Wednesday 7-22-15

By Jerry Adams  

A state audit says the Letcher County Sheriff's Office has to do a better job controlling its money. The report for the fiscal year ending in December 2013 faults the department for poor controls of receipts and payroll, a deficit in a fee account and using money intended for one purpose to pay for something else. County Sheriff Danny Webb says his office needs more money to fix the problems, but County Judge Executive Jim Ward says there isn't enough in the county budget. There have already been layoffs in the sheriff's office and Sheriff Webb warns there could be more cuts  to come.

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Meanwhile, a new state grant  could save Letcher County 93 thousand dollars a year. It's called a rocket docket grant—and it allows people are arrested on some drug and other non violent crimes to get treatment instead of jail time. Officials say that would mean fewer inmates and less money spent keeping them behind bars. Commonwealth attorney  Edison Banks says its a good deal for taxpayers and for people with substance abuse problems to get the help they need.

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Deputies have arrested a Letcher county man on rape and other charges. They say 23 year old Jared Nicholas Ratliff is accused of assaulting a woman last Friday at an abandoned strip mine  in the Joe's Branch section of Jenkins. Ratliff is also accused of sending test harassing text messages to the woman after the incident. He is being held on 20 thousand dollars property bond and will be under home incarceration on his release.

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Police are trying to catch a serial burglar in Floyd County. That bandit has broken into several homes in the the Prater Creek community and now, the state police and county sheriff have released a surveillance tape they hope will lead to an arrest. They have already received some tips and are confident that the burglar will be caught. For now though they have stepped up patrols in the area over the last couple months.

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Authorities are investigating a drowning in Carr Creek Lake in Knott County. The County coroner says the victim, whose body was found near the Carr Creek dam around 7:00 Tuesday night is a woman in her 30's but her name is not being released.

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Police are looking for two thieves who stole from a Pike County hardware store,. They say a man and woman entered the store in Coal Run Village on Friday and after pretending to look around,  the man simply grabbed some tools and walked out.  The suspects were caught on tape and state police say they hope someone will recognize them and provide additional information.

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A guilty plea from a former lab worker at a Hazard drug clinic, who says she falsified tests on orders from the clinic owners.  Reports say Amanda Lynn Dunne says she altered those results from the Acec Clinique of Medicine, whose owners are facing federal charges of illegally dispensing pills from 2006 until their arrest last fall.

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Two people have been arrested and charged with leaving a child alone in Laurel County.  Officers says 48 year old Egbert Hensley and 43 year old Mitzi Hensley with custodial interference after a neighbor spotted the toddler wandering  outside some apartments on Pine Grove Road.  Officials say the youngster was supposed to be in the care of social services..and has been returned there safely.

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Volunteers in Johnson County continue their work to help people effected by last weeks floods. One group at the Red Bush community center is getting together to prepare and deliver hot meals to people whose homes were damaged.  Volunteers say the meals are a welcome sight to to those who get them and that man people are still cleaning up and trying to get back to their feet

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Meanwhile the place for flood victims who need supplies in Johnson County  has a new location.  That center was set up at the Johnson County Central High School, but as of this morning, it will be run from the Mayo Plaza near the Big Sandy Superstore.  Officials continue to ask people to call ahead before showing up to make any drop offs.  The number is  606-792-6893.

Tuesday 7-21-15

By Jerry Adams

With yet another threat of rain today, the cleanup continues from the storms that hit  one week ago.  It's taken a week for one week for one Letcher county  family to even get back to their home to look at the damage. That's because a giant mudslide has blocked the driveway since the storms and was only cleared away on Monday. Darlene Jent says she is thankful for for neighbors who took her and her niece in after the mud blocked access to their home in Blackey. Because the driveway is private property, Jent had to hire a contractor to do the job.

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As people in Johnson County rebuild, officials say the flood was so bad that officials will not recommend that people move back into some areas that were washed away, The Kentucky DEP says even though this was a once in every 500 year flood, the risk it just too great to rebuild. Many people there agree they wont go back, not because of the the risk, but because of the painful memories the location now holds.

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We are learning  more about the people who died in the floods in Johnson County. One of them, 22 year old Richard Blair, had cerebral palsy and was in his wheelchair when the water cam crashing into the hone he shared with his family. Blair's mom says it's painful to remember the final moments before her son was swept away—and that she did everything she could to save him, to no avail.

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The Letcher County Commonwealth Attorney says several inmates in the county jail will soon be up for parole.  Those 8 prisoners will have a chance to make their case before the parole board and Edison Banks says anyone who wants to provide information for the parole board to consider should contact the board directly for more information before those hearings in September.

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Jailers in Harlan county are investigating the death of an inmate. Officials say 49 year old Darrell Wayne Johnson was take to Harlan ARH early Monday after he was found unresponsive in his cell. He was later pronounced dead. Kentucky State Police say while there is no suspicion of foul play, they well look into the circumstances of Johnson's death.

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Two men have been indicted on charges they killed a woman and her daughter in Perry County in 2013.  32 year old Matthew Minks and 30 year old Ronnie Everage are accused of killing Sandra and Suzy Melton in their Scuddy home and then setting the home on fire to try to cover up the crime. They are both facing several charges, including murder, arson  and tampering with evidence.

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The Hazard police department is getting a new home. The city has bought the former McDonalds on East Main Street which will be transformed to house the department. Chief Allen Minor says his department has outgrown its current office, where it has been for 20 years, He says the new space will be almost double what the department has now and will provide more room for storage on the inside and parking on the outside. Work on the building to get it ready for new occupants will take about 6 months.

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Residents in Boonville are mourning the loss of their city manager. Ronnie Callahan Junior is being recalled as a personable and positive man who will be missed. He passed way over the weekend, apparently from natural causes. Ronnie Callahan was 46.

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A man from Laurel County is doing his part to keep the military recruiting station there safe. Bryan Cheak never served in the military, but he is now posted outside the recruiting center in London. He says he felt he had to do something after last weeks shooting deaths of five members of the military at a similar recruiting station in Tennessee.  People who work in the  center says while Cheak isn't affiliated with the armed forces, they feel better knowing he is standing watch outside .

Monday 7-20-15

By Jerry Adams 

More potentially wet weather is on the way.  Forecasters say we could see more strong storms that could produce heavy downpours, high winds and hail—and could lead to more flooding. That's the last thing the region needs, especially in areas devastated by last weeks flooding.

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The fourth victim of the Johnson County flooding has been found. Scott Johnson's body was recovered under a mobile home in the Stone Coal community. His family says Johnson died a hero—swept away in the floodwater as he tried to save his grandmother and a small child. His grandmother died, but the little boy was rescued.

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The cleanup continues as many groups pitch in to help. The need is great in many places.  With the new school year fast approaching, supplies  like pencils, paper, folders and backpacks are on the list. The Johnson County sheriffs officer is holding a collection drive  for those kind of items between now and August 5th and has set up a drop off point at their office.

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Kentucky State Police are investigating a fatal crash in Laurel County. The victim is identified as a man from Texas, who police say he was headed east on Highway 80 near mile marker 8 when he tried to turn around and was hit by an oncoming tanker loaded with 8 thousand gallons of gasoline. A passenger from Arizona was injured and flown to UK hospital, where she is in critical condition, No gas was spilled and there were no other injuries.

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Police contiinue to investigate a crash in Whitesburg  that injured two people. It involved three church vans that collided Saturday morning on US 119. The vans were carryiying a tototal of 26 people, but fortunately, only two of them suffered minor injuries.

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A logging accident has left a Letcher County man dead.  He is identified as 19 year old Zarchary Adams, He died when a tree fell on him at a logging operation on Higway 931 north of the Sandllick community on Friday afternoon. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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The Floyd County sheriffs office is investigating a stabbing. That incident happened Saturday evening around 6:40 in West Garrett, where  one persons said to have been  stabbed in the back and is reported in stable condition.  So far, police are not releasing the person's name.

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A golden alert for a man from Laurel County has been canceled. Officials say they found 26 year old Billy Pennington, safe and sound late Sunday afternoon. They say he apparently walked off from his home in the Fairston community around 5:30 Sunday buy that the London Laurel rescue squad found him OK about 4 hours later.

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Veterans from Hazard were on hand over the weekend to honor a soldier who died in long ago war. The Hazard Chapter of the DAV paused to remember Coportal William Hurt—who was killed in in the War of 1812. His family did reasearch and found his remote gravesite and gathered there Saturday to honor him and place a new headstone more than 200  years after he fought his last battle.

Thursday 7-9-15

By Jerry Adams

Nearly 300 employees of Alpha Natural Resources have gotten a notice that they may have expected but never wanted to hear.  WARN Act notifications have gone out to those miners and other workers at several facilities in Letcher and Wise Counties. They include:

·     Mill Branch Coal Corporation’s Dorchester and Osaka deep mines in Wise County, Virginia, which  together have 134 employees.

·     North Fork Coal Corporation’s North Fork No.6 deep mine in Letcher County, Kentucky, and the Panther No.1, Stillhouse No.1 and North Fork No.7 deep mines, which are currently idled. A total of 111 employees work at the No.6 mine or perform maintenance at the idled operations.

·     Pigeon Creek Processing Corporation’s Plant No.1 in Wise County, VA, which has 31 employees.

·     Maxxim Shared Services’ support personnel for the mining operations, totaling approximately 16 employees.

In so many words the company says those operations are losing money with the declining demand for coal.

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Authorities are investigating what some aere calling a riot  Wednesday night at the Federal prison in Lee County Virginia.  At  least 8 people were taken to the Holston Valley Medical Center for injuries ranging from stab wounds to broken teeth.  A guard was also reportedly treated for a broken wrist.  Virginia State Police and lee county deputies remian at the prison.No word yet on just what may have started that distrubance.

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Mewanhile a Lee County patrol car was damaged during a wild police chase that began in Harlan county   Police have arrested a woman who was driving the rental truck that they tried to stop at the Harlan McDonalds on Wednesday. The pursuit ended in Scott County Virginia. The  Lee County Virginia  depuies vehicle was hit as the chase wound though that county.  In addition to the driver, a passenger in that Budget truck was also arrested and charged with resisting arrest.  Nobody was hurt.

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A Letcher County woman is behind bars and her husband is recovering, after police say she stabbed him during an argument.  Regina Yates is accused of that stabbing, which  authorities say happened last week after an argument between the couple. Her husband, Stacy Yates, says he is more worried about their two small children who were home at the time as that fight began. Whitesburg police say they originally though the stabbing may have been in self defense, but that the investigation showed that Regina Yates was not threatened and used unnecessary force.  A grand jury will hear the case this week.

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Kentucky State Police are investigating an crash that left a woman from Letcher County dead. She is identified as 45 year Lesa Faye Slone of Blackey—police say she died when she was thrown from the car she was driving along Highway 7 on Sunday night, A passenger, identified as 32 year old David Fields was treated and released from Whitesburg ARH. Troopers say wet roads were likely to blame.

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Police have identified that man accused of a shooting in Pike County.   Kentucky State Police  arrested 28 year old  Ronald Wolford  arrested and charged with firing the shots that wounded Cloyd Blankenship in the Phelps community on Tuesday evening. Wolford was taken to Pike County Detention Center---Blankenship was staken to Pikeville Medical Center—there is no information about his condition.

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State police are also investigating another Pike County shooting shooting that left several people wounded. T roopers were called to a trailer on highway 194E in the Stopover community early Monday morning,  where they say they found four people with gunshot wounds.  One of those people has since been released but the others remain in Pikeville Medical Center. There have been no reported arrests—and investigators are trying to sort out what happened.

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Letcher County parents who think their kids may be using drugs now have a way to check their suspicions. Deputies have started providing at home drug test kits free to concerned families. The tests are confidential and the results are not shared with law enforcement. . Officials  say they can be in important tool to start the important conversation about drugs—and also to send a signal to children that illegal drug us is NOT acceptable.  The kits were the idea of the county's UNITE program—and are  available at 8 locations, including:

·     Arlie Boggs Elementary Schoo

·     Cowan Elementary.

·     Fleming Neon Middle School. 

·     Gordon Fire Department.

·     Jenkins High School.

·     Letcher County Central High School.

·     Letcher Middle School.

·     Whitesburg Middle School.

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The nationwide debate over the confederate flag is stirring emotions in Letcher County. There have been calls to take down the flag, but members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans say the banner is NOT a symbol of hatred and say it represents an important part of their heritage.

Wednesday 7-8-15

By Jerry Adams 

Reports say one person was shot and another is in custody in Pike county. Police say that shooting happened around six last night in the Phelps community, and that the victim  was wounded in the leg. There is no word yet in the ID of those involved or about the circumstances.

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Two inmates at the Bell County Correctional Facility remain there after they reportedly attacked two guards and then tried to escape. Thy men are identified as Christopher Dixon and Kenneth Williams. Authorities say the pair planned the break out by cutting phone lines and arming themselves with broom handles which they then used to assault the guards. Other officers responded quickly and were able to bring the situation under control.  No employees were physically injured, but jail officials say the two jailers who were  briefly held hostage  were quite shaken up.   Dixon was in jail after he was charged with assaulting a woman with a machete back in June.  At the time, she said she was living in fear about what would happen if Dixon got out, but fortunately, he did not.

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Police say a tip has led to a drug bust in Harlan County. They say 49 year old Donna Johnson  of Hiram was arrested at the Hiram trailer park and is charged with making meth at a residence there.  Officials say other people could be charged. Officers from the Harlan County sheriff's office and the Cumberland City Police Department took part in that raid, and got help from the Kentucky State Police.

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A man who was apparently trying to get that perfect picture is in the hospital, after he fell 75 feet down a ravine in Harlan County. Officials say Eurall Allen was injured in the fall around 7:00pm Tuesday night in Lynch, near the old 33 mine. Authorities think he got off his ATV to snap a photo but slipped and fell on the wet and muddy ground. His condition has not been released.

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School administrators in Letcher county are  talking about new rules for cell phones and other communications devices.  Under the proposed policy, studentsand staff can still have those devices on school property, but anyone who wants to press “record” will have to get permission first. Officials say that while the high tech equipment can be a valuable part of a lesson plan, it's important that they're used responsibly. If the school board approves the change at a meeting later this month,  it would take effect at the start of the upcoming school year.

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A fomer pro wrestler is sharing his story about drug and alcohol use, Jake “The Snake” Roberts told an audience in Perry county that he has been clean and sober for three and a half years and that he has taken up a much more peaceful lifesytle, including practicing yoga. And while Roberts was well known for the python he used as a prop, in reality, he says he hates snakes.

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It looks like another soggy day with a flood watch in  effect until this evening. More rain will only mean more problems, especially for some people in Johnson County. They say the water and mud have made a muddy mess at homes in the Tutor Key community.  Residents are upset because they say the developer of the property hasn't done enough to fix drainiage issues, but he says it's the County's reponsibility. People who live there say don't care who is reponsible but just want the problem fixed before even more damge is done.

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Officials are discussing a proposal to allow an expanded bear hunt in the state, but not evenrone thinks it is a good idea. Amog those who oppose it are conservation groups who say the bear population of around 350 can't support more hunting beyond the three seasons it is allowed.  Wildlife experts say most of the state's bears live in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.