June 27, 2016

Partly sunny

Man found incompetent arrested again for car theft

LODI — A 40-year-old Burbank man was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle — less than a week after a Medina County judge found him incompetent to stand trial on another car theft charge.

It was the third time Eugene A. Riffle had been found incompetent in two decades.

Eugene Riffle

The vehicle reported stolen was a 1999 Ford pickup owned by Jason Lynch, 28, of Lodi.

Lynch said he went to get his vehicle, which he had left parked at his workplace in Wayne County when he saw the vehicle in Lodi’s Circle K restaurant parking lot, 441 Medina St.

“There sat my pickup,” Lynch said. “I leave it in Wooster, and there it is in Lodi.”

Lynch called police who found Riffle at the Circle K. He was charged with receiving stolen property in Medina County and vehicle theft in Wayne County. Both are felonies.

He was taken to the Medina County Jail, where he’s being held on a $50,000 bond.

County Prosecutor Dean Holman said his office had filed a “motion to retain jurisdiction” before the last case was closed, which would have allowed Riffle to be ordered sent to a mental institution.

But Holman said county Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier wouldn’t approve the motion because it is limited to more serious felonies.

“We’ll have to start the process over ,” Holman said.

This time, though, Holman said he intends to use county Probate Court to try to send Riffle to a behavioral hospital.

He said he doesn’t have high hopes, though, because Riffle could only face 1½ years of punishment based on the level of felony he’s charged.

“I don’t think they’ll keep him there long,” Holman said. “He’ll be released into the community eventually either way.”

Until then, he said he intends to try to keep Riffle locked in the county jail.

Lodi Police Chief Keith Keough said he’s familiar with Riffle because he’s been through the legal system so often.

“I think he’s stolen about 10 cars — like a dump truck and an ambulance,” Keough said. “He gets arrested, and then he gets found incompetent in court.”

He said Riffle steals the vehicles “to get from Point A to Point B” and then goes about his business.

Riffle was caught on security cameras in the Circle K parking lot, where Keough said Riffle paced in and out of the store before he pulled a chainsaw from the vehicle and tried to start it.

“It was kind of bizarre,” Keough said. “He was in an accident at some point, and I think it caused him some mental deficiencies.”

Keough said he hopes Holman can find a program to keep an eye on Riffle.

“He’s becoming a menace,” Keough said.

In the earlier stolen vehicle case, which was dismissed last week, Riffle was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

The doctor, from the Psycho-Diagnostic Clinic of Akron, said Riffle had severe, permanent cognitive impairments.

In 2011, Riffle was sent to Akron’s Haven of Rest Ministries, a rehabilitation center, after successfully pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

Riffle has had at least nine felony cases in two decades from Medina and Wayne counties since 1996 — including charges of vehicle theft, receiving stolen motor vehicles, aggravated vehicular assault, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, breaking and entering and stealing checks.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.