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COLUMBIANA COUNTY Teacher charged in murder plot



Published: Tue, May 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Others may be charged in the conspiracy, the sheriff says.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

LISBON -- A teacher at the Columbiana County Career Center is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Thomas Kelm, 35, of 4099 Lisbon Road, Leetonia, was arrested Friday afternoon at the Rogers sale, a flea market where he was selling chickens.

Kelm was held in the county jail over the weekend, pending an initial appearance today in Eastern Area Columbiana County Court in East Palestine.

The offense he is charged with is a first-degree felony, and conviction could carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, county Sheriff Dave Smith said this morning.

Smith would reveal no details about the plot or the potential victim in the case.

He noted that investigators are convinced Kelm was part of a conspiracy to kill. Others may be charged in the plot, Smith added.

About the probe: County authorities became aware of the crime after being notified by the FBI's Youngstown office, which undertook the initial investigation, Smith said.

The FBI began the probe not knowing whether federal charges would be filed. But eventually, FBI investigators concluded no federal crime was involved and handed the matter over to the county to prosecute under state statutes, Smith said.

Teaching career: Kelm has been a teacher at the career center for about 10 years, Edna Anderson, school superintendent, said today.

Until his arrest, he was teaching agriculture and career development to juniors and seniors.

Since Kelm is in jail, a substitute teacher will be brought in to finish classes for the school year, which concludes Friday, Anderson said.

School officials plan to meet soon with the district's attorney to discuss Kelm's employment status, she said, noting that he is presumed to be innocent.

Whether Kelm can teach at the district while the felony charge against him is pending will be one of the matters school officials will take up with their attorney, Anderson said.




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