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Former police officer agrees to plead guilty
[Columbus, OH]

January 24, 2001
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Former police officer agrees to plead guilty
[Columbus, OH]

Bob Dreitzler, Dispatch Staff Reporter
January 23, 2001, Tuesday
Copyright 2001 The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus Dispatch
January 23, 2001, Tuesday

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Hours after torching his sport-utility vehicle, Columbus police officer Roger G. Runion picked up a new truck he had test-driven the day before.

That bit of evidence -- and a whole lot more, said Pickaway County Prosecutor P. Eugene Long -- would have been presented at Runion's trial this week if he had not agreed to a plea bargain yesterday.

Runion pleaded guilty to one count of attempted insurance fraud.

"It was a well-documented case,'' Long said. "It probably would have taken a week to try it.''

Runion, a seven-year police veteran, faces as many as 12 months in prison.

In exchange for the plea, charges of arson and insurance fraud were dropped against both Runion, 35, and his wife, Susan, 40. Mrs. Runion's trial was set to begin next week.

Long said he expects Runion to qualify for release on community control, which can include probation.

The plea bargain also requires him to repay his insurance company about $ 23,000 for the truck he burned.

Runion would not comment after the hearing but confirmed that he resigned from the police department last weekend.

Sherry Jones, a spokeswoman for the department, said Runion's resignation was being processed yesterday. Since his indictment, Runion has been driving a police employee shuttle bus between headquarters and a remote parking lot, Jones said.

The Runions, who live near Ashville, were indicted in July. They were accused of setting fire to their 1997 Ford Expedition on Sept. 1, 1999.

The sport-utility vehicle was set on fire at a Scioto River fishing spot along Rt. 762. Runion told investigators at the time that he and his wife had been fishing when they heard the vehicle horn blow and found the Ford burning.

Charcoal lighter and lantern fuel were found in the vehicle.

Authorities said the Runions were about 2 1/2 years into a five-year lease on the vehicle.

"They had been having financial problems with it, and they had been trying to trade it,'' Long said.

Their lease allowed them to drive the vehicle 12,000 miles a year. However, service records showed that it had been driven more than 65,000 miles when it was burned, Long said.

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