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Drug charges dismissed against RHS teacher
By Beth Church
Drug trafficking charges filed last week against a Rossford High School teacher have been dismissed by the Rossford Police Department.
Instead, officers are investigating another suspect who framed Todd Eckel, 42, of Hannum Avenue, by attaching containers of marijuana to the underside of the teacher’s vehicle.
“There was enough evidence to show that Todd Eckel was not involved in placing the marijuana on his car–and he had no knowledge of it,” Rossford Police Chief Glenn Goss said.
Mr. Eckel was arrested December 1, and charged with trafficking in drugs, a fourth-degree felony, after the police department’s canine indicated drugs on the vehicle in the high school parking lot.
Mr. Eckel is a physical education teacher and has served as a football and track coach at RHS.
Chief Goss said he consulted with the Wood County prosecutor’s office last Friday morning, and they agreed to drop the charges.
Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon III announced at a press conference Friday afternoon that the charges had been dismissed.
“The people involved in this will be brought to justice,” he said.
Due to the ongoing investigation, the mayor said city officials could not comment further about the case.
Rossford Schools Superintendent Dan Creps, who attended the press conference, said Mr. Eckel was placed on administrative leave with pay as of Tuesday, December 2.
The suspension was to become unpaid beginning Friday, December 5.
However, when the charges were dropped, his employment was reinstated as of Monday, December 8.
“Due to the unusual circumstances of the situation, Mr. Eckel will not lose pay for the period of time he was placed on the unpaid leave of absence,” Mr. Creps said.
Chief Goss said Mr. Eckel’s attorney will pursue the option to have the court records sealed.
The police chief believes his officers acted appropriately at the outset of the case.
“The officers did the right thing at the right time and right place,” he said. “There was enough probable cause to arrest him based on the evidence at the scene.”
Law Director Kevin Heban agreed, explaining, “When officers are at the scene, they usually call the Wood County prosecutor’s office. They went through the proper channels and received the direction to file the charges.”
Chief Goss said the investigation continued and revealed new evidence.
“What happened afterward, the officers and the detective gathered enough information to show he was put in the position of looking like a criminal when he wasn’t,” the chief said. “The charges were dismissed based on good police work.”
Chief Goss said interviews now are being conducted, evidence gathered and results are expected from the state crime lab. Police also are looking into the source of the marijuana.
At press time, a new suspect had not been arrested.
Following his arrest, Mr. Eckel was supported by numerous community members who doubted his guilt.
“It is great to know that everyone now understands that I am completely innocent and did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said.
“I also want to thank all of the people who have worked so hard to find the truth and those that didn’t even know me, but came forward and saved my life by saying what they knew.”
“Considering I have never sold or done an illegal drug or even smoked a single cigarette in my life, this has all been so surreal,” he added.
Mr. Eckel said his Christian faith provided support during the crisis.
He also appreciated “the incredible outpouring of love and support by the great people of Rossford, Ohio–my town, the town I grew up in, coach in, and teach in has been overwhelming.
“Thank you to all of the wonderful people of Rossford for believing in me,” he said. “Thank you for letting me know I have made a difference.”
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Rossford lies at the heart of the Crossroads of America, an area experiencing tremendous economic growth, located at the crossroads of Interstate 75 and the Ohio Turnpike. The city's population of approximately 6,000 is primarily a mix of descendants of Polish, Czechoslovakian, German and Ukrainian workers who came from Pennsylvania to work at the glass plant, now Pilkington.
Rossford was incorporated as a village in 1939 and as a city in 1971. The City is a municipal corporation which operates under its own charter and is governed by a mayor and seven-member City Council. Rossford is served by full-time police and part-time fire departments, dispatched from the neighboring Village of Walbridge.
The City maintains a Community Recreation Center and three parks, one of which,Veterans Memorial Park, features a seasonal marina along with picnic areas and diamonds and courts for baseball, tennis, basketball and volleyball.
Rossford has three elementary schools, Glenwood, Indian Hills and Eagle Point, a junior high and high school and All Saints parochial school for grades pre-kindergarten through eight.
The city boasts a public library and many service and community organizations such as the Rossford Business Association, Lions Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its Rossford Community Service League sponsors annual activities such as a Valentine's Day Dance, Easter egg hunt, Halloween, Memorial Day parades and their Christmas tree lighting.
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