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Indictment alleges plot by teacher



Published: Fri, June 1, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- A teacher from the Columbiana County Career Center faces criminal charges that he conspired to kill a village woman, the 2-year-old child they had together, and the woman's grandparents.

A county grand jury Thursday indicted Thomas Kelm, 35, of 4099 Lisbon Road, Leetonia, on four counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

Kelm is in the county jail on $500,000 bond. He could be arraigned as early as Monday.

The potential victims in the crime were April Frantz, her daughter Catelynn Frantz, and April's grandparents, Joe and Cora Frantz, all of whom live together in Lisbon.

John Gamble, an assistant county prosecutor, said he was uncertain of April's age, but he said he believes she's about 20.

Gamble offered few details of the murder plot.

When asked the motive, Gamble would say only that the plot "was an extremely selfish act."

Gamble refused to comment on published reports calling the crime a murder-for-hire scheme.

Authorities have said other arrests or indictments may be forthcoming.

Kelm has hired Atty. Lawrence Stacey II of Columbiana to represent him.

To plead innocent: Stacey said he and his client are reviewing the charges against him. Kelm will plead innocent at his arraignment and likely seek a lower bond, Stacey said.

Kelm's indictment resulted from a joint investigation by the sheriff's office, prosecutors and the FBI.

Besides the conspiracy charges, Kelm is also charged with theft in connection with insurance money he allegedly kept for a firearm he reported stolen in September.

He is also charged with carrying a concealed weapon, which stems from a search of his vehicle after his May 25 arrest by sheriff's deputies at an area flea market.

Authorities said they found a loaded, 9mm handgun under the vehicle's seat.

Felony: Each of the conspiracy charges is a first-degree felony carrying a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The maximum term for the theft, a fifth-degree felony, is one year; for carrying a concealed weapon, a fourth-degree felony, the maximum is 18 months.

April attended Lisbon David Anderson High School and was not one of Kelm's students.

Kelm is an agriculture and career development teacher at the career center, where has been employed for about 10 years.

In light of his arrest, his employment status is being reviewed by school officials.

leigh@vindy.com




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