the Atrium Medical Center, according to investigators and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction records.

MORE: Piqua man strangled with garrote in Warren County prison

A garrote, a tool used to kill someone by strangulation, was found around the neck of Nill at Lebanon Correctional Institution, according to the initial investigative report.

Nill was to be released on May 24, according to on-line Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction records.

He was not hanging when he was found and injuries were consistent with strangulation, which was determined to be the cause of death, according to the coroner’s office.

Darlene Yocum, 32, of Hamilton Twp., was shot and killed by Christopher Timmons in her home on Aug. 4. Five children — from the ages of two weeks to 14 years old — were home when Yocum was shot.

Officers were first dispatched to a home on Stephens Road in Maineville about 10:25 p.m. for a woman not breathing. The investigation revealed that Timmons shot Yocum inside their residence and fled the scene in a truck.

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