Six men have been accused of soliciting sex from undercover Clark County Sheriff’s deputies as part of sting operations at Buck Creek State Park during the past two weeks.
These men, some from Clark County and others from the Columbus and Cincinnati areas, all came to the state park seeking to engage in sexual activities with other men, said Sheriff Gene Kelly. He said they started the undercover operations because families and people wanting to enjoy the park were discovering the illegal behavior and alerting the sheriff’s office.
“They’re complaining that men are out here soliciting sex, exposing themselves and engaging in sexual activity, and so we’ve had multiple operations out here,” Kelly said.
Kelly and undercover detectives from the sheriff’s office and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources conducted a sting May 16 and Thursday at the park in Moorefield Twp. Six men were arrested.
“We’re going to make sure that this element understands that if you come to Clark County to this beautiful park that the person you’re trying to solicit or engage in sexual activity with may be an undercover officer. And if so, you’re going to be arrested,” Kelly said.
Dana Smithson, a resident of Springfield who was at Buck Creek with her family Friday afternoon, said she’s seen men and women lurking around restrooms and cars and was suspicious of such activity. She said she was grateful for the work to rid the family-oriented park of the illegal element.
“I think it’s great that they’re catching them; I think that it’s wonderful because (sex solicitors) are doing it here at 9 o’clock in the morning,” Smithson said.
The stings took place around the restrooms at the park, some of which are secluded and not in more public places like the park’s marina. The officers would look for certain behaviors such as the men walking into the woods and would watch for eye contact with other men, according to the court affidavit from one of the arrests.
One of the men caught in the sting, Joseph McCormick, 63, of Springfield, was also arrested on one charge of felonious assault and four misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest after attempting to flee from detectives. McCormick allegedly elbowed the undercover detective in the face while he was trying to put handcuffs on the man.
Also arrested on suspicion of public indecency and loitering to engage in solicitation, both misdemeanors, are:
Richard A. Hearlihy, 46, of Springfield; Richard E. Hutchinson, 51, of Reynoldsburg; McCormick; James E. Kincaid, 74, of West Chester Twp.; and Robert M. Odgen, 51, of London, Ohio.
Kelly and sheriff’s detectives do not know how Buck Creek has become a site for illegal acts in the underground community of sexual solicitation. Kelly added that people who are looking to meet up with others have their own networks and could possibly be using social media sites such as Craigslist to advertise.
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