State case against Warren County bar-restaurant stems from fatal crash

Putters II’s liquor license is on the line as the result of a state investigation after a fatal crash last December. The investigation showed Ryan Noe, 32, of Lebanon, had been drinking there before his fatal crash. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD

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Putters II’s liquor license is on the line as the result of a state investigation after a fatal crash last December. The investigation showed Ryan Noe, 32, of Lebanon, had been drinking there before his fatal crash. STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD

A Warren County bar-restaurant’s liquor license is on the line as the result of a state investigation following a fatal crash last year.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety Investigative Unit filed a case with the Ohio Liquor Control Commission against Putters II, located at 6040 Ohio 48, in Maineville-Hamilton Twp., Warren County.

The case, based on a trace-back investigation, alleges Putters furnished and sold beer or intoxicating liquor to Ryan Noe, 32, of Lebanon.

The case was referred to the state unit by the highway patrol after it was determined Noe had been drinking at the Warren County establishment before heading to a friend’s home in Clarksville, according to reports.

RELATED: Ohio liquor agents crack down on alcohol sales that lead to accidents

Noe died after a crash reported at 1:42 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, on Interstate 71 in Clinton County, according to a Ohio Highway Patrol report.

The administrative case against Putters was filed on March 6.

“We’re just waiting for it to work its way through the liquor control commission,” Commander Eric Wolf of the Ohio Department of Public Safety Investigation Unit said.

No criminal charges will be filed.

Representatives of Putters II did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the Ohio Highway Patrol report, Noe’s 2014 Chevrolet Silverado truck was southbound on northbound I-71 when it crashed head-on into a northbound 2008 Dodge Ram truck, triggering a three-car crash.

MORE: Deadly roads: Warren County has more fatalities this year than in all of 2017

It was dark and raining on an unlit stretch of the road, according to the report.

A trailer towed by the Dodge came loose. The Dodge then crashed with a 2012 Hyundai. All three vehicles wound up in the median.

Northbound lanes were closed while the crash was investigated, the damage cleared and the victims helped.

Noe, a well-known softball player who worked for Warren County, was killed. Three people were injured.

Ohio Department of Public Safety Investigative Unit

Ohio Investigative Unit agents are plain-clothed, fully sworn law enforcement officers. In addition to enforcing state liquor laws, the unit is the only law enforcement agency specifically tasked with investigating food stamp fraud crimes. Agents also investigate tobacco violations.

In 2018, 467 cases involving fatal or serious injury crashes were referred to the state unit by the state highway patrol or local law enforcement. This was up 76 percent over 2017.

RELATED: State traces steps of drunks who cause accidents, deaths

During the Putters investigation, a state agent confiscated a video recorder, an envelope containing bar receipts and nine sheets of labor reports from the business, according to a search-warrant inventory.

The state has not provided a copy of the final investigative report in response to a public-records request.

The Putters case was also referred earlier this month to the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office for consideration for misdemeanor charges against the business or its employees.

“Misdemeanor charges are always decided by local law enforcement agencies,” County Prosecutor David Fornshell said last week. “They frequently will seek our opinion on cases, which we will provide directly to them, but the ultimate decision as to whether to file a misdemeanor or not is up to the law enforcement agency.”

Fornshell said this has always been his policy. He declined to elaborate on the opinion rendered in this case.

“I would never discuss case evaluation with the public unless I’m making a formal determination, like a decision to not present a case to the grand jury,” Fornshell added.

MORE: Ohio fatal crashes down in 2016

Wolf declined to comment about any potential criminal charges.

Wolf said the state referred cases where they feel charges could be filed. He indicated the decision on whether to file charges relied largely on the prosecutor’s opinion.

The case would have been handled by Fornshell’s office in Warren County Court.

“There was enough evidence in this case we felt it needed to at least be reviewed by the prosecutor’s office,” Wolf said.

Noe’s family did not respond to a request to comment.

In the administrative case, the state will be represented by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

It will likely be heard in three to four months by the state commission in Columbus.

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