David Yonke

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Judge Rejects Bid to Withdraw Guilty Plea in Mosque Arson

by David Yonke 03-25-2013

The Toledo-area mosque damaged by fire on Sept. 30, 2012. Photo courtesy David Yonke.

A federal judge on Thursday denied an Indiana man’s request to withdraw his guilty plea in an arson blaze last September at a Toledo-area mosque.

The judge confirmed a sentencing date of April 16 for Linn, who was charged with intentionally defacing, damaging, and destroying religious property; using a fire to commit a felony; and using and carrying a firearm to commit a crime of violence. Judge Jack Zouhary of U.S. District Court in Toledo said Randolph Linn, 52, of St. Joe, Ind., was fully competent on Dec. 19 when he pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the Sept. 30 fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.

Linn, who did not testify at the hearing, had filed a motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he had signed the plea under duress and that he “did not have the opportunity to discuss defenses, tactics, strategies, or the nature and effect of my guilty plea and sentencing.”

 

The 'Racing Rev': 750-Horsepowered Faith

by David Yonke 11-27-2012
The 'Racing Rev' Dale Schaefer

The 'Racing Rev' Dale Schaefer

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- Until his recent retirement, the Rev. Dale Schaefer spent most Sunday mornings wearing vestments and leading worship services at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

But whenever he had the time on his off days, the soft-spoken preacher would slip a helmet over his gray hair, don an asbestos racing suit, and climb into the cockpit of a 750-horsepower dragster he built from the ground up.

“There is kind of a rush when you launch this thing off the starting line,” Schaefer said, giving his customized 1980 Plymouth Arrow a loving slap. “Your eyes go back in their sockets and they don’t pop back until you’re about at the hot dog stand. Then you can see again. It’s a rush.”

Pastoring a church of 500 had kept him too busy to take the car to Norwalk, Ohio, where he often competes in the Super Gas and Super Pro divisions at Summit Motorsports Park.

Now in his second month of retirement, the 68-year-old minister got to race in the drag strip’s Halloween Classic, a weeklong event that draws 1,500 cars from around the country.

Schaefer usually tops 140 mph in the quarter mile, crossing the finish line in under 10 seconds.

That’s a Sunday stroll in the park compared to the top-level pro dragsters that can pack up to 8,000 horsepower and reach speeds of more than 340 mph on a 1,000-foot straightaway, he said.

But it’s plenty of speed for a “sportsman” or hobbyist like the Racing Rev.

Mosque in Toledo, Ohio Scorched by Arson

by David Yonke 10-03-2012
RNS photo by David Yonke

The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. RNS photo by David Yonke

TOLEDO, Ohio — Muslim worshippers are reeling from an arson fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, but are grateful for an outpouring of support from the local interfaith community.

“All the support we get is very welcome because if you are going through a tragedy and you have a friend who is holding your hand it means a lot,” said S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for theUnited Muslim Association of Toledo.

Perrysburg Township police ruled that the Sept. 30 fire was arson. Surveillance footage from the mosque shows a “person of interest” — a white middle-aged male wearing a camouflage sweatshirt and hat  at the mosque’s entrance shortly before the fire, which was reported about 5 p.m.

Mahjabeen Islam, president of the Islamic Center, said the suspect poured gasoline in the center of the main floor where men worship at the mosque. Women pray on the same main floor, but in an area separated by a low divider.

“It was set in the men’s prayer area and the sprinklers turned out the fire. There is a lot of water damage from the sprinklers,” Islam said. “The Islamic Center is uninhabitable for easily three months.”

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