LOCAL NEWS

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.

Tuesday 7-7-15

By Kristen Thoburn

Two inmates in Pike County are accused of trying to escape by drilling through one of the jail's walls. Derek Nunemaker, 21, and Ronald Skeens, 25, used a piece of metal to carve out a hole in the wall before being caught. Pike County Jailer Freddie Lewis says both men deny the accusations that they stole a metal spring clip from a weight bench and turned it into a makeshift screw driver, drilling about one foot into the wall, Lewis said.Both men now face attempted escape charges.

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Some homeowners in Johnson  and Floyd Counties are cleaning up in the aftermath of high water. In a matter of hours, flood waters rose and receded destroying homes and property that stood in its path.  Steve Sexton says he got 3 to 4 inches of water inside of his home. representatives from the American Red Cross will visit the area to see how they can help.  Officials say there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities due to the flooding.

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There's a new mayor in one Leslie county town. Carol Joseph was appointed the Mayor of Hyden last week. Former Mayor, Lonnie Hendrix, resigned last Monday saying he felt it was best for the city.  Hendrix said he would be more than happy to help finish projects that he started. Carol Joseph, former Mayor pro tem, was appointed Mayor of Hyden She says she will do the best job she can and if things go well she will run in November. Joseph says she already has plans for the place she calls the prettiest town in the mountains.

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Attorney Eric C. Conn is becoming a well known name in Floyd Circuit Court as a Class Action Lawsuit has been filed against him as well as two Wrongful Death Suits.Emma Burchett alleges that  Conn is responsible for her husband's suicide that happened in early June.  The man killed himslf after his social security benefits were terminated due to another suit against Conn alleging fraud.Conn’s attorney asked for the suit to be thrown out saying the law doesn’t allow for causation between a negligent act and suicide. Burchett's attorneys argued there is more than enough evidence for the suit to continue.

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An early morning fire destroyed a Perry County home Sunday. The house belonged to well-known local photographer Cordis "Cuzz" Bishop and his wife, Doris. Both are counting their blessings no one was hurt. Bishop, his wife and his stepson are all staying with relatives for the time being.  Firefighters say they were able to keep the flames isolated to the upstairs attic, but in the end, the home was heavily damaged. An avid photographer, Cordis Bishop can usually be found snapping away at area events like the Mountain Classic and the Knott County Trail Ride. Firefighters do not know how the fire started.

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Eastern Kentucky University has reinstated two football players suspended for their roles in a bar fight earlier this year with University of Kentucky football players.  Colton Scurry and Patrick Graffree were fully reinstated to the football team.   The two players were involved in a bar fight Jan. 25 in Richmond. UK quarterback Drew Barker, wide receiver Dorian Baker and defensive lineman Tymere Dubose in Richmond.

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Casey County Clerk Casey Davis says same-sex marriage violates his religious beliefs. He stopped issuing marriage licenses following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that legalized gay marriage.He wants a law passed allowing people to purchase marriage licenses online, similar to the process of purchasing a hunting or fishing license.

Monday 7-6-15

By Kristen Thoburn

Letcher County has issued it’s first same sex marriage license.  On Independence day the first and s far only same sex marriage license in the county was issued to Mona Lisa Burke and Angela Slone. Letcher County Clerk Winston Meade is among the majority of Kentucky’s county clerks who are honoring the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week that legalizes gay marriage across the U.S. Instead of listing bride and groom, the computerized license has been changed statewide to name applicants as party one and party two.

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The Letcher County Sheriffs Office will now be closed on evenings and weekends to help save money.  Sheriff Danny web ordered the actions, forcing evening dispatchers to be laid off.  The change is a result of the loss of a $15,000 a month contribution for insurance and hazardous duty pay in the middle of a budget year. According to Webb, the layoffs mean the sheriff ’s department’s new operating hours will be Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.  During off hours they’re working on an arrangement to get 911 dispatchers in Hazard to cover service calls. More layoffs may be yet to come.

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A man with strong Letcher County ties will be the next “voice” of Louisiana State University radio broadcasts Chris Blair, currently the voice of Georgia Southern University athletics, was announced over the weekend as the next “Voice of the Tigers” beginning with the 2016 LSU baseball season. Blair is the grandson of the late Ben and Mattie Blair of Whitesburg, and has many relatives still living in Letcher County.

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The National Weather Service in Jackson, Ky. is urging caution as flooding continues in Johnson and Floyd Counties.  The National weather service reporting serious flooding through areas in those counties. Roads in the Wittensville are being reported flooded as well. Just take it very slow out there and if you run into any water, turn around don’t drown.

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Patients of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) in Whitesburg maybe able to get free fruits and veggies at the Letcher County Farmers Market.MCHD’s COO Mike Caudill  says nutrition is a big part of overall help, and they believe providing whole foods can have a positive impact. Patients approved for the "Farmacy" program and members of their household each receive $1 per day for seven days. A voucher for a family of four totals $28. A patient living alone will be given a voucher for $14 worth of produce. In the first two weeks of the Farmacy program, 70 percent of the vouchers were redeemed at the Letcher County Farmers Market.  Patients diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and patients who are pregnant qualify for the program. Patients who meet federal poverty guidelines and are diagnosed with hypertension, obesity or diabetes may be eligible for produce vouchers as well.

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Nearly two months have passed and there is still no sign of a missing Knott County woman. Natasha Fugate Jones was last seen May 7th.  Sunday in Perry County, family and friends came together to pray and release balloons in her memory.  Hopeful hearts and tear filled eyes filled the pews at the Dwarf Church of God Sunday night to remember Natasha. Friends and family are hoping to keep her memory alive and are hoping even a small clue might be what the police need to bring her back home. Anyone with information is asked to call the Kentucky State police post in Hazard.

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Pikeville police arrested two people Saturday morning after responding to a call about a fight at an apartment near U-Pike's campus. Police say they found 21-year-old Kelley Taylor and 29-year-old Ryan Sellards passed out in their apartment with the door open, and four children left unsupervised. They also say they found prescription drugs and alcohol throughout the apartment.  Taylor and Sellards are both charged with wanton endangerment and possession of a controlled substance.

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Be careful as you’re out this morning.  Heavy rains dropping inches within an hour have left some areas of high water on the roadways, and some creeks swollen past their banks.  The national weather service has reported severe flooding in Johnson and Floyd counties.