EXIT 9 Investigations: Series 1 – Kurt Sova PART III: (To Protect and Serve Newburgh Heights)
The following is an excerpt from the CCPCA (Cuyahoga County Police Chiefs Association).
NEWBURGH HEIGHTS POLICE DEPARTMENT
“Newburgh Township was organized as a governmental unit on October 15, 1814. The Township extended from Warrensville to old Brooklyn on the west, with the Cuyahoga River as the boundary to the south the limit was Independence Township. Mill Creek provided the area with water power for a grist mill that stood in the general area of Miles and Broadway. The Ohio Canal played a role in the early transportation of the area. A lock was located on Old Harvard Road. The records show that Gains Burke, a one-legged, one-armed man served the area as the first Constable.”
“On February 25, 1904, the village of Newburgh Heights was incorporated. At that time Anton Eddel served as marshal, assisted by one patrolman. Newburgh Heights gained its first notoriety with the local enforcement group called “raiding squads.” Each suburban mayor and justice of the peace had a crew of deputies, who had authority to search out and apprehend violators of Prohibition. It was easy to spot a still as the fermenting mash sent out tell-tale evidence. Armed with “John Doe” warrants, the crews could operate countrywide. Competing bootleggers would allegedly tip-off crews in other communities. The total loot of spirits would be confiscated, and the equipment dismantled or smash.”
James F. Lukas became the Newburgh Heights Police Chief on January 1, 1976; he was 32. He was in charge of modernizing the police department, with the backing of the city council and Mayor; updating the equipment for the transition into the 1980s. New equipment included a new filing system, a LEADS machine, a breathalyzer, and others. He also implemented a detective bureau, traffic unit, a warrants division, and a juvenile jail system. Chief Lukas stated during that time “These were problem areas and putting a specialist in charge pretty much cleared them up.“
( An early 1980’s breathalyzer)
During its height of performance under Chief Lukas, the department had fifteen active officers (one female), two K-9 canines, seven civilian dispatchers, eight auxiliary police, and five traffic crossing officers. At the time of his service as Police Chief, Lukas was married to his wife Barbara for fifteen years and had four children. James Lukas who served as Newburgh Height’s Police Chief (1976-1984) falsified documents for a police dispatcher and was found to have a criminal history, including a conviction for dereliction of duty. He defended the investigation of the Kurt Sova case by stating to The Plain Dealer newspaper in 1991:
“That’s not even fair. What happened was completely unrelated. That’s the only part I take offense to. That (Sova) case was handled on the up and up.” – James Lukas
Former Detective Robert Carras pleaded guilty to striking Eric Kotonski of Newburgh Heights with a flashlight during a drunken-driving arrest in December 1990; kicking John Rogers of Cleveland as Rogers lay handcuffed after a February 1989 abduction and harassment arrest; pulling Larry Villanueva’s hair during questioning about a February 1989 break-in; and striking Donal Geib across the face during the same interrogation. Carras was also convicted on drug and corruption charges.
The Assistant Prosecutor James A. Gutierrez for Cuyahoga County questioned Robert Carras in 1990 about his involvement in covering up the case and/or Kurt’s death. Nothing materialized, and Carras eventually went silent regarding the investigation, refusing to be questioned by The Plain Dealer in 1991 and the Cuyahoga Sheriffs Department.
*The below statement is from the Associated Press:
“CLEVELAND (AP) _ A former police officer serving a 4 1/2 year prison term on drug charges pleaded guilty Monday to mistreating suspects.”
“Robert Carras, 41, of suburban Newburgh Heights originally pleaded innocent to five federal charges of kicking, hitting and pulling the hair of suspects. Carras pleaded guilty to the charges before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Lambros, who sentenced him to a 51-month term concurrent with his drug sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Clarence Taylor said Carras changed his plea in exchange for the concurrent term. The former police officer was charged with brutalizing suspects in four separate incidents. Carras pleaded guilty to striking Eric Kotonski of Newburgh Heights with a flashlight during a drunken-driving arrest in December 1990; kicking John Rogers of Cleveland as Rogers lay handcuffed after a February 1989 abduction and harassment arrest; pulling Larry Villanueva’s hair during questioning about a February 1989 break-in; and striking Donal Geib across the face during the same interrogation. He also pleaded guilty to handcuffing a Cleveland taxi driver, James Stipetich, to a hot radiator after a confrontation. Carras was convicted in December 1990 of 76 counts of aggravated drug trafficking and 76 counts of illegal processing of drug documents. Carras was convicted of forging prescriptions for Percocet, an addictive painkiller.”
We explore the case of Eugene Kvet in PART IV.
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