When It’s Not Worth the Paper It’s Written On…

Little did I know that on the morning of Friday, May 12, 2017, as I drove to work my shift as a Sergeant with the Village of Baltimore Police Department, I would be passing within minutes and yards of a triple homicide in the Village of Kirkersville: one that claimed the lives of Kirkersville Chief of Police Steven DiSario and two employees of the Pine Kirk Nursing Home, Cindy Krantz and Marlina Medrano.

The terrible event unfolded shortly after I arrived at Baltimore PD. Chief DiSario had been sent to check on a report of a man with a gun — in this case, a shotgun — at the Pine Kirk Nursing Home, just a few doors down from the police station on Main Street. In a village this small, Chief DiSario — who had only held his position for 3 weeks — was the only police officer on duty. Other units from the Licking County Sheriff’s Office were responding to assist him when the call went out.

It did not take long for Chief DiSario to locate the suspect, who had held two nursing home employees hostage at the rear of the nursing home before he fired his first shot.

The confrontation did not last long. Chief DiSario’s last radio message was that he had the suspect in sight. There were no further communications. Chief DiSario had lost his life at the hands of a coward; a lifelong woman abuser named Thomas Hartless, who, during the attack in Kirkersville, also murdered his former girlfriend Marlina Medrano and her co-worker Cindy Krantz. Not being willing to face officers responding to the scene, Hartless then took his own life.

Chief DiSario left behind a wife, six children and another child who was on the way, giving his life in an attempt to protect others. Medrano and Krantz also left families behind. The other employees at Pine Kirk will be traumatized for life.

When the criminal justice system fails to control and remove predatory criminals — as it did in this case — that failure affects not only civilians who are seeking protection, but also law enforcement officers who have to deal with the offenders. We saw the horrible results on Friday in Ohio.

Hartless had a long history of abusing and threatening women. He had previously kidnapped another ex-girlfriend from a Newark business in 2009, assaulting her, binding her wrists and ankles and taking her to Knox County, where he eventually released her. Here is what the Ohio Revised Code says about this crime:

2905.01 Kidnapping.

(A) No person, by force, threat, or deception, or, in the case of a victim under the age of thirteen or mentally incompetent, by any means, shall remove another from the place where the other person is found or restrain the liberty of the other person, for any of the following purposes:

(3) To terrorize, or to inflict serious physical harm on the victim or another;

AND

(B) No person, by force, threat, or deception, or, in the case of a victim under the age of thirteen or mentally incompetent, by any means, shall knowingly do any of the following, under circumstances that create a substantial risk of serious physical harm to the victim or, in the case of a minor victim, under circumstances that either create a substantial risk of serious physical harm to the victim or cause physical harm to the victim:

(1) Remove another from the place where the other person is found;

(2) Restrain another of the other person’s liberty.

In this country, kidnapping used to be a capital offense (meaning the death penalty was a possibility). Even so, kidnapping is still a Felony of the 1st Degree in Ohio — the most serious. This means the penalty Hartless could have — and SHOULD have — received would have been, at minimum, 10 years to life in prison, or 15 to life depending on how “harm” is determined. But no…

From what I found, Hartless served around 2 years in prison for his kidnapping conviction. He was also precluded from owning a firearm or ammunition as a felon. In a move that I was not aware was possible, he completed (according to the Newark Advocate Online) probation in 2014, and had all his rights restored. That included the right to own a firearm, which would come in handy for him on Friday, May 12, 2017.

Folks, the problem isn’t that we need more laws regarding guns; we need judges and courts that will enforce the laws we have — and start handing out serious sentences. If he had been sentenced appropriately, Hartless would still be in prison, and three people in Kirkersville would still be alive today.

And there’s more: Most recently, in March of this year (there were more incidents prior to this), Hartless was found guilty of three counts of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence against his girlfriend Marlina Medrano, stemming from the fact that he had assaulted her and tried to run her over with his car. A Misdemeanor DV conviction also precludes you from owning or possessing firearms (those of you reading this know that you must acknowledge that you have no felony or Misdemeanor DV convictions on the 4471 form before you can purchase a firearm). Apparently, nothing was done by the courts to seize the firearms Hartless owned. He spent only 90 days in jail. Each count of DV could have carried a 6-month-maximum sentence. Hartless was released April 11 without explanation.

This month, Medrano was forced to get the courts to issue an emergency protection order against Hartless, as the threats had started again since she would have nothing to do with him. This piece of paper ordered Hartless to stay away from Medrano. But it was exactly that, a piece of paper that meant nothing to the predatory coward that now had one mission in mind: to kill the woman that he felt had scorned him.

Here is the point folks: The criminal justice system cannot be counted on to protect you from anyone — even when people in that system know what the offender is likely to do. The only people that a piece of paper will deter are law-abiding citizens, who would not be a threat to begin with. Your protection against dangerous predators is up to you.

While I can’t say with certainty that had Medrano or anyone else at Pine Kirk been armed and prepared with a concealed carry permit (which is a piece of “paper” that actually does have a chance of protecting the person to whom it is issued), it would have stopped Hartless before he wreaked the havoc he did, I can say that at least they would have had the potential for a fighting chance. Yes, I know, Chief DiSario, who was armed, was shot and killed. I don’t know why that happened. But I can say that I would rather be standing behind a .38 revolver than a paper protection order when evil comes banging on the door. I hope you feel the same way.