Testimony began on Thursday in a trial in Highland County Common Pleas Court involving a Greenfield man indicted in July on drug and receiving stolen property charges.
John David Ralston, 47, faces first-degree felony possession of heroin, fifth-degree felony aggravated possession of methamphetamine, two counts of fifth-degree felony receiving stolen property, and one count of fourth-degree felony receiving stolen property.
The charges stem from April police searches of his Jefferson Street home and a building where allegedly stolen items and a “large amount” of what was later determined to be heroin were found.
The search warrants were the result of an investigation following a reported break-in and theft at Weastec in Greenfield’s industrial park.
Prosecutor Anneka Collins said in her opening statement that Ralston “makes his living off the misfortune of others.”
She talked about Ralston’s neighbor seeing the defendant’s truck full of materials in the early morning hours of the day the Weastec break-in was reported. Collins talked about a home being built outside Greenfield, and how items were stolen from that site on two occasions last year. The prosecutor also told jurors that those items were recovered at Ralston’s home, and a building he uses for business on SR 753.
The “significant amount” of heroin recovered from Ralston’s home, Collins said, amounted to just over 70 grams.
Defense attorney Patrick Mulligan said Ralston basically runs “a recycling business,” and that Ralston’s employees buy things “from every Tom, Dick and Harry.”
He said a “steady stream” comes to Ralston’s property to sell him everything from pop cans to equipment to furniture. He said Ralston’s business was “largely based on instinct, experience and trust.”
Mulligan said the evidence would show “certain items” were stolen, but that it would also show that Ralston didn’t know of the items being stolen.
Testimony at first focused on analysis of the evidence collected by law enforcement when search warrants were executed.
According to testimony, a green coat was found in Ralston’s garage, and in the coat pocket wasa bottle containing what was later determined to be heroin and methamphetamine. The bottle was not tested for DNA, nor were the pockets, according to testimony.
Sara Glass, who analyzed DNA data on the coat, said Ralston was the major contributor. Under questioning from Mulligan, she acknowledged that a biological father and son will share “about half” of the same genetic markers. She said she did not test the DNA for Ralston’s son, Jonathan, who Mulligan indicated in opening statements is now in prison on drug charges, but who previously lived in Ralston’s home with his “ strung-out, drug-addicted girlfriend.”
A person in prison has their DNA in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), and Glass said when the DNA was run, if there had been a CODIS hit, she would have known and done a subsequent report, but there was no such hit, she told Collins.
She testified that there was “possible additional DNA” present on the coat, but she said Ralston’s “was the major DNA” present.
As referenced in her opening statement, Collins called a homeowner and a building contractor to the stand regarding items stolen on two separate occasions last October and November from the site of a home build, items that they reported as stolen and later identified as items recovered from Ralston’s residence and the building. A Weastec representative testified to the same regarding items taken from the industrial park facility. The latter incident resulted in the investigation that led police to Ralston.
The homeowner testified that some items were specially made for his home, like an octagonal window that bore his name. Testimony by Det. Sgt. Chris Bowen with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office said he located that window and other items from the home-build site in the loft area of the SR 753 property.
Ralston’s neighbor on Jefferson St. testified that in the early morning hours of April 20, he saw Ralston and another man arrive at Ralston’s house, his truck full of items.
Bowen said he was present for an interview of Ralston, who indicated that he had purchased the items, later to be determined to be from Weastec, from a guy named Billy, but Ralston was unsure of his last name. He said Ralston said he got the items from the building site from a Lucasville flea market earlier in April.
Bowen said the defendant told him he had surveillance cameras on both properties. The detective said he told Ralston that it would be in his best interest to let law enforcement see those, but the footage has never been turned over to law enforcement, Bowen said.
GPD patrolman Jennifer Lowe testified that she responded to Weastec following the report of a theft there. After processing the scene, she said she went to local scrap yards attempting to locate the items. She observed wire matching what had been taken from Weastec in Ralston’s back yard. A search warrant was then obtained.
Lowe said in an interview with Ralston she told him of the heroin find and he asked where it was found and if they had found anymore. She said she “nonchalantly” asked him if they’d missed some, and he “grinned and shook his head.”
As to the coat where the bottle containing drugs was found, he said the coat belonged to someone named “Buddy,” Lowe said, but Ralston didn’t know the guy’s last name.
Lowe testified that Ralston said he thought he took a copy of the ID of the man he said he bought the Weastec items from, as junk yards are required to do, but he’s never produced it.
As of the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing, the state had not yet rested and the defense is yet to present its side of the case. Testimony is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. riday.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.