SALEM, Ohio – Dave Klingensmith was losing hope that anyone would ever be arrested for torching his Trumbull County dairy farm and killing his cattle last summer.
But Jan. 25, seven months after the crime, 22-year-old Roddy Rudkin Jr. of Leavittsburg, Ohio, sat in Warren Municipal Court on charges relating to the fire.
“It’s really a relief that they’ve charged someone,” Klingensmith said. “I’m just hoping the justice system will do what it should.”
Charged. Rudkin pleaded innocent and remains in jail without bond, according to fire investigator Matt Balut.
Investigators also are trying to locate another subject in relation to the June 24 fire, he said.
Balut expects more arrests to be made and said further information will come out when the case goes to a grand jury.
An arrest has not been made and charges have not been filed relating to a similar fire at a nearby horse farm in May, he said.
Foul play. More than 50 of Klingensmith’s dairy cows were killed in their tie-stalls, unable to escape. Another barn holding 500 large square bales also burned.
From the start, Klingensmith suspected foul play.
One of the first things he noticed when he rushed outside at 2:30 a.m. was the open barn doors, he said. He’d just came inside from night milking and knew he’d closed them.
In August, Trumbull County fire investigators confirmed it was arson.
“I can’t understand why they’d do it,” Klingensmith said. “Where do these people come from?”
Continuing. Initially, Klingensmith doubted he’d return to milking. He was nearly debt free and cringed at the idea of borrowing money to get going again.
Plus, at the time of the fire, his herd was in the top 5 percent of Ohio for milk production. That would be something too difficult to rebuild, he thought.
Within days of the fire, though, he started missing the cows.
“I must be crazy but come chore time … well, it was an empty feeling,” he said.
The community stepped in, donating time, money, feed and even their cows to Klingensmith. He rebuilt the facilities and milked loaner cattle until the rest of his herd freshened and he was able to buy new animals.
He’s now milking 43 cows and has plans to get several more.
“Things are coming together pretty well,” Klingensmith said. “I’m really encouraged by our future. We’re going to be all right.”
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)