A teenager who told authorities where two bodies were located had an initial appearance today in Putnam County Juvenile Court.
Michael A. Fay, 17, appeared before Judge Michael Borer to face one count of delinquency related to felony grand theft after he was arrested with a vehicle in the parking lot of a gas station in West Columbus on Thursday.
It was the same day an Amber Alert was issued for him and two other Ottawa boys that were believed to be with him. He told authorities where the boys, Blaine Romes, 14, and Blake Aaron Romes, 17, were located.
Authorities have not said how the two boys died or released a motive in the deaths. One of the bodies was found in a crawl space underneath the boys' mobile home and the other was found in a field outside of the village.
Judge Borer ordered the youth to be held in the Wood County Juvenile Detention Center. Todd Schroeder, an assistant county prosecutor, told the judge that the Fay youth could face additional charges. He did not elaborate.
The youth entered a not guilty plea to the charge.
The boys' mothers were inside the courtroom for the afternoon hearing.
Kevin Brinkman, superintendent of Ottawa-Glandorf Local Schools, said both Blaine and Blake were on their respective schools' track teams.
"They were wonderful students and well respected by the other students in our school. They made great decisions and the kind of students that were looked up to by their classmates," Mr. Brinkman said.
Don Diglia, superintendent of Elida Local Schools, confirmed that the Fay youth is a student at the district's high school.
“We have counselors available and we have talked to the teachers to let them know if they have students with concerns to make the counselors aware,” Mr. Diglia said. “We still really don't know what happened.”
After spending the night in a Franklin County juvenile detention facility, the Fay youth was ordered earlier today by a juvenile court magistrate to be returned to Putnam County to answer to the grand theft auto charge. Franklin County Lead Juvenile Court Magistrate Bill Kirby approved Putnam’s request for a transfer during a hearing.
“It’s my understanding that they are prepared and on their way to come get him,” Mr. Kirby said.
He was represented at the Columbus hearing by a local public defender. The 17-year-old did not fight the transfer.
The Fay youth told authorities Thursday evening that the two boys were dead and gave the location of their bodies, according to the the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.
The alert was canceled earlier Thursday after the Fay youth was found with the vehicle described in the alert in Columbus, 114 miles southeast of Ottawa. He was taken into custody at a Marathon gas station at Broad Street and Hague Avenue.
At that point, the other two teens were considered “missing endangered children.”
Putnam County sheriff’s Lt. Joshua Strick said the three had been last seen at midnight Wednesday at 1570 N. Perry St. in Ottawa in a silver 2006 Chevrolet HHR.
In Columbus, Marathon gas station worker Lisha Richmond said a person who had been driving that car came in asking for directions to Belle Street.
At the same time, police arrived on scene. The vehicle was later removed from the scene.
Late Thursday afternoon, the street in front of the Romeses’ mobile home was blocked off with yellow crime-scene tape. Three Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation trucks were parked on the street, and investigators with the agency took evidence from the home in white bags.
At 8 p.m., a small group of teenagers had gathered in the parking lot at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. They would not talk to a reporter.
Throughout the evening, sheriff’s deputies blocked off roads while they apparently looked for information in the case. Ottawa, the seat of Putnam County, is 65 miles southwest of Toledo.
Classmates and teachers of the two Romes boys mourned the loss Thursday as word of the teenagers’ deaths slowly spread throughout the close-knit village of 4,500.
Sam Williams, 17, a neighbor of the Romes brothers, said Blaine was supposed to join his classmates early Thursday at Glandorf Elementary to board a bus for the district’s eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C.
The Williams youth, a junior at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, said he talked to Blake Romes on Wednesday night after he got home from track and field practice. He said Blake planned to shower and go to bed because he had to get up early to take his brother to the school.
Sam Williams said the Romes brothers were involved in athletics at their schools. Blake played football and was on track and field squad, and Blaine was on the basketball and track and field teams at his school.
He said the boys had a typical sibling relationship in that they got along with each other.
“The boys had their fights, but they are brothers,” Sam said. “They got along with almost everyone.”
A group of six women gathered outside St. Peter and Paul Elementary School on Thursday night, where they joined hands and prayed.
One of the women, who would not give her name, said Blaine was a student in the Catholic parish’s religion class she teaches weekly in the school.
She said he would have been in the fall class to receive the sacrament of confirmation.
“Our hearts are just broken. This is really a tragedy,” she said before breaking down into tears.
The church in Ottawa was the home parish for the Romes children, she said.
“We just need to hold our young people close,” she said.
Dr. Mandy Klass, Putnam County assistant coroner, has ordered autopsies, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said.
Dr. Maneesha Pandey, a Lucas County assistant coroner, said late Thursday that there was no word yet when the bodies would be transported to Lucas County.
A friend of Shellie Grothause, the mother of the Romes brothers, said Ms. Grothause left work about 5:30 a.m. after she got a call from the school that Blaine had not arrived there.
She went to the mobile home to find her sons and the Fay boy missing.
Ms. Grothause works the night shift at Whirlpool in Ottawa.
Her partner, Victoria Fay, who neighbors said lives in the trailer and is the mother of the Fay youth, also works at the factory.
Sam Williams said Michael Fay lives in the home with the Romes family, but he didn’t recall ever meeting him or seeing him leave the home.
“I don’t know what he looks like one bit,” he said.
By Mark Reiter - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
Blade staff writers Jim Provance and Kelly McLendon contributed to this report.
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