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Your Digital Source for Zanesville News

Y-City News

Your Digital Source for Zanesville News

Y-City News

Local judge sold land to drug dealer’s girlfriend, hunted on property


Muskingum County Judge Jay Vinsel, a former Muskingum County Assistant Prosecutor, sold land to the long-time girlfriend of notorious local drug dealer, Dwight Taylor; he also retained hunting rights on the property for himself and one guest.

The sale came within a week of Taylor being caught up on a parole violation in the 90s, recently out from prison on drug-related charges, discovered by our news agency during a broader re-investigation into the Dwight Taylor prosecution, officials involved in that matter are either now dead or refused to respond to inquiries by Y-City News to explain their actions and the perplexing timeline of events; other allegations continue to be investigated.

Assistant Prosecutor John Litle’s filing where he describes the ‘private owners’ who retained hunting rights to the property.

Due to the pandemic and staff turnover as a result of the government shutdowns, in 2020 when Dwight Taylor was initially arrested, Y-City News had limited coverage of his arrest and prosecution. While investigating and publishing articles on former Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney David DeVillers’ involvement in Muskingum County, after leaving federal service, we began to receive reports alleging we didn’t properly cover the Dwight Taylor case, using those tips we found numerous concerns that weren’t previously published, this is the first article in that series of re-investigations.

Taylor was arrested with his long-time girlfriend, Deborah Kirsch; while examining her case file, we discovered a few irregularities, one being that Assistant Prosecutor John Litle made notice of ‘private owners’ having lifetime hunting rights on their residential property and farm. As their names were not cited, we wanted to see if they also may have been involved in the drug trade, and if they had been arrested and not previously mentioned, what we discovered was even more shocking, it ended up being a local county judge who often handles misdemeanor drug cases, including paraphernalia.

“The two have resided together for the term of their relationship, and in 1996 the property at 12665 Green Valley Road, Muskingum County, Ohio was purchased for $62,500 in the name of Deborah Kirsch from private owners who retained hunting rights to the property,’ wrote Muskingum County Assistant Prosecutor John Litle in a filing titled ‘Memorandum in Support’ in Kirsch’s criminal case file.

With no name of who the previous owners were, we visited the Muskingum County Recorder’s website and searched for Deborah Kirsch, there were over fifty entries, but the third one down, filed in 1996, the only one of that year with her name on it, listed party one as Jay Vinsel as well as husband and wife, Bradley and Carolyn Stubbs. We recognized Vinsel as being a local judge but we were unsure what he was doing back in the 90s, so we looked up his law license, which he obtained in 1983.

Using newspaper archives, we searched for him, where we found an article in the Zanesville Times Recorder from October of 1995 in which Peggy Matthews writes that then Muskingum County Prosecutor Mark Fleegle hired Vinsel as an assistant prosecutor.

“Former Zanesville safety director and local attorney Jay Vinsel will handle all misdemeanor cases for county court,” wrote TR reporter Matthews. “The hiring of Vinsel brings the number of office attorneys back to where it was when former prosecutor Allen Wolfe became Common Pleas Court judge in April.”

“Jay, Mike (Haddox) and I can ‘float’ from one court to another – it should make us interchangeable, if possible,” Fleegle told the Times Recorder. “In the past, if someone was gone, it was hard to get that work covered… we’re going to try it and see how it helps with the work load. Hopefully, we can keep court cases moving a little faster this way.”

The article also mentions that Fleegle has known Vinsel since he was 12 years old; Fleegle, who is now a judge in the Court of Common Pleas, presided over both Dwight Taylor and Deborah Kirsch’s criminal cases.

Dwight Taylor had a previous criminal case from the early 1990s in which it appears he was caught with numerous drugs, including Cocaine, but from limited filings still available, pleaded down to the trafficking of Marihuana; he was sentenced to prison at the Belmont Correctional Institution.

He applied for Shock Probation in December of 1994, which was granted in January of 1995, with his prison sentence suspended and placed on probation by the court. In February of 1995, Judge Richard Hixson continued that order by placing Taylor on Intensive Supervision Probation, for a period of five years; he was also ordered to pay a mandatory fine of $2,500 – half each of which went to the Prosecutor’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department.

It is unclear what happened next, as there are no filings detailing what occurred in his public court case file, held by the Muskingum County Record’s Department. The next entry is by Judge Hixson in 1996 ordering that Taylor be released from the county jail.

Judge Richard Hixson’s 1996 order releasing Dwight Taylor from county jail.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz, using his department’s archives, was able to verify Taylor was in the county jail, but due to the stay being roughly 30 years old, other details are gone; we are told he was placed in the jail on a parole violation, but can not verify that.

The property owned by then Assistant County Prosecutor Jay Vinsel and husband and wife, Bradley and Carolyn Stubbs, was sold to Dwight Taylor’s then-girlfriend Deborah Kirsch on June 24, 1996, the following Monday, July 1, 1996, Taylor was released from jail.

The Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office, we are told, has a more complete criminal case file, but that was not made available to us; in the filings available in the Record’s Department, then Assistant Prosecutor Jay Vinsel’s name or signature does not appear, though then County Prosecutor Mark Fleegle’s does.

Assistant Prosecutor John Litle, in his Memorandum in Support in Deborah Kirsch’s criminal case, verified that she and Dwight Taylor had been dating since at least around 1994; Kirsch was a teacher at the time of her arrest and once worked for the Muskingum County Juvenile Court/Detention Center.

As part of Dwight Taylor’s plea deal, some of the proceeds of the residence and land along Green Valley Road were to be credited to Kirsch, who had used her earnings throughout the years to maintain and make improvements to the home.

In 2021, Judge Mark Fleegle ordered said house and land to be forfeited to the Muskingum County Commissioners, attached to that order was an exhibit detailing that Jay Vinsel had the rights to use the property for the purpose of hunting and fishing, along with a guest. The property sold at auction for $406,250.

Exhibit ‘A’ of Judge Mark Fleegle’s order forfeiting the property at 12665 Green Valley Road to the County Commissioners in which Judge Jay Vinsel had hunting and fishing rights.

Also of interest, Taylor’s attorney, Jefferson Massey, was disciplined by the Ohio Supreme Court for his actions in Taylor’s 1990s drug case, receiving a public reprimand and having his law license suspended for six months.

“As I have advised you a few times, I have intentionally delayed on collecting any attorney fees from you because I was not certain what assets the government might attempt to seize,” Massey wrote in a letter to Taylor. “Any cash paid to me amounting to over $10,000.00 has to be reported by me to the federal government. This would probably trigger an investigation of you by the IRS on all earnings you may have earned by drug sales on which you failed to pay income taxes. This could cost you several years in federal prison. Obviously, we need to avoid these problems.”

“However, because I have already spent over 125 hours on your case with more to be spent and because we need to resolve the attorney fees before the conclusion of your case, you and I need to figure out how you are to pay the legal fees at this time,” Massey continued. “Being fair to you and me, I feel that a fair figure on attorney fees is $30,000. This is several thousand less than many other attorneys would have charged you and I have done a better job than other attorneys would have done. As for how this gets paid, I would suggest that you pay the sum of $9,900.00 in cash or by check as you desire. If you can deposit some funds in your mother’s account and pay part of it by a check from your mother, this would be a fairly safe way.”

As detailed by the Ohio Disciplinary Counsel, this action was to help evade paying taxes on receipts made to Massey in cash.

Y-City News reached out to both Judge Mark Fleegle and Judge Jay Vinsel as well as the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office, our questions were not answered by the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office and neither judge returned our inquiry. We reached out to former colleagues of Judge Jay Vinsel, but those inquiries were also not returned.

Judge Vinsel was elevated from being an assistant prosecutor in August of 1999 when Governor Bob Taft appointed him as Zanesville’s municipal judge; he ultimately was elected to be one of two judicial members of the Muskingum County Court, which hears misdemeanor cases.

Both Judge Fleegle and Judge Vinsel are age-limited and unable to serve another term; Fleegle’s term expires at the end of 2026, with many saying that he will retire this year, and Judge Vinsel’s term expires at the end of 2028. According to the Ohio Supreme Court, Judge Jay Vinsel makes roughly $87,000 per year, $35,500 from the local budget and the balance paid by the state through a Supreme Court appropriation.

Many who have stood before Judge Vinsel recall him as being a fair and understanding adjudicator of justice. When Muskingum County Prosecutor Ron Welch dropped felony charges against Cory Marling, the local elementary principal accused of the sexual exploitation of area children, Vinsel guaranteed he received the most time possible in the county jail while also ensuring he would have the longest possible parole length, protecting the public’s most vulnerable, it’s children, from the predator.

Y-City News continues to investigate. Do you have additional information about this situation, other information you think our news organizing should know about or want to bring our attention to a matter that needs investigating? We would like to hear from you. Contact us at (740) 562-6252, email us at or mail us at PO Box 686, Zanesville, Ohio 43701. All sources are kept strictly confidential.

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Comments (4)

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  • S

    SteveJun 22, 2024 at 11:54 am

    A corrupt judge in Zanesville? Take a look at retired judge Hooper.

  • K

    Kip MillerJun 20, 2024 at 12:20 am

    I think that this another example of government offical. They are sneaky and crooked and twist the truth for they own benefits. Sound like the rest of the system broken and full of lies. I don’t believe people believe in the law anymore because of this kind junk. People don’t the government federal or local government. Cops are so corrupt. I read the bill board on underwood street by red lobster. I just thought cops should look at themselves.

  • D

    dennis carterJun 19, 2024 at 3:26 pm

    the fbi needs to come here in zanesville ohio and lock them all up inclueing sheriff matt lutz. they all must work the drug cartel.

  • C

    ChongJun 18, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    Just like I always knew. Zanesville is run by nothing but crooks