An accused armed robber has a new trial date thanks to continued discussions about a plea deal.
Michael J. Fette, 46, of Lancaster, is charged with aggravated robbery, theft, possession of criminal tools and two counts of attempted kidnapping. The aggravated robbery and attempted kidnapping felonies come with firearm specification.
Fette waived his right to a speedy trial Tuesday and got a new trial date of March 4. He has another pre-trial hearing scheduled for one day earlier.
Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway said a pending plea deal "is being actively discussed" between the state and Huron County Public Defender David Longo.
Longo confirmed he and Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler are discussing a plea deal. Longo also told the judge just in case it doesn't go through, he needs a report about DNA evidence from the prosecutor's office. Conway said he was confident the plea would be completed by the time of Fette's new trial date.
Fette is accused of robbing the Missler's IGA in Willard in August. He also is suspected of committing similar crimes in several parts of southern Ohio.
A man who was near Missler's looking for scrap material flagged down an officer with the Willard Police Department about the armed robbery. He reported seeing a suspicious vehicle parked near a trash receptacle.
Janet and John Missler, who own the grocery store, arrived at closing time when Fette came out of the back room.
"Once he put his arm straight out with a gun in his hand and told John and I to get into the office, we knew what was happening," Janet Missler earlier told the Reflector.
"The gun was cocked," she said. "He wasn't messing around. At first we were going to do what he was telling us to do. He told us to get in the back room."
Missler's husband managed to leave, fled to the nearby Pin Oak Apartments and had somebody call 9-1-1.
"(Fette) went into the office and grabbed the money. Everything was happening so fast that night," Missler said. "Nobody got hurt, but we are all shook up."
The victim suspects Fette's plans changed when she and her husband walked in on the robbery and after her husband fled the building. Missler said the suspect told them he planned to use zip ties to tie up her and her two employees and after he left, he would call police.
"He did threaten my husband. It was not a good situation at all," Missler said.
When an officer arrived, he noticed a man walking toward a parked vehicle. After a brief chase, Fette was arrested at gunpoint.
Police recovered more than $29,000 in cash, a 9 mm handgun, extra ammunition, zip ties and a hat Fette reportedly was wearing when he walked into Missler's. When the vehicle was recovered and searched, officers found more ammunition, two more bags of zip ties and the suspect's ID card.
Fette complied with officers' instructions after he was apprehended, but police said he reportedly refused to speak with investigators.
Chief Mark Holden has said robberies in Athens, Champaign, Knox and Pickaway counties have a "similar M.O." and happened "over the last few months." Willard police collaborated with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Bellefontaine Police Department and other agencies regarding Fette's suspected crime spree.
Bellefontaine police investigated a May 24 incident in which Fette is accused of robbing Community Markets. He is charged with one count each of aggravated robbery and kidnapping.