Time to Heal

THE BELLAIRE community has not been at ease since June of 2012.

That is when 92-year-old Lydia Ashworth was brutally killed in her West Bellaire home.

The village and surrounding areas were in shock when hearing the news of such a heinous crime. West Bellaire is a peaceful and residential community. Crimes like that are not supposed to happen there, especially against a 92-year-old woman.

Fear and anger ran rampant. Residents wondered why and who would do such an unthinkable act and would a similar incident occur again.

Through the dogged and passionate work of a host of law enforcement agencies two arrests were made. Two young Bellaire men — Devon Fuller and Brandon Phelps — were arrested and charged in the case.

Belmont County Prosecutor Dan Fry and his staff superbly delivered the case against Fuller which yielded convictions on charges of aggravated murder committed in the course of aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of burglary.

Judge John Solovan gave him the maximum sentence he could, that being life in prison.

The Phelps’ case, meanwhile, never went to trial as a plea deal was reached.

Phelps was sentenced on charges of complicity to involuntary manslaughter and a charge of aggravated burglary.

Judge Frank Fregiato also delivered the harshest sentence possible — two 10-year sentences to run consecutively. Phelps is not eligible for probation.

The two sentencings help to put closure to a painful time for the Ashford family and the community of Bellaire.

Nothing can make the situation totally right, but justice has been served and the healing process can move forward.