Richard Rhodes, 49, of Kent Avenue NE facing multiple charges

A suspect has been arrested after a bizarre spate of shootings and vandalism that damaged multiple businesses, state agencies, churches and businesses.

Uniontown Police arrested Richard Rhodes, 49, of Kent Avenue NE, at 2:20 a.m. Tuesday. He faces charges of felonious assault, improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property and discharging a firearm on or near a prohibited premises, said Chief Harold Britt.

Rhodes also is facing three felony charges from the Stark County Sheriff's Office. Those charges are possessing criminal tools, improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle and vandalism.

Marlboro Township Police Chief Ron Devies said more charges are pending as Rhodes is suspected of setting fire to St. Nikolai Orthodox Church and cutting down a crucifix at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Alliance early Sunday.

 

Lt. Leo Shirkey of the Ohio Highway Patrol's Canton post in Jackson Township, where a parked cruiser was shot up, said Rhodes is a person of interest in that incident.

Rhodes remained jailed Tuesday morning as investigators from more than a dozen state and local agencies piece together multiple incidents of destruction. No one was hurt in any of the incidents but numerous properties were damaged or destroyed.

Stark County court records identified Rhodes as a clerk at a bureau of motor vehicles' office.

His bond was set at $500,000.

No motive

Rhodes is accused of shooting multiple times at several businesses and state agencies, including eight Ohio Department of Transportation vehicles, three state bureau of motor vehicles' offices and a highway patrol cruiser parked outside the Canton post, authorities said.

Charges from county sheriff deputies stem from allegations the suspect used a firearm to shoot out windows at a state Bureau of Motor Vehicles exam station in Plain Township.

The motive is unclear.

"Our investigators are still out processing crime scenes," Shirkey said just before 10 a.m. His investigators were at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles' driver examination stations at Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls and in the North Canton area, as well as two Ohio Department of Transportation facilities — one on Mount Pleasant Street and the other on South Arlington in Summit County.

Police believe Rhodes went first about 5 a.m. Sunday to the St. Nikolai Orthodox Church, where he broke a window to get inside, spread 10 gallons of accelerant, opened a can of propane and set fire to the structure, said Devies, who was meeting with Britt, Ohio Fire Marshals Office investigators and staff with the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"Fortunately, when the oxygen ran out, the fire went down to a smolder and (firefighters) were able to confine it to heat and smoke damage," he said.

But the building was rendered unusable. The 40-member congregation is seeking a temporary place to meet.

Authorities believe Rhodes then went to the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Alliance. Neighbors in the area reported hearing a chainsaw running about 5:30 a.m. Sunday, when a hand-crafted crucifix was cut down and its granite foundation smashed, Devies said.

"Both of those congregations are seeking closure and (his arrest) will help them as they seek to understand and recover and forgive," said Hartville Police Chief Lawrence Dordea.

Hartville targeted

Dordea said Rhodes reportedly cut down 11 banners throughout the village of Hartville, likely removing the evidence from the scene.

"We couldn't find a bit of them," the chief said.

Uniontown officers believe Rhodes used a ladder Sunday night to climb utility poles to cut down the banners, which depicted the Village Hall steeple. Britt said Rhodes went from there to Hartville Hardware, where he used spray paint to blot out the "heart" design on the doors. The hardware store is in Uniontown Police's jurisdiction.

"Last night, he returned to shoot out the windows at Hartville Hardware," Britt said. "He shot out the 'heart' above the main entrance 12 times."

Then, Britt said, Rhodes went behind the business, while two employees were inside, and shot a vehicle there.

Police believe Rhodes continued his destruction, cutting down a Hartville Equestrian Center sign and the Soap Box Derby sign in Akron before traveling to the license bureaus — one in Cuyahoga Falls, another in Barberton and the third one at 3195 Whitewood St. NW in Plain Township — where the windows were shot out. At some point, he also shot at Ohio Department of Transportation vehicles and then the supervisor's car at the highway patrol post before shooting out windows at the DeHoff Realty building in North Canton.

Already a suspect from the first incident at the Hartville Hardware store, Rhodes went home, where he was arrested by Uniontown police with assistance from Hartville police.

"Chief Britt waited for him to come home and started asking questions and (Rhodes) confessed," Devies said.

Reach Lori at 330-580-8309 or lori.steineck@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @lsteineckREP