The Looming Battle 

You're not gonna believe who's on the undercard

With a 3-0, 3KO record and ranked number four in the world, lottery liar Elecia "Mega Bad Girl" Battle fights Tanya "The Redneck Mama" Colvin November 21 at the St. Clarence Hall in North Olmsted. You may recall Battle as the woman who told a whopper about losing a multi-million-dollar lottery ticket back in 2004. She was subsequently burned at the mass-media bonfire, her story inciting laughter all around the world.

Battle's had it rough since those days of yore. She and her husband called it quits, and if you think it's tough finding a job with a master's degree and a gold résumé, imagine trying to get a job anywhere, doing anything, with a list of legal beefs and a mug shot that's been plastered in every newspaper in America. Forgoing a career in reality television or some other growth industry, an entrée into the ring seemed like a natural progression. "I couldn't find a job anywhere I went, and I've always been athletic," she says by phone. "As a strong black woman, I've been fighting all my life. So I figured, why not?" Right.

Battle claims to have had a shot at fighter Laila Ali, to spar with world-class boxers and to be opening up an all-women's boxing gym - in her basement. Is any of it true? Who cares? No one should love the limelight as much as she does.

"You're giving me publicity and that's all I care about," she says. "All that stuff that was written about me made millions for newspapers and TV, and I didn't see a dime. See? So to me, that means there can't be any such thing as bad publicity."

A strange conclusion, to be sure, but nothing's ever been simple with Elecia Battle. She doesn't care what you think and knows many want to see her get her ass kicked, just on general principle. But with her new marriage, flourishing career and a book in the works (!?), she has clearly gotten the last laugh on all of us.

"Last year, I hit the scratch-off game for a thousand bucks!" she says. "But then they taxed the shit out of it. I was mad, but then I figured, just take it and be happy. With everything, I figure, I had a win coming." - Jimi Izrael


Last week, Scene revealed the name of the prime suspect in the unsolved abduction/murder of Amy Mihaljevic. Dean Runkle was a teacher in Amherst and Vermilion - a one-time "teacher of the year" - before he suddenly resigned in 2003 and moved into a homeless shelter in Key West. An eyewitness to Amy's abduction says he looks remarkably like the man she remembers from that day. Runkle's former students say that he used to volunteer at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, where Amy often visited, and he lived just a couple blocks from where Amy's body was found in Ashland County.

In response to our article, Bay Village police issued a statement asserting that the FBI has never officially named a "top suspect." "While the Bay Village police appreciates Mr. Renner's passion to find the killer of Amy Mihaljevic, his article does a disservice to the investigation," the statement says. "Neither the Bay Village police nor the FBI provided any assistance or information to Mr. Renner in his writing of the Scene article."

When the Lorain Morning Journal ran a front-page story about Runkle's connections to the case on Friday, editors there unearthed an old photograph of Runkle from their archive, a photo that bears a striking resemblance to the composite sketch of Amy's abductor. More reports following in the Norwalk Reflector and on Action News prompted Runkle's former students to send dozens of e-mails.

One woman came forward with a bizarre story about an unsuccessful attempted abduction in Vermilion in 1984: The would-be abductor said, "It's all right. I know Dean Runkle." At Scene's request, Vermilion Police produced the original report from 1984, which mentions the bizarre name-dropping of Runkle. In fact, the report states there was also a second woman who was almost abducted the same day while jogging.

Runkle was questioned by police. According to the report, "He stated it could have been anyone he taught over the past 18 years, but he will try and remember a subject of that description." No one was ever arrested for that crime. For other updates, see AmyMihaljevic.blogspot.com. - James Renner


So it's Michigan that brings medical cannabis to the Midwest. By a 63-percent plurality, voters there made their state the 13th in the nation to start allowing grass to be used to ease illness and injury. Perhaps Ohio better jump aboard or it could lose a lot more than gambling revenue: It could lose the aging grass-hopper, said to outnumber the aging straight-laced 45 to 1.

But it's gonna take some legislative tinkering to swing Ohio that way. A medical marijuana bill has been proposed here a few times in the last half-dozen years, only to die in committee. The most recent Senate version was finally scheduled for a hearing a week ago in the Judiciary Criminal Justice Committee. Republican Chairman Tim Grendell canceled, then rescheduled it for 10 a.m. Wednesday, November 19. (Maybe if he hit the pipe here and there, he'd have an easier time enjoying the ride.) With little more than a month in the current legislative session, activists have little hope for a breakthrough until a new crop comes to Columbus next year.

"Some of the more conservative members of the House, who have made clear their opposition to this measure, are gone, and all together, there's 30-something new members coming in," says Ed Orlett, director of Drug Policy Alliance Ohio, a grassroots medical cannabis movement funded generously in part by Peter B. Lewis.

Orlett, who doesn't know how all of the new members will stack up, is testifying before the committee today. He hopes the move by Michigan voters will embolden Ohio's electorate to clear up their Reagan-era obfuscation. And he's riding high about what's happening in Washington, where Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who's taken up the torch of decriminalization, will greet a new Democratic majority in January with an inauguration party said to end all disbelieving.

"I do know that of the 20 new [members of Congress], they replaced legislators who've taken strong positions in opposition to medical marijuana, so at least we have a better audience to play to this time," says Orlett.

And overseeing it all will be a president who truly understands the difference between getting high and getting drunk. Never has the power of veto rested in more weed-sticky hands. - Dan Harkins


Clear Channel is being, well, clear: The don of the region's billboard business won't budge any further than its current proposal before the city's Planning Commission to dismantle six static billboards for every one digital sign the company builds. That's one and a half less than requested by a coalition of community development corporations and neighborhood activists trying to unclutter the urban outback (a digital billboard displays an average of seven and a half ads).

Whoa, says Clear Channel. Who's in charge around here?

"The current law is to take down two boards for one digital," says company VP David Yale, referring to the law that actually requires "two or more" signs to be removed. "Ours is to take down three times what the current law says. That's as far as we're going to go. If it ends up being more than that, we're just not going to do any more digital in Cleveland."

The company has been getting worried lately, what with the Board of Zoning Appeals ordering the swap of as many as a dozen static boards in recent hearings. It has them wondering whether any of those political contributions to Council President Martin Sweeney (who first proposed capping the swap at six) or Planning Commission member Councilman Joe Cimperman (who set up a meeting at which Clear Channel urged the Ohio City Near West group to stop meddling in BOZA affairs) have attached enough strings to usher in the desired results.

Neil McCormick, chairman of Cinecraft Productions and the "reluctant landlord" of a cluster of signs on Franklin Boulevard that Clear Channel lords over for all eternity, says the deck is always stacked in favor of the favor-givers.

"They have an impressive amount of sway with some members of council and others in government," says McCormick. "So will they even feel the need to bargain?"

Still, by Clear Channel countering with a new offer, it shows the community has the power to force a conversation.

"Here's an instance where we can have a huge impact on the future look of the city," says McCormick. "To get what they want, [Clear Channel] need changes to city law to allow it, so it's time to use the leverage the city has to get a better deal and have some of these removed. There's thousands of them to choose from." - Harkins


Design Intervention Productions recruited Tim "Ripper" Owens to play the devil in a music-based cartoon show. By the time they were done talking, the heavy metal singer wound up a partner in his most square enterprise since 1996, when he quit selling printing services to front Judas Priest. Design Intervention, an Akron media production company, has partnered with multimedia specialists Lost Tribe Media in the new Old No. 3 Studio. The studio hosted an open house recently, welcoming Akron professionals with a pitch to help them connect to the rest of the world.

"My old boss was just here," says Owens, laughing as he finished some finger food. "He used to tell me, 'You've got to stop doing music and be a salesman full time. And here I am."

Owens and his wife Jeannie are among the partners in the creative services agency and studio, which is midway between the Rubber City's downtown and Highland Square. Lost Tribe Media formed to pool the talents of former employees of IQ Digital following a round of layoffs that hit in Thanksgiving 2005. Design Intervention produces Cognitive Concepts, an Alzheimer's-education program; the company is also pitching two complete music-themed entertainment programs but declined to elaborate. Together, they hope to lure clients for soup-to-nuts creative projects - advertising, documentation, broadcasting.

"I was working on a project a year ago," says John Cooper, a multimedia production veteran who also works as a creative director for a health-care company. "Every video-equipment place I would go to, I would ask if they knew of any studio space. And they'd say, 'No, but let me know if you find any.'"

Combined, the staff comprises 13 employees and partners, providing work for a handful of other part-time employees and hired talent. Most partners run the business as a part-time concern to supplement their full-time corporate gigs. Working in the renovated, 100-year-old Old No. 3. Firehouse, the partners want to help the Rubber City prepare for the digital age. "It's not about making money," says Owens. "But I see a future in it. I think it's a good thing for Akron." - D.X. Ferris


Many portents and omens foretold the Democrats' victory in the presidential election. Perhaps none was more emblematic than the hats for sale at the October 17 Akron concert featuring Devo, the Black Keys and Pretenders main woman Chrissie Hynde.

As the most recognizable part of Devo's elaborate iconography, the band's triangular energy-dome hats - often referred to as "flower pots" - are usually red. At the show, Devo's merch mavens broke out some blue domes that were left over from a series of corporate gigs for Nike and sold them for $30 a pop, with proceeds going to the Summit County Democratic Party. Shortly thereafter, the state followed the symbolic cue from Devo's headgear.

"Ohio went blue," says Mark Mothersbaugh, taking a call from his home in L.A. "That was great. We'll share [credit for] it with the Black Keys and Chrissie. We're very happy with the way things turned out. I don't overrate anything we had to do with it, but I think it was a part of nationwide movement of people that decided it was time for a change. We did what we were supposed to do and feel good that we were pro-active about it." The singer says Devo could be back in 2012.

"My prediction is that [Devo bassist] Jerry Casale will move back to Ohio and he'll run for office," says Mothersbaugh, laughing. "I thought he did a very good job at the concert. I was impressed that he put on his best oratorical voice." - Ferris


The O Files


THIS IS HOW ROSWELL STARTED Something crashed in Lake County last Thursday. At about 2:20 p.m., near Haines and McCracken Roads, several people saw a bright red flash in the sky and witnessed an unknown object fall to the ground, trailing black smoke, before exploding in the woods, according to a Star Beacon article. Local officials, fearing a plane crash, searched for four hours but found no sign of debris. A member of the Cleveland Ufology Project (clevelandufo.com) believes it could have been a UFO and is trying to track down witnesses. He notes the proximity of the event to the nuclear power plant, a known hot spot for flying saucers. The Lake County Sheriff's Office says it was nothing but a meteorite.

FORKED TAILS FROM THE CRYPT According to an increasingly popular local legend, an Ohio cult broke into the Paulick crypt, in the center of Alger Cemetery in West Park Cemetery (across from KFC!). Once inside, they burned the human remains as a sacrifice to their favorite demons. Now the cemetery is "heavily haunted with noises, shadow people and the like," says "Chuck" on CreepyCleveland.Blogspot.com "Also, the angel statue is said to move, change position and do other supernatural things. I DID note the angel statue's head was broken during one visit, only to see her intact and in a different location during a future visit." Ahhhhh! "Though, that could easily be the work of maintenance crews." Oh. Just in case, can you Satanist folk please close up your devil hole before someone gets hurt? Thanks.

ROAD TRIP In Hamilton, there's a small cemetery known as Symmes Park. Inside is a curious monument protected by an iron fence - a globe of the Earth with holes at the top and bottom. This is the version of Earth John Cleves Symmes believed in. Symmes, a decorated captain who served in the War of 1812 (which really lasted three years, but that's a story for another day), claimed that the planet was hollow and populated by intelligent beings. That hollow world could only be accessed through giant holes at the north and south poles. His theory inspired other scientists and at least one religion, Koreshanity. His followers believe dinosaurs still exist inside the Earth, along with Adolf Hitler, who escaped there before the end of World War II. The complete lack of evidence is the surest sign that the conspiracy is working. Contact The O Files at scene@clevescene.com


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