Ron Welch announces 2020 run for Muskingum County Prosecutor

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Ron Welch announces 2020 run for Muskingum County Prosecutor

Muskingum County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Welch announces he is running for Prosecutor.

Muskingum County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Welch announces he is running for Prosecutor.

Muskingum County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Welch announces he is running for Prosecutor.

Muskingum County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Welch announces he is running for Prosecutor.

By Christine Holmes, News Director

Muskingum County will be electing a new prosecutor to take office in 2021, and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Welch has his eyes set on the position. 

With the full support of current Prosecutor Mike Haddox, who is not seeking reelection, Welch filed his petition with the Board of Elections Monday for the primary ballot. 

“My entire career has been as a prosecutor, and my intent is to end my career as a prosecutor,” said Welch.

Welch has worked as an assistant prosecutor in the felony division since 2005, making him the senior-most criminal prosecutor in Muskingum County, second only to Haddox. 

“I’ve spent my whole career working towards being the best prosecutor I can be,” said Welch. “There is no one more qualified for this position than I am.” 

Experience

Throughout his 22-year career as a prosecutor, Welch has tried nearly every type of felony crime including death penalty cases, murder, child homicide, rape, child sexual abuse, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, robbery, home invasions, domestic violence and stalking. 

Muskingum County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Welch questions a witness during convicted murderer Emile Weaver’s hearing.

He has trained prosecutors throughout the state and nation on issues involving child abuse and sexual assault trial strategies, served on child fatality review boards and domestic violence review teams and has provided training to law enforcement. 

Additionally, Welch regularly speaks to numerous civil organizations on various criminal issues including theft, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

His office has worked with local organizations to allow them the resources to recognize signs of sexual assault, including fine-tuning protocols at Muskingum University when a sexual assault is reported on campus.

Welch has presented to area schools on topics such as bullying and sexting, and he has trained nurses at Genesis who handle cases of sexual assault. 

He is currently in the process of establishing a children’s advocacy center in Muskingum County for juvenile victims of physical and sexual abuse so they can have their medical, psychological and legal needs addressed without having to leave the county. Welch was the on-site prosecutor during the creation of a similar facility in Franklin County.

For all of his contribution to the community, Welch has received recognition by police departments and domestic violence agencies.

But his work is not done.

“I’m running for prosecutor because I want to serve the citizens of Muskingum County. I want to make it a better and safer place for people to live and to raise families and a place where people want to stay if they’ve grown up here, or come back to if they have moved away or move into if they are from the outside,” said Welch. “I think that our county has a lot to offer and that the continued commitment of our prosecutor’s office to those goals is a real advantage for our community.”

Career and education

A graduate of Philo High School, Welch went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts Degree in political science from The Ohio State University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Toledo College of Law. 

After passing the bar exam, Welch remained in Toledo to begin his career at the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office. About a year later, he found his way to Columbus as a juvenile prosecutor for the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office. He would soon transition into the abuse unit where he spent five years prosecuting crimes against women and children and eventually took over as director.

In 2005, Welch was given the opportunity to return home when Haddox offered him a position at the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s office. 

A goal he shared with his Maysville native wife was to raise their children close to family, so Welch accepted the job and has remained in Muskingum County ever since.

“I grew up here, and when you’re growing up someplace, you sometimes don’t appreciate what it has to offer,” said Welch. “After I had moved away and had an opportunity to experience life in other places, both medium-sized cities and large cities, I realized that raising a family in a small area that still believes in the same values that you do as far as right and wrong and law and order and how people treat each other with respect and a person’s word is still worth something are qualities worth returning home for.”

As prosecutor, Welch said he wants to improve the areas in Muskingum County overrun by crime so that neighborhoods can be restored to safety.

“I want to focus resources into those areas so that the neighborhoods that have been impacted, that their residents and the businesses that are there can reclaim those areas for good, productive uses, [and] not be burdened by drug houses and worrying about syringes and needles and drug use being out in the open and creating issues,” said Welch.

Aggressive approach

When Welch first arrived in 2005, the annual felony caseload was somewhere between 200 to 250 cases in Muskingum County. Nearly 15 years later, the load has more than tripled to exceed 700 cases.

“Obviously, I think a lot of that has to do with the explosion in drug-related issues,” said Welch. 

Welch recalls a time when 75 to 80 percent of cases involved some type of connection to drug usage. Now, he conservatively estimates that figure being closer to 85 to 90 percent. 

“The drugs that are being trafficked are destroying not just our community, but communities like ours throughout the country, and the crimes that come about as a result of drug use aren’t simply somebody sitting in their home using a drug,” said Welch. 

The response to the uptick in drug-related crime in Muskingum County has included the aggressive prosecution of drug traffickers and crimes resulting from drug usage but also the chance for rehabilitation, where appropriate, for offenders who’ve shown potential for success.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Ron Welch calls Narcotics Detective Matt Wilhite to the stand during trial.

“We’ve dealt crippling blows to drug traffickers and their networks through a series of investigations by the sheriff’s office, the Zanesville Police Department, as well as through the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force,” said Welch. 

In the past five years alone, Welch said his office has achieved sentences for drug traffickers in excess of 1,000 years in prison.

“The caseload has grown dramatically,” said Welch. “Even with that increase, the staff has maintained an incredibly high level of success and efficiency in fulfilling their roles.”

In addition to their work on drug cases, the office has also tackled a number of other salient issues in Muskingum County.

Criminally, Welch said he and his colleagues have aggressively pursued violent crimes like domestic violence and child abuse, and they’ve increased their prosecution and success rate regarding sexual assault cases.

“We will continue to aggressively pursue domestic violence and child abuse cases. It’s very difficult for children who are in a home that is impacted by drugs or domestic violence or child abuse to focus and develop appropriately as they get older,” said Welch. “We note that there is a connection between childhood trauma and drug usage that we hope to be able to address and minimize.”

Civilly, his office has increased its efficiency in the areas of tax collection and foreclosures by prohibiting individuals from avoiding paying their taxes or letting properties deteriorate without providing any value to the community or taxbase. 

Footsteps to follow

Although Welch knows he is ready to take on the role of Muskingum County Prosecutor, he recognizes that he didn’t get there alone. Much of his knowledge and success can be attributed to the leader of his office — Mike Haddox.

“I think that the community has benefitted in ways that most people wouldn’t realize because Mike served the community as well as anyone could ever ask. His honesty, his integrity and his reputation have never been called into question. He’s respected by judges. He’s respected by attorneys. And from the perspective of an employee, maybe most importantly, is he’s respected by everyone that has worked for him,” said Welch. “He is knowledgeable in every area that a prosecutor should be knowledgeable in. He has provided guidance to all of the members of the office, regardless of experience. I can’t say enough about Mike. He is passionate about his job. He is tenacious when it comes to the idea of doing what is right, but he has always done so with an eye towards what is fair, not just what is punitive, not just punishment.”

From Haddox, Welch said he has learned diplomacy, patience and leadership.

“He’s taught me that being fair and just is always the right outcome, that cases involve real people, not just names on paper, that we, as prosecutors, have to do the right thing everyday, every time without exception,” said Welch. “That we can’t let our judgement be clouded for any reason because if we allow that to happen, then justice hasn’t been served properly.”