Putnam Co. teen charged with delinquency

Officials mum on any motive in 2 boys’ deaths

  • Michael-A-Fay-17-is-escorted

    Michael A. Fay, 17, is escorted into the Putnam Municipal Court courtroom by Putnam County Sheriff Michael C. Chandler for charges of grand theft auto.

    The Blade/Lori King
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  • Michael A. Fay, 17, is escorted into the Putnam Municipal Court courtroom by Putnam County Sheriff Michael C. Chandler for charges of grand theft auto.
    Michael A. Fay, 17, is escorted into the Putnam Municipal Court courtroom by Putnam County Sheriff Michael C. Chandler for charges of grand theft auto.

    OTTAWA, Ohio — Although he led investigators to the bodies of Blaine and Blake Aaron Romes, 17-year-old Michael A. Fay is accused so far only of stealing a vehicle from the home he shared with the teens.

    Charged with delinquency in connection with grand theft, the Fay youth made his first appearance Friday in Putnam County Juvenile Court, a day after the bodies of Blaine, 14, and Blake, 17, were found.

    An Amber Alert was issued Thursday after Mi-chelle Grothause returned home from work before sunrise to find her sons, the Fay youth, and the family’s 2006 Chevrolet HHR missing.

    PHOTO GALLERY: click here to view

    Columbus police later located the vehicle at a Marathon station in Columbus, where they took the Fay youth into custody. He spent the night in a youth detention facility and was returned to Ottawa after making an appearance Friday in Franklin County juvenile court.

    Michael Fay, 17, of Ottawa, Ohio, is shown in this photo from Twitter.
    Michael Fay, 17, of Ottawa, Ohio, is shown in this photo from Twitter.

    At the hearing in Ottawa, the handcuffed teenager sat with his mother, Victoria Fay, and gave one-word “yes” and “no” answers to Judge Michael Borer’s questions, which included whether he understood the charge he faces and his constitutional rights. He pleaded not guilty.

    Judge Borer appointed attorney William Kluge to represent him and ordered that he be held in the Wood County Juvenile Detention Center. A pretrial hearing date for the case was not scheduled.

    The teenager is being housed in the detention center in Bowling Green because Putnam County doesn’t have a youth facility.

    Ms. Grothause and her partner, Ms. Fay, sat next to each other in the courtroom before the Fay youth was brought in by deputies. Ms. Grothause showed little emotion as she watched the proceeding. Ms. Fay and her son live with Ms. Grothause.

    The Romes boys’ father, Brian Romes, said in an interview that he last talked to his sons on their birthdays in March.

    “They were amazing kids. I really think they had respect and manners for others,” said Mr. Romes, who was married to Ms. Grothause from 1997 to 2002.

    Todd Schroeder, an assistant county prosecutor, told the judge that the Fay youth could face additional charges at a later point, but didn’t elaborate. He urged the judge to hold the teen in custody while he awaits trial.

    Ottawa Police and the county sheriff’s office maintained silence Friday on the investigation. Sheriff Michael Chandler said that he wouldn’t provide additional information, and instead referred questions to the county prosecutor.

    The bodies were found shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday after investigators learned of their location based on statements the Fay youth gave to police, said Gary Lammers, the county prosecutor.

    One victim was found in a crawl space under the family’s trailer in the Elkcrest Trailer Park at 1570 N. Perry St., while the other body was located in a ditch east of Ottawa along Putnam County Road 7, south of U.S. 224.

    Mr. Lammers said he had talked to law enforcement officers handling the investigation, but didn’t have information on where the bodies were found.

    Using a Twitter account that numerous classmates, friends, and relatives indicated was his, the Fay youth posted numerous messages Wednesday, with none that appeared suspicious. The tweets were mostly opining about girls, drama, and other standard high school topics.

    The account went silent 10:41 p.m. Then, there was a final post at 4:14 a.m. Thursday.

    “I need someone to talk to now!!! Like dead ass serious,” he tweeted.

    Neighbor Ray Lauf points to the crawl space under the trailer where Michael A. Fay, 17, allegedly hid one of the bodies.
    Neighbor Ray Lauf points to the crawl space under the trailer where Michael A. Fay, 17, allegedly hid one of the bodies.

    Don Diglia, superintendent of Elida Local Schools, said Michael Fay 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.”

    Mr. Lammers said police prepared an affidavit and obtained a search warrant in Ottawa Municipal Court to enter the home after Ms. Grothause reported her sons and the Fay youth missing.

    The street in front of the Romes’ mobile home was blocked off to traffic early Thursday while investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation combed the structure for evidence. Three trucks with a state crime investigative unit were dispatched to the mobile home park.

    Ray Lauf, who lives with his brother in the trailer next to the Romes’ home, said investigators asked them to go indoors about 6:10 p.m. while they removed the body, which had been found after a skirt panel was removed from the Romes’ trailer.

    “They told us to stay back and out of the way and I did,” said Mr. Lauf, 77, a retired carpenter. “I’m just glad that that they found them.”

    Both men said they had not heard or seen anything unsual at the neighboring trailer from late Wednesday to early Thursday.

    Ken Lauf said Mrs. Grothause knocked on his door about 5:30 a.m. and asked if he had heard any noise coming from her home while she was at work. He said she told him her sons were not in the residence and she had a gun in the house.

    The bodies were taken to the Lucas County Coroner’s Office on Thursday. Dr. Maneesha Pandey, deputy Lucas County coroner, said autopsies were performed Friday and the results forwarded to Dr. Anna Horstman, the Putnam County coroner.

    Dr. Horstman could not be reached Friday night to report on the autopsies’ findings.

    Mr. Lammers said murder charges could be filed against the Fay youth, pending what facts and information are gathered in the investigation.

    “It depends on what facts the investigation file presents. At this point, it is premature for me to speculate on what the charges could be. They could run the gamut of some very, very serious charges to some more theft-related charges,” he said. “We want to make a further review and there may be other charges.”

    Blaine Romes was an eighth grader at the elementary school in Ottawa and Blake was a junior at the high school. Both boys were on their school’s track and field teams. Blake had played football during his freshman year.

    “They were really the kind of kids that you want in your school district,” said Kevin Brinkman, superintendent of schools. “They were well-respected by their peers. They were leaders. They always seemed to make the right decisions and the right choices.”

    Counselors and psychologists were made available to students, teachers, and staff Friday at the Ottawa-Glandorf schools.

    Mr. Brinkman said teachers were notified Thursday night about the deaths and staff meetings were held early Friday before classes at the high school and the elementary schools in Ottawa and Glandorf.

    “We have systems in place to work with students to address any concerns they have about the situation, as well as ongoing student mental-health services,” he said. “It has gone remarkably better than what we anticipated.”

    Blaine was to have joined his classmates early Thursday to begin a four-day trip to Washington — a trip Mr. Brinkman said went on as planned.

    “The building principal, who is on the trip, has relayed to me that things are going well and they are keeping a close eye on the students,” he said.

    According to court records, the boys’ stepmother, Lora Rome, was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence for assaulting Blaine in 2005. An affidavit in Ottawa Municipal Court states that she punched the boy, then 5, on his upper chest and under his chin and both ears.

    A jury found her guilty of the assault and she was sentenced to 90 days in jail, fined $1,000, and ordered to undergo anger-management assessment. She was released from jail after serving 56 days of the sentence and served the remainder under house arrest.

    Blade staff writers Nolan Rosenkrans and Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.

    Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.