LOCAL NEWS

Thursday June 12, 2014

AUTOPSY RELEASED IN DEATH OF 4 MONTH OLD BABY

The State Coroner's office has released a preliminary autopsy report on an infant boy whose whose body was found over an embankment behind a Letcher County home last Friday.

Blunt force head trauma and an internal chest injury are listed as the causes of Blayze Alexander Smith's death..

Police say they found the body just over an hour after a call came in that the baby was missing.

Later on Friday a 16 year old was arrested and is now charged with murder.

Investigators say the teenager is related to the baby boy.

Funeral services for Smith were held yesterday.


PLEA DEAL FOR 2 PIKE COUNTY SHERIFF EMPLOYEES

2 ex-Pike County Sheriff's Office employees have taken a plea deal and avoid being tried on felony drug trafficking charges.

Deputy Matthew Blanton and dispatcher Phillip Thacker pleaded guilty to first-degree misconduct charges.

Blanton and Thacker along with another person were indicted last year for trafficking in controlled substances.


3RD ARREST IN HARLAN COUNTY HOME ROBBERY

Police in Harlan County arrest a third suspect in connection with a home robbery last month.

Investigators say Carl Collins teamed up with Arbin Shepherd and Cletus Robbins to rob Benji Stout at a home in the Catrons Creek Community.

He faces multiple charges and is being held on a $100,000 cash bond.

A police report says that during the robbery the trio threatened to kill Stout's girlfriend if she went to the cops.

The report also says Robbins shot Stout in the chest.


APPLICATION APPROACHING FOR COAL COUNTY SCHOLARSHIP

The application deadline is approaching for a new scholarship awarded to people living in coal-producing counties so they can obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Students need to have already earned 60 hours or more towards their bachelors degree and be in good academic standing.

Maximum award amounts can be as high $6,800 annually but students need to have no past due obligations to the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

Applications are due by Sunday.


LCPS-TV CHANNEL GOING OFF THE AIR

Letcher County Public Schools is shutting down its cable TV channel at the end of the month.

Officials say cost reductions are the reason - and it will save the district over $100,000 a year.

This comes at a time when the school budget was already in the red by over a half million dollars and that was made up by dipping into savings.

If the channel had not been shut down - the 2014-15 budget would be in a deficit of nearly $400,000

A federal grant got the channel operational 15 years ago, but that funding ended a while back.


STORMS CAUSE POWER ISSUES

Around 10,000 in Pike County lost power during Tuesday night's storms.

Winds in excess of 60 miles an hour damaged homes, ripped up poles and snapped trees.

Utility crews were out all of yesterday cleaning up the mess and getting power restored.

Officials warn that if a power line is down - treat it as if it's a live wire - even if it looks like the power's out.


SEX OFFENDER CASE GOING TO THE HARLAN GRAND JURY

A Harlan County grand jury will hear the case against a registered sex offender.

Bobby Wayne Johnson pleaded not guilty to a first degree criminal abuse charge.

Police say he grabbed a 15 year old girl's chest at the apartments near the rotary park.

Johnson was previously convicted of sex related charges in Georgia.

A preliminary hearing is set for June 23rd.

Wednesday June 11, 2014

LETCHER COUNTY PROSECUTORS DECIDING JUVENILES CHARGES

Letcher County Letcher County prosecutors are deciding whether to charge a 16 year old murder suspect as an adult.

On Friday police found the body of 4 month old Blayze Alexander Smith down a ravine behind the fanily's home on Turner Drive.

The teenager suspected of killing Smith was arrested that same day and taken to a juvenile detention center.

Prosecutors haven't set a date for their decision on filing charges against the boy and his name is being withheld.

 

SHOTS FIRED AT WIFE AND DAUGHTER IN HARLAN COUNTY

Tense moments Monday night at a Harlan County home as police rescued a woman and her five year old daughter after shots were fired.

According to investigators Johnny Irvin was highly intoxicated and had barged into his nephew Jason Jones's home.

The 2 argued and eventually Jones shot Irvin in the leg. The mother and daughter hid out in a bedroom closet and called 9-1-1 - and while on the phone dispatchers heard gunshots.

Officers safely evacuated them through a window, then went inside and confronted Irvin - who first refused to leave, but was taken into custody after police tazered him.

He is facing multiple charges including D-U-I. Jones was not charged.

 

NEW TRIAL POSSIBLE IN JOHNSON COUNTY DUI CASE

A Johnson County suspected drunk driver who was convicted of manslaughter may end up getting a new trial.

The attorney for Myra Castle says one of the jury members wasn't truthful about their knowledge of the case during the jury selection process.

A judge ordered an evidentiary hearing for this morning.

 

PIKE COUNTY CAR CRASH

A 2-car crash in Pike County involved a City of Prestonsburg Public Works Department pickup truck.

Police say it happened at the intersection of Mays Branch and North Lake Drive late Monday morning.

When first responders arrived they found a minivan had run over a stop sign and the Prestonsburg truck was near Porter Lane.

Both drivers were taken to Highlands Regional Medical Center for evaluation.

The Kentucky State Patrol is investigating the crash because a Prestonsburg city vehicle was involved.


WHITAKER BANK FOUNDER PASSES AWAY

Tributes are pouring out for Elmer Whitaker - the Leslie County-born businessman who founded the bank that bears his name.

Elmer Keith Whitaker says his grandfather died from complications due to diabetes.

He went to work in the coal mines right after high school graduation and ended up going in with his father to buy their own mine - which ended up being the cornerstone of what would become Whitaker Bank, which now has branches in 17 Kentucky counties.

Whitaker was 85.


ANIMAL CRUELTY IN PERRY COUNTY

A Perry County man is due in court at the end of the month on suspicion of animal cruelty.

Sheriff's deputies say Paul Melton neglected the care of a horse by not feeding  - and it became so weak that it had to be euthanized yesterday morning.

Melton says the horse was already sick when he got it and he was working on preparing an area to nurse it back to health.

Perry County chief deputy Tony Everson says this is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he has seen recently.


HARLAN COUNTY NATIVE NAMED VP AT LMU

A woman from Harlan County was named vice president for administration at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee.

Lisa Blair-Cox joined L-M-U 12 years ago as executive assistant to the President, and her new job makes her a member of the President's cabinet.

Most recently Blair-Cox was dean of administration - a position she began in 2011.

 

Tuesday June 10, 2014

OHIO MAN ARRESTED IN FLOYD COUNTY CASE INVOLVING 12 YEAR OLD

An Ohio man is arrested on charges he had an online relationship with a 12 year old from Floyd County and planned to meet up for a sexual relationship.

Police say James Cotner was being investigated for several months and during the investigation it was learned he discussed traveling to Kentucky to meet with the juvenile.

He is being held in the Floyd County Detention Center.


HARLAN COUNTY WOMAN CHARGED WITH TENNESSEE PHARMACY ROBBERY

A Harlan County woman faces multiple charges from a Tennessee pharmacy robbery.

Police say Holly Zinno held up the Bulls Gap Pharmacy in Hawkins County, Tennessee on April 12th.

Witnesses say she was armed and wore a ski mask as a disguise.

Zinno was arrested as she tried to evade Harlan County officers who were running a safety checkpoint.

Police say she was driving a car stolen in Greene County, Tennessee.

Zinno will be extradited to Tennessee and  has warrants in Harlan and Fayette County, Kentucky.


PRIMARY VOTE BUYING INVESTIGATION

The Kentucky Attorney General's office reported it is investigating over 4 dozen reports of vote buying during last month's primary election.

In a statement the A-G's office says some of those reports came from Pike, Floyd, Harlan, Knott and Perry counties.

A total of 205 complaints came in during the May 20th election.


NEW HOMELESS VETERANS CENTER SET TO OPEN

Homeless veterans will soon have a new place to stay as they get back on their feet.

The Big Sandy Regional Veterans Transition Center in Pike County will officially open Friday.

It has a capacity of 25 people.


VIRGINIA SENATOR ABRUPTLY RESIGNS

The sudden resignation of Virginia senator Phillip Puckett - whose district covers Wise and Dickenson Counties - has politicans scrambling to fill his seat.

Multiple reports say the Democrat resigned to give Republicans control of the state Senate - and that means Medicare expansion - which had been deadlocked - will likely be defeated.

It's an issue that's held up passage of the state budget.

A special election will be held to select Puckett's successor.


HARLAN COUNTY SEXUAL ABUSE CASE

A Harlan County man was arrested on charges he grabbed a 15 year old's chest and made lewd comments to her.

Police say Bobby Wayne Johnson is a registered sex offender from Georgia but now lives in Harlan.

Arrest records show Johnson was arrested in March on similar allegations and last year was charged with failing to register as a sex offender.

PIKE COUNTY MAN ARRESTED IN SHOOTING

A Pike County man is in jail suspected of shooting a man during an argument last week.

Court papers say Roger Johnson shot Tony Chainey after he apologized to Johnson for wrecking a truck he owner.

Witnesses told police say Johnson ordered Chainey several times to leave before pulling out a rifle and shooting Chainey in the stomach.


COAL MINER MEMORIAL VANDALIZED

Police in Harlan County have arrested a man in connection with vandalizing the county's Coal Miner Memorial and other downtown Harlan business signs.

Investigators say a witness told them she saw Mark Mays defacing the memorial and surveillance video captured him damaging signs at Core Fitness and the Harlan Senior Citizens Center.

Mays told Harlan police he owns all the building and they're his.

Police say damage estimates are expected to exceed a thousand dollars.


FAMILY FOLK WEEK UNDERWAY

Family Folk Week is in full swing at the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County.

The annual event allows people to learn about the area's cultural heritage and traditional skills through craft workshops, music, dancing and storytelling.

Performances are scheduled each evening and are open to the public.


UPIKE PRESIDENT STAYING THROUGH 2018

The University of Pikeville's president will stay on the job until 2018.

James L. Hurley has recevied a contract extension from the university's board of trustees.

He's the university's first university president who is also an alumnus.


FORMER STATE LAWMAKER PASSES AWAY

Glenn Freeman - a former state lawmaker from Harlan County has died at the age of 80.

He served as a state representative and senator during his over 25 year political career.

Thursday June 5, 2014

GUILTY PLEAS IN PIKE COUNTY HEROIN RING

2 people from Pike County have entered guilty pleas for theur roles in a heroin ring with ties to Michigan and Ohio.

Tiffany Caudill could face 20 years in jail and Kevin Maurice Hubbard faces 30 years in prison because he had a prior felony conviction.

According to the Appalachian News Express 12 people await sentencing in what police say was one of the most wide-ranging heroin cases ever investigated.


PERRY COUNTY HOUSE FIRE

No one was hurt when a fire broke out yesterday at a home on Summer Street in Perry County.

Fire officials say most of the damage was to the upper floors of the home but the entire structure had smoke damage.

The cause of the fire is under investigation but it's not believed to be deliberately set.


FUNDRAISERS FOR HAZARD POLICEMAN BATTLING CANCER

As Hazard Police Lieutenant Paul Campbell continues his fight with stage four colon cancer, folks are taking to social media to help raise money to pay for his medical bills.

Videos are popping up on Facebook showing people taking the "cold water challenge" - and here's how it works:

If you brave the icy water, you give ten dollars to help Lieutenant Campbell - and if you don't - it costs $100.

Officers have arranged another fundaiser - the Hazard Police Foot Pursuit 5k.

It's set for July 3rd, with a car show to follow July 4th.


DESTIN KINCER IN MISS USA PAGEANT SUNDAY

A Letcher County woman is making final preparations to represent the state in Sunday's Miss USA Competition.

Destin Kincer from Little Cowan will be one of the 51 contestants vying for the crown at the pageant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The 2011 graduate of Letcher County Central High School won the Miss Kentucky pageant in January.

Kincer's Miss U-S-A bio says she plans to attend medical school after graduating from the University of Kentucky.


WEIGHT RESTRICTIONS FOR COAL TRUCKS IN PART OF PIKE COUNTY

Pike County's Fiscal Court is getting ready to take action over continued damage to Clevingers Branch from loaded coal trucks using the road.

The Appalachian News Express reports Road Commissioner Frank Hatcher wants to implement an immediate weight restriction so trucks will be forced to use Miller's Creek.

This comes after Assistant County Attorney John Doug Hays reported he has seen no progress between his office and the coal company to work out an arragements to bring the road up to standard.

Pike Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford agreed with Commissioner Hatcher's suggestion, saying that the Court need to balance the needs of the county with those of businesses.


EKCEP RECEIVING GETS GOVERNMENT MONEY

The federal government is sending nearly $8 million to a local organization that helps laid off workers.

Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program  - E-K-C-E-P for short - operates a number of centers giving those out of work access to numerous federal and state programs providing retraining and job search assistance.

Their main office is on North Main Street in Hazard.

The money is to be allocated to EKCEP's help our miners everyday or home initiative.


DICKENSON COUNTY VA CRASH KILLS ONE

A crash in Dickinson County, Virginia killed a man and has a woman fighting for her life.

Police in Clintwood say an S-U-V failed to make a turn at Routes 72 and 83, went through a guardrail and struck a utility pole.

So far there's no word on what caused the crash and the names of the man and woman haven't been disclosed.

Tuesday June 3, 2014

 

BY RICH PRICE

 

HARLAN COUNTY TEENAGER LAID TO REST

The Harlan County teenager who was killed the day before he was supposed to graduate from high school will be laid to rest today.

Police say Cody Fultz was killed Saturday when his car went off the road on Pine Mountain, rolled over and burst into flames.

He was trapped in the burning car.

His passenger Bradley Lloyd, survived the crash with minor injuries.

Friends remembered Fultz as a smart and funny person who was also very generous and always ready to help.

Fultz will be buried at the Scott Cemetary in Bledsoe.

 

RETRAIL DELAYED IN LESLIE COUNTY FAMILY MURDER AND ARSON

The retrial of a man charged with murder and arson in the death of a Leslie County family has been delayed.

Clayton Jackson was senteced to life in prison for the 2004 deaths of Chris and Amanda Sturgill's 3 children.

At the time a jury was deadlocked on the murders of the parents.

Jackson's murder conviction was thrown out by the state Supreme County when it ruled one of the jurors should have been removed because he asked not to serve as he was a friend of the victim's brother.

Yesterday a judge said he would need to review a motion before scheduling a date for the re-trial.

 

CHEMICAL SPILL CAUSES FISH KILL IN HARLAN COUNTY

State fish and wildlife officials say hundreds of fish are dead at a Harlan County mine after an accidental chemical spill last Friday.

The mine near Evarts is operated by Harlan Cumberland Coal Company and officials say the chemicals have been contained.

They were being used to clean a sludge pool and are not toxic to people, according to Fish and Wildlife.

A state official says the company's gone above and beyond in regards to clean-up after the fact.

 

TIGHTER EMISSION STANDARDS ANNOUNCED MONDAY FROM EPA IMPACT COAL INDUSTRY

Reaction to President Obama's announcement about tighter emissions standards on coal-fired power plants was met with mostly negative comments from those work work in the coalfields.

Prestonsburg is one city that would be significantly impacted by the new standards, which call for a nearly 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

The impacts aren't just in the coalfields - workers in associated industries like rail along with businesses that serve the community say they too are concerned they'll be out of work because of the tighter restrictions.

Nine-tenths of Kentucky's power comes from coal.

Prosecutors will ask for the death penalty in the murder case against a Clay County couple.

 

CLAY COUNTY COUPLE TO FACE THE DEATH PENALTY

The Commonwealth will seek the death penalty against a Clay County couple accused of killing Earl Woods, 74.

Joshua Morsch is accused of killing 74 year old Earl Woods in 2012 and his girlfriend Kathy Stewart faces charges of complicity to commit murder.

Police say they believe it started out as a robbery that went wrong and ended with Woods being killed in his home.

 

NEW TRAFFIC SIGNALS IN PIKEVILLE; COMING SOON TO OTHER COUNTIES

A heads up for drivers using the bypass in Pikeville.

New left-turn traffic signals have been installed that now flash yellow when oncoming traffic has a green light.

That means turns are permitted, but drivers must yield to not only vehicles but pedestrians.

Studies show crashes are reduced at intersections with the new signals because drivers know clearly they need to only turn when the intersection is clear.

The new traffic signals will also be installed in Letcher, Floyd and Knott Counties.