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Missing Pa. lawyer arrested in Ohio

December 11, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A routine check of license plates outside a motel off Interstate 75 in Troy, Ohio, resulted in the arrest Thursday morning of Todd A. Dorsett, the Waynesboro, Pa., lawyer who has been missing for a month.

"This morning, at about 3:44 a.m., one of our officers was checking license plates in the Motel 6 parking lot," Capt. James Fox of the Troy Police Department said Thursday.

He said the plate numbers were run on the National Crime Information Computer system and "came back with a hit on Mr. Dorsett."

Pennsylvania State Police charged Dorsett on Nov. 12 with hindering the apprehension of Jacob G. Schaff V, 26, who is wanted on a state parole violation and a county bench warrant.

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Fox said Dorsett, 38, had checked in alone at the motel. Officers knocked on the door and found Dorsett alone in the room, according to Fox.

Fox said Dorsett was taken into custody and was being held Thursday in the Miami County (Ohio) Jail on a fugitive warrant.

Cpl. George Cronin of the Pennsylvania State Police said Dorsett waived extradition and was expected to be returned to Franklin County today.

Fox said a 9 mm pistol and a knife were found in Dorsett's Lincoln Town Car, but "in Ohio he was carrying it legally."

The arrest report did not indicate that Dorsett had an unusual amount of money with him, Fox said.

Cronin said a Jeep belonging to Dorsett was recovered by Pennsylvania State Police on Tuesday at Washington County Regional Airport near Hagerstown.

"We have not been able to determine how long the vehicle had been at the airport," Cronin said.

Schaff was still missing Thursday, Cronin said.

A Franklin County, Pa., bench warrant was issued after Schaff missed a Dec. 17, 1997, hearing on a nonsupport complaint filed by the Domestic Relations Department.

State police would not say why Schaff was accused of violating his state parole. The parole officer handling Schaff's case was not in his Harrisburg, Pa., office Thursday.

A number of relatively minor criminal charges had been filed against Schaff in Franklin County between 1992 and 1996. The state warrant was issued Aug. 25, 1997.

Schaff was Dorsett's client and at one time lived with him, according to court records.

Cronin said Thursday that no new charges had been filed against Dorsett, but that the case was still under investigation.

"I think everybody feels sorry for Todd," Waynesboro attorney Frank Martin said Thursday.

He said Dorsett, president of the Waynesboro Historical Society, was a respected member of the community and his disappearance was out of character.

"I was glad to hear he was safe," said William F. Kaminski, president of the Franklin County Bar Association.

"I'm also very curious to hear what he has to say," Kaminski said.

Dorsett and Schaff were last seen in the area on Nov. 9 at Dorsett's home, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

"It's time for him to go. I have to drop him off somewhere," Dorsett told his secretary, according to allegations in the affidavit.

Dorsett, a conflict attorney for the county, also called the courthouse that day to say he was sick and unable to be in court. His $40,000 contract with the county was terminated shortly after he disappeared.

Questions also remain about Dorsett's dealings with clients.

A United Way of Franklin County official said last month he failed to make a substantial distribution of funds to the charity from an estate.

According to records at the Prothonotary's Office, he also failed to make a Nov. 17 payment on a $30,000 promissory note he signed with a Waynesboro woman in April and on which more than $28,000 in principal and interest was owed.

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