Page 3 of 4
Just before 4 p.m. on July 7, they were dispatched for a drugged female at the pool, only to have one of her friends pass out at the same time EMS was treating her, stoking EMS's fears that more women have been and will be drugged: "The EMS worker informed me that it was most likely ruphy (sic) and stated there will probably be a lot more individuals getting ruphied (sic)." The police report notes "nothing further" in terms of an investigation.
Two Saturdays later, at the same time of day, they were back out there again. A woman who had been at Mist was sitting just outside the pool bar, propped up by two friends. She was "unresponsive to any attempts to get her attention." EMS placed her in an ambulance, telling police she was likely slipped rohypnol.
According to Put-In-Bay police records obtained by Scene, these occurrences are nothing new at Mist. Similar instances were reported by police and EMS during the past three summers: At least three women were suspected of being drugged there last summer. A few more instances a year before that. A few more in 2011.
The victims' names are redacted in the reports and attempts to contact them have been unsuccessful. Owner Ed Fitzgerald has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
A manager at Mr. Ed's responded to an in-person inquiry by saying, "My response at this time is no comment." Another employee chimed in, "If you want a statement, the only guy who can talk is the owner and he's not here right now, so you're not going to talk to us."
Other parts of Put-In-Bay are not immune to trouble this summer either.
On May 10, a woman reported her daughter had her pick her up because she became sick after possibly being drugged at the Fish Bowl, a bar just around the corner from Mr. Ed's. Police went to the bar, reviewed security footage, and found the name of the guy ordering drinks for her through his credit card receipt, though all that's noted in the report is as follows: "This case is still under investigation. Nothing Further."
On June 14, Todd McBride, a 27-year-old visiting the island from Mentor, was arrested for sexual imposition after witnesses say he tackled an extremely intoxicated woman running from him through the park in front of the bars, got on top of her, pulled her dress up and spread her legs. A witness flagged down the cops, who found McBride on top of her. The police report says the crying woman's speech was slurred, she smelled like alcohol, and "had no clue as to what was happening, where she was or how she got there. It was clear that she was in no shape to consent to any sex act." Police interviewed McBride, who had apparently been harassing her all night: "As Mr. McBride was being questioned he state multiple times that he knew (victim) was drunk. Mr. McBride even stated that she was drunk and he was thinking he was going to get laid."
On June 16, a 51-year-old woman reported to police she and at least four others with with her were allegedly drugged at another nearby bar, Mojito Bay, when a couple of men asked to take pictures with them. "I went from being totally normal to being totally out of it," she told ABC's Toledo affiliate. "Gosh, I don't remember most of the afternoon. The afternoon was spotty, it was so many people saying the same thing that they thought: Why did I react to alcohol that way? Not that we drank a lot, but we're experienced people, we're older, we are used to the professional scene." The Ottawa County sheriff's office is investigating this case, according to news reports.
On June 15, a 16-year-old girl was taken to a bar by an older man and allegedly drugged. When she got home, she lost consciousness and had to be flown via helicopter to a Toledo hospital. Police have security video and a statement from a bartender that a man gave her a drink there, but no arrests have been made.
On July 18, an employee of a sexual assault unit in Lorain County reported to police that she just completed a rape kit of a woman who had been raped on the island on July 12. Police forwarded it to the county.
Put-In-Bay's seclusion, the demographics of its visitors and the island's resources, or lack thereof, create a culture where such acts can not only go unreported, but uninvestigated.
Visitors often disappear after a weekend if not a single night, often driving hours back to wherever they live and out of in-person contact with law enforcement. There is no hospital and there are no doctors offices to speak of on the island, just an EMS clinic and helicopter to transport people to hospitals on the the mainland, making testing for date rape drugs nearly impossible. The drugs leave the body very quickly — by the time a victim regains consciousness and seeks help, traces of it could very likely be gone.
The bartenders in the detective's report on the Mr. Ed's manager reported the suspect's been able to get away with it, so far, through intimidation, fear of retaliation and social pressure from his connected circle.
And then there's the police department. The department has only four year-round police officers. According to a 2013 Toledo Blade story, the island's police force grows to 25 on summer weekends after hiring a stable of seasonal officers to handle the bombardment of tourists. Seasonal cops mean inexperienced and young cops — all the veterans have full-time gigs elsewhere — and if you take a look at them patrolling the streets, you'll notice fresh faces, fresh buzz cuts and ill-fitting uniforms worn by young men who look like they aren't yet sure where to put their hands in resting position. Rape and drugging investigations get sent to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office in Port Clinton.