Clark county public defender charged with public indecency

Clark County to continue sting operations to combat sex in local park

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said it will continue sting operations at Buck Creek State Park to combat a reputation for men going there to engage in sex acts.

Clark County Public Defender Ronald E. Morris and another man, Jeffrey Edwards, were found off a trail in the park engaging in a sex act on Friday morning, according to an Ohio Department of Natural Resources officer’s report.

Both men appeared in Clark County Municipal Court on Monday and entered not guilty pleas. If convicted of the crime, each faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

>>RELATED: Buck Creek undercover sex sting nabs 6 men

The sheriff’s office has conducted sting operations in the park before, Sheriff Gene Kelly said, to arrest men for similar acts.

“These individuals who go there to conduct this kind of sexual activity need to be targeted,” Kelly said. “And the public needs to know that not only the rangers monitor this, but the sheriff’s office as well.”

In the sting operations, deputies walk the trails undercover, he said, and usually are quickly approached by men looking for sex.

“We want people to know that we are out there and we are in concert with the rangers,” he said.

The park needs to be patrolled, he said, to make sure it’s safe for families and others who want to enjoy nature.

“Those are places for people to come and walk and see the view of the lake,” he said.

Kathy Callihan has fished at Buck Creek State Park for years. She’s never heard of arrests for public indecency, she said.

“I think the park is very safe,” Callihan said.

ODNR officers are constantly patrolling, she said, as well as other employees.

“I don’t see how they could patrol anymore than what they’re doing,” she said.

This most recent arrest won’t stop her from enjoying the park, she said.

>>READ MORE: Springfield man accused in sex act, leads authorities on chase

Public indecency isn’t a frequent occurrence at the park, said Lt. Travis Martin with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. However, Kelly said his office had arrested multiple people in the park.

Recent data on the number of arrests at Buck Creek State Park was not made available as of Tuesday evening.

A 2014 sting from the sheriff’s office resulted in six arrests. And in October 2015, a man was accused of leading deputies and rangers on a pursuit through Springfield after he was accused of engaging in a sex act in a bathroom at Buck Creek.

Park rangers are always working to combat public indecency, Martin said.

“When officers are on patrol, they’re going to be vigilant,” he said.

The park’s guest are important to its employees, he said, and the arrests haven’t hampered the safety of anyone.

Morris didn’t respond to calls from the Springfield News-Sun for comment. James D. Marshall, the director of the county’s public defender office, said he’s aware of the situation, but doesn’t want to comment.

Anyone who sees suspicious activity in the park should contact local law enforcement, Martin and Kelly said. The sheriff declined to say when another sting might occur to avoid tipping anyone off.

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