Tuesday 6-30-15

By Jerry Adams  

Monday was a deadly day on the roads in the mountains with police now investigating at least three separate fatalities in Perry, Pike and Knox Counties.

In Perry County, one person died in a crash on Combs Road in Hazard around 9:15 last night.  Police say two  cars were in involved—one of then crossed the center line and hit the other.  Police haven't released the name of the person who died, but they have identified one of the passengers as Perry County District Court judge Leigh Anne Stephens. She suffered broken bones and is expected to recover.

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In Pike County, a single car crash on Caney Creek road in the Gulnare community  left a woman dead.  She is identified as 23 year old Joy Varney of lower John's Creek.  State police say her car ran off the road and hit a tree early Monday morning—she died later at Pikeville Medical Center.

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And in Knox county, another single car accident on U.S. 25  early Monday left a woman dead.  Police have identified her as 50 year old Tammy Hale. Reports say her car spun out of control and slammed into the median.

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The Letcher County Health Department has started discussing a  needle exchange program to avoid an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases. Officials say while the idea is controversial, it is one potential safeguard to keep IV drug users from sharing needles. They point to a recent surge in the number of cases of HIV in rural Scott County, Indiana, and warn that a similar crisis could easily happen here. The board will talk more about the subject at a meeting on July 14th.

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The U.S. Supreme Court says some federal rules limiting emissions from coal fired power plants go too far and local lawmakers are applauding that 5 to 4 decision.  Kentucky was one of 20 states that challenged the rules, and Representative Fitz Steele of Hazard says the ruling is a win for the coal industry. The disputed regulations will now have to be re written to comply with the courts finding.

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Meanwhile, a  report says Letcher County was one of three counties in the Appalachian area that lost more than 70 percent of its mining jobs since the end of 2011. According to the Wall Street Journal, Letcher County joins Leslie County Kentucky and Nicholas County West Virginia on that list of places with those devastating numbers. The paper says experts point to the tanking price of metallurgical coal used in steel mills.

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The fallout from the U S supreme court decision on gay marriage continues in Kentucky.  Some County Clerks are refusing to issue ANY marriage licenses following the  ruling that gays and lesbians can get married in all 50 states. The clerks say they're taking that stand because of their religious beliefs. One church is taking the opposite position, St James Episcopal church in Prestonsburg says it welcomes people of all orientations. Reverend Judy Yunker says her church aims to inspire acceptance of all of God's people.

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Yet another sighting of a black bear has some folks in Perry County concerned. The bear has been spotted in the Combs area and people who live there worry that the animal may have wandered from its mountain den looking for food. Fish and Wildlife officials say  you should keep any food or garbage well covered or out of reach—and that you should report any sightings or signs of bear activity in your area.

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School districts say they may have a hard time enforcing it,  but a new law hits the books at midnight that raises the high school dropout age to 18. One potential problem is that students who left school at 16 as allowed by the OLD law will now be forced to go back to school. School districts say while the goal of the higher age is admirable, they probably don't have much leverage to track down the students and force them back into the classroom until they turn 18.

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University of Kentucky coach John Calipari is weighing in on the debate over the confederate flag.   He says he was asked about the controversy during a news converence at a basketball clinic and has put up a post on facebook saying the flag should come down.

Monday 6-29-15

By Jerry Adams

Attorneys for embattled Floyd County lawyer Eric C. Conn want a judge to toss out a wrongful death suit against their client. Conn is being sued by hundreds of people who were told last month that their social security disability payments would be cut off amid allegations that Conn may have used fraudulent information to obtain them and two of those people were so distraught by those letters  that they committed suicide. Conn has never been charged and he denies the allegations. His lawyers say as sympathy for the  people who took their own lives but bears no responsibility.  The social security administration has resumed  benefits  but the recipients have been forced to submit new paperwork to show that they are entitled to the checks.

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Sunday was a day of celebration at a rebuilt Magoffin County Church. It's been more than three years since a tornado destroyed St. Luke Catholic Church, and parishioners finally have a new place to worship, which they dedicated at a special mass. Father Bob Damon says the congregation is grateful  for the replacement for the building that was ripped pert by the storm—part of a deadly outbreak in March 2nd 2012.  He says the new church is a symbol of God's love—and that  positive presence that has now been restored. Plans are also in the works to rebuild the chuch rectory which was destroyed by the tornado as well.

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Johnson County will soon have  a new animal shelter when “Whiskers and Wags” shelter will open later this week.  Officials say they have worked hard getting everything ready for the opening on Wednesday—and that the new home  in Paintsville for those stray animals will be a far cry from what they had before.  Shelter board members say they can't wait to begin matching the abused and neglected dogs and cats with new, loving owners. The shelter will also provide basic care like shots and exams to the animals that are bought in.

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There was magic in the air at the Jenny Wiley State Park over the weekend. The park held its first dinner and magic show for guests.  Officials say it was a big hit and an evening of fun that they hope to repeat in the future.

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With the fourth of July just around the corner now, officials say it's time to keep fireworks safety in mind. They say it's mainly common sense—keeping at a sfaey distance, keeping water nearby, and not trying to handle fireworks that see to be duds. Even sparklers can be dangerous is mishandles and officials say kids should always be supervised when using them.

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It's the season for farmers markets—and the Floyd County farmers market was a busy place at its seasonal opening.  Next weekend, the market will offer a new way to pay for those fresh vegetables, fruits and other market fare, when  buyer scan use tire SNAP cards for purchases, the Floyd County farmers market in Preston is open on Saturday's from 9:00am to 2:00pm.

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Thursday 6-25-15

By Jerry Adams  

A man from Bell County is back behind bars after he tried to escape. Police say Roy Sanders tried to run as he was being led to lunch but didn't get too far, Sanders was re captured a bout half  an hour later wandering in the streets of Pineville and was re-arrested without incident.  Jailer Gary Ferguson says now that Sanders is back in the lockup, he will face additional charges. His mom says Sanders began getting into trouble following he death of his wife.

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Police continue their investigation into a Bell County crash that left one  woman dead. It happened on 31 Street in Middlesboro near Cumberland Avenue,  when the victim collided head on with an oncoming truck. They say the truck driver, identified as 43 year old Avail Anderson of Middlesboro was unable to avoid hitting the scooter that veered into his lane.  The name of the victim has  not been released

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Attorney Eric C. Conn is not saying anything about the lawsuit again him filed by 1500  of his former clients, some of whole nearly lost their social security benefits. Conn was in court n Prestonsburg in connection with that lawsuit but took the Fifth and refused to answer any questions, His conduct has been investigated for allegations that some of the disability applications were fraudulent. That led to last month's letters to around 900 disability recipients who were told they would lose those benefits. The social security administration has stopped that suspension, but the people effected will still have to prove they are entitles to the money—which is  time consuming and expensive process. When he HAS spoken, Conn has denied doing anything wrong—and through his attorneys he says NONE of the hundreds of clients have even lost anything and that the suit should be tossed out

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A man from Rockcastle County is missing and police are hoping the public can help find him.  They say 77 year old Gerald Chandler is consider endangered. He hast been seen since his home in Livingston, near the Laurel County line, since Tuesday. The Kentucky State Police are hoping the public can help locate him.

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Some tense moments on Wednesday when a man being stopped by police tried to make a break for it but was caught a short while later.  Pinevile police were able to corer Robert Bildigmyer after he sped off going he wrong way down busy US 25 E in Middlesboro. They say they had to struggle, but eventually were able to subdue and arrest him after the pursuit. Witnesses say it was an intense moment, and were relieved when they saw the suspect hauled away. He is facing several charges.

Wednesday 6-24-15

By Jerry Adams

Police have arrested a Harlan County man after a month long investigation. 59 year old John Paul Thomas was busted at his home, where deputies say they found pills, marijuana and a stack of cash. He was taken to the Harlan County Detention Center and  is facing first offense drug trafficking charges. Chief deputy Matt Cope calls it another win for law enforcement in the fight against the illegal drug trade. He says there are other similar investigation ongoing and that there will likely be more warrants and more arrests.

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A 13 year old girl from Magoffin County remains in very serious conditon following an ATV accident—and her family members say she may not survive.  Brooklyn Caldwell suffered serious head injuries   a week ago today.  Family and friends gathered in Salyersville on Tuesday to prayer for her recovery. They say they are grateful for the prayers of support from the community. Brooklyn's brother was also less seriously injured in that crash and he was released from the hospital on Friday.

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A young boy from Knott County will soon undergo a kidney transplant—after his adopted father was found to be a perfect match. Breven Portwood was born in Guatemala and adopted when he was six months old. When his parents found out that he has was is called renal dysplasia and would need a kidney transplant, the both were tested as possible donors and now, doctors say the Breven's farther will donate his own kidney for that operation, scheduled for August. The family will hold a fundraiser on July 18th at the Combs Road McDonalds in Hazard to help them pay for the surgery.

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Pikeville Medical Center has earned a designation that could save lives. The hospital was been certified as a level two trauma center by the American College of Surgeons, meaning patients with life threatening injures can now been seen there—rather than have to be transported to facilities that could be hours way. The center is the only level two  trauma center in the state. PMC's ER has already handed more cases since that designation. Hospital officials say  WHERE a patient lives shouldn't be a factor in WHETHER they live after a serious injury.

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Authorities continue to investigate a fire that destoyed a home in the Perry County community of Viper—which has left a mother and daughter without a place to live. Brooke Cody says she is still stunned by that  blaze early Tuesday morning and is trying to figure out what she will do next.  Cody says firefighters had a tough time battling that flames because a tree limb had fallen acorss the driveway. No one was home at the time, and no one was hurt.

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Reports say three eastern kentucky counties lead the state in the number of prescriptions for the drug suboxone written for people who have medicare. According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health, doctors in Pike, Harlan and Floyd Counties prescribe that drug which is intended to curb heroin addiction. However,Suboxone itself is being abused, and officials are cracking down on its illicit sale and use.

Tuesday 6-23-15

By Jerry Adams

A  man who was  arrested and charged with stripping and running crazily though a Pike County Wal Mart says he did it and would do ti again. 24 year old Timothy Smith says it was joke and that he hopes it makes him famous. Police don't agree and they say they will press whatever charges they can. Smith says, he, in his words—lives to make people laugh and decided to pull that stunt on a 50 dollar bet and a night of drinking. Prosecutors have charged him with indecent exposure—he is in jail on $2,000 dollars bail.  His next court appearance is September 22nd.

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More people have joined in a lawsuit against Floyd County attorney Eric C. Conn,    Last month, dozens of his clients temporarily lost their social security benefits amid allegations that Conn committed fraud and while the newest group of about 600 people were never notified that their benefits were in jeopardy,  they will still have their eligibility reviewed. There are now about 1500 in total  people involved in that suit. Conn has never been charged but his conduct has been question by federal investigators.

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The trial of a former State Representative accused of bribing a federal mine safety official  is under way in Pike County. W. Keith Hall is accused of trying to pay off mine inspector Kelly Shortridge to overlook safety violations.  Once jury selection in Hall's federal trial begins, it the case could last through next week.  No comment from Hall or his attorneys.  Shortrdge has already pleaded guilty and is expected to testify.  He will be sentenced in august.

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A man from Bell County is facing charges that he tried to steal another man's cell phone—and then then ran over his hand as he sped off  because he thought the man was cooperating with police .  Police say Kenneth Williams will face several charges.   The victim, Corey McCullough  says he was lucky the situation wasn't worse—because a passing Middlesboro police officer saw the situation unfold and quickly moved in to arrest Williams.

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No injuries—human or horse—in a scary fire that destroyed a truck and horse trailer in Letcher County. That truck caught fire early Monday on U S 119 near the top of Pine Mountain after the driver pulled over because of mechanical problems.  The driver, four passengers and four houses where able to get out of the truck and trailer safely. The driver was on his way from Illinois to a horse stable in the Partridge community.