Ex-Logan County superintendent takes plea deal in child sex case

Heather O’Donnell, left, and Patrick O’Donnell.
Heather O’Donnell, left, and Patrick O’Donnell.

The former Indian Lake superintendent who faced 14 charges in connection with an alleged child rape accepted a plea deal Wednesday.

Patrick O’Donnell, 52, entered an Alford plea to one count of gross sexual imposition. That means he didn’t admit to the crime but accepts its punishment.

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Heather O’Donnell, his wife and the Midwest Regional Education Services Center superintendent, had two charges of children endangering dropped against her as part of the plea. She’s on paid leave pending the outcome of the case.

Patrick O’Donnell faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He will also have to register as a sex offender for 25 years. Logan County Common Pleas Judge William Goslee ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and a new court date wasn’t set.

“It was an agreement that we had actually been working on for the past couple days,” Logan County Prosecutor Eric Stewart said. “These type of cases are always traumatic. You don’t want to have to put the victim on the stand and be subject to trauma.”

Patrick O’Donnell had faced felony charges that included rape-child under 13, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition. The Indian Lake Local Schools fired him from his position in November. The alleged victim in the case wasn’t a student at the district.

The plea agreement was approved by the victim, Stewart said, and his main priority was to get justice for the victim.

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“We’re satisfied with the plea agreement,” Stewart said. “Mr. O’Donnell is facing prison time and will have to register as a sex offender.”

Along with the possible prison time, O’Donnell won’t be allowed to be a superintendent anymore, Stewart said.

In court, Patrick O’Donnell was asked by Goslee why he decided to take the plea deal.

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“To avoid the consequences of the trial,” Patrick O’Donnell said.

Patrick O’Donnell was taken to the Logan County Jail after his plea, where he is being held without bond, defense attorney Samuel Shamansky said.

The plea was in the best interest of everyone involved, Shamansky said.

“Cases of this nature are inherently unpredictable,” he said.

The deal is a good one for the defense, Shamansky said, given the mandatory life sentences the suspect had faced if convicted by a jury.

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Dennis Pergram represented Heather O’Donnell in the case and declined comment.

Dropping both counts against Heather O’Donnell is in the best interest of the victim, Stewart said. The victim remained strong throughout the entire process, he said.

“This girl showed tremendous heart and tremendous strength,” Steward said. “She faced a lot of pressure.”

Patrick O’Donnell was placed on paid leave in June after he was arrested. The Indian Lake School Board fired him in November and Patrick O’Donnell sued for his job back shortly after. Shamansky didn’t know Wednesday if that lawsuit would be dropped.

A call by the Springfield News-Sun to the Midwest Regional Education Services Center to ask about Heather O’Donnell’s future with the district wasn’t returned.

The plea deal was agreed to after a marathon jury selection process on Tuesday.