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Probation officers to face discipline after Kirkersville tragedy

There could be disciplinary actions coming for probation officers who signed off on the release of Kirkersville killer Thomas Hartless. (WSYX/WTTE)

Three probation officers and possibly the director of Adult Probation at Licking County Municipal Court could face discipline, even termination, after the Kirkersville massacre last week.

Administrative Judge Michael Higgins spoke candidly about his report and the deficiencies found in the Thomas Hartless case. He did not want to be recorded during the interview, but said if the old probation system were to have been followed correctly, gunman Tom Hartless would never have gotten out of jail early in April. Judge Higgins and Director of Probation Kevin Saad said Hartless would still be in jail, which would have prevented him gunning down Marlina Medrano, Cindy Krantz and Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario last week.

Judge Higgins now calls Hartless a "psychopath with a shotgun," but said not remembering his domestic violence case when signing off on his early release last month is something the judge will "take to his grave."

Judge Higgins admitted the municipal court and its probation officers became "complacent" with how they handled the domestic violence offender. In Hartless' case, the probation officers did not review his court files before recommending his early release and did not do any home visits after his release to check for guns.

Judge Higgins said he now knows he has a target on his back and security services have been offered to him because of all of this. He has revamped the system to put a new three-tier check-and-balance system in place when it comes to domestic violence cases. The probation office has already pulled more than a hundred current cases to comply with the new system, which will include sweeps of offenders' homes to look for guns.

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