Friday, February 20, 2009


Ashland Infant Dies

One and one-half year old Shayla Mullins, who was critically burned in a fire Tuesday morning along Barton Court in Ashland died Thursday night at Cabell Huntington Hospital. The parents, Rebecca Cox and Justin Mullins, heard crying from the baby monitor in Shayla's room, but, when they opened the door, flames shot out. Mullins pulled his daughter from the flames, but the baby had suffered third-degree burns on her arms and legs.


Kentucky Couple Died Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A Florida medical examiner has confirmed 22 year old Kayla Hinton of Olive Hill and 23 year old Kenneth Oldham of Morehead, who were found dead January 14th at an Interstate 95 rest area located south of St. Augustine, died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A toxicology screen revealed a 45% concentration of carbon monoxide in the victims. The report indicates the car's catalytic converter had been removed. Officials say the key was in the on position, the gas tank was empty and the battery was dead. The bodies are believed to have been there several days.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Pike County Hires New Parks Director

The Pike County Fiscal Court has announced the hiring of Jarrod Hunt as the county's new Parks and Recreation director. He was raised in Grapevine of Pike County and his first two years of high school were attended at Piarist School, before his mother's job relocated the family to Huntington, West Virginia. He graduated from Marshall University. Before returning to Pike County, Hunt lived in Louisville for eight and one half years where he served as a pastor.


State Employee Charged With Rape Of Minor

Kentucky state employee, 38 year old Eric Dwayne Morrison, was arrested Wednesday at the Office of Technology for the Commonwealth of Kentucky in Frankfort and is being held in the Franklin County Regional Jail on a $100,000 full cash bond. The arrest, based on an indictment returned earlier in the day, charges him with first-degree rape, three counts of first-degree sodomy of a victim less than 12 years of age , two counts of first-degree indecent exposure, first-degree sexual abuse of a victim less than 12 years of age, three counts of distribution of obscene material to minors and three counts of second-degree sexual abuse.


Ruling Expected In Perry County Abuse Case

Defense attorneys in a Perry County abuse case want Commonwealth's Attorney Teresa Combs Reed disqualified. The first trial for Charlotte Crawford, Billy Crawford and Penny Ford ended when Judge Bill Engle declared a mistrial. They're accused of holding Donna Hicks against her will from July to November 11th. in 2007 while they starved and beat her while she was imprisoned inside a utility closet. Prosecutors are seeking seperate trials and a change of venue. Judge Engle is expected to rule on the motions Friday.


Alleged Dealer Remains In Pike County Detention Center

54 year old Terry Fields remains lodged in the Pike County Detention Center on two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, first-degree, two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, third-degree, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and possession of drug paraphernalia, first-degree. Fields was arrested Wednesday when Pike County Sheriff's deputies and an undercover agent executed a search warrant at his home on Peter Fork at McCarr. Officers seized crack cocaine, a large quantity of cocaine, prescription pills, such as Xanax, Valium and Fiorocets, scales, a 9mm. semi-automatic Ruger pistol, a 9mm. Derringer pistol and $18,108 in cash found in several locations of the home. The items total in excess of $50,000 in estimated value. Several runners are being sought.


Natural Gas Rate Cuts Approved

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved cost adjustment rate cuts for natural gase, creating an average decline of $1.10 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas for the five largest distributors in the state.

PSC estimates the tupical household will pay about $11.00 less for 10,000 cubic feet than at the beginning of the heating season. If wholesale gas prices remain low in the coming months, PSC says customers should see further rate declines.


Floyd County Big Sandy Economic Development Summit

Hundreds of business leaders gathered at the Mountain Arts Center in Floyd County as part of the Big Sandy Economic Development Summit Wednesday. Leaders discussed how they can work together to develop new jobs and use their resources to attract more dollars to the area.

The guest speaker was Lt. Governor Daniel Mongiardo.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Shock Probation Bill Passes House Senate Judiciary Committee

Under new legislation that passed out of the Kentucky House Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday (today), judges would no longer be able to grant shock probation to those who kill someone while driving under the influence. The bill, which passed the Senate last year, has never before been voted on in the House Judiciary Committee. Backers of H. B. 192 believe it will pass the Senate again this year. Some committee members expressed reservations before passing the measure. Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville) asked sponsors if they would be open to considering an amendment allowing a relative of someone killed by a drunken driver to request shock probation. The proposed amendment would be offered before the bill came for a vote on the House floor.


Pike County Sheriff's Deputies Arrest Alleged Cocaine Dealer

Pike County Sheriff's deputies arrested 54 year old Terry Fields at his home on Peter Fork in McCarr Wednesday (today). Investigators say an anonymous caller led undercover officers to the home where they discovered bags of crack cocaine along with, at least, $18,000 in cash. They believe Fields was using the home as home base for a crack cocaine selling operation, and out of state dealers were delivering the drugs. They also believe Fields, along with three or four dealers working for him, were selling it in eastern Kentucky.


Letcher County Businessman Acknowledges Owning Damaged Tank

Nearly 4,000 Letcher County residents remain under a non-consumption water advisory while Division of Water officials await additional testing. Officials have traced a petroleum leak to a damaged storage tank. Don Childers, owner of Childers Oil Inc. , has acknowledged owning the tank. He was cited following a similar incident in November.


High Food Costs Causes Horses To Be Abandoned.

Pikeville, Ky.—As the cost of hay rises, so does the number of starving and neglected horses in Pike County.

Because of laws preventing the export of horse meat overseas and laws restricting glue factories from transporting horses, owners who can no longer afford to care for their horses are left with little options. More and more horses in Pike County are being left by their owners on property owned by coal companies.

“We are having a large amount of horses that are not being fed by their owners, and the owners are dropping the horses off on local strip jobs and leaving them to starve to death. Not only is this action illegal and unconscionable, it also causes problems for the coal companies who are trying to reclaim their abandoned mine land. The horses are tearing up the companies’ land reclamation projects,” said Pike County Animal Shelter Director Rose Deskins.

“Last year alone, we had about 40 horses turned loose on mining property. As the cost of hay continues to rise, and is currently at around $9 to $10 a bail, the problem is getting worse. I have asked Rose (Deskins) to attend the Equine Abuse Investigation Training in Murray, Kentucky, to learn ways to deal with this abuse,” said Pike County Judge/Executive Wayne T. Rutherford.

The training, which takes place in March, is sponsored by the Kentucky Horse Council. It is open to Animal Control Officers, Sheriffs, and other Kentucky law enforcement officials and prosecutors, and teaches them about the horse abuse investigation process, veterinary care, and re-feeding starving horses.


Officials Report Letcher County Water Still Unsafe

The Kentucky Division of Water announced it is working with the Whitesburg Water Works to resolve the water problems in Letcher County. Officials say the water remains unsave for anything but flushing toilets.

An investigation has found damaged fuel storage tanks four miles upstream from the water plant intake. The tanks are leaking petroleum. Officials are awaiting results from sample tests.


Johnson County Men Charged With Theft

Johnson County deputies have arrested 18-year old Jeremy Johnson of Hager Hill, and, 21-tear old Zachary Blair of Paintsville and charged them with theft by unlawful taking.

Officers say they are still trying to locate a 2009 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 ATV the men allegedly stole from a shop in Staffordsville last December.


Eastern Kentucky Gets Free Computers

Through an Appalahian Regional Commission grant and Connect Kentucky, $10,000 worth of free computers were delivered Tuesday to Wheelwright in Floyd County.

Six computers, which are free to use, were installed at the new Wheelwright Library.

Those who do not have acccess at home can use them for homework, studies for GED, or, to apply for jobs. Minnie and Prestonsburg libraries and several Floyd County schools will soon get new computers also.


Pike County Chamber of Commerce Town Hall Forum

Those who attended the Pike County Chamber of Commerce Town Hall Forum Tuesday night in Pikeville were encouraged to feel good about the business climate in this area. They stressed that the local economy was in no way as bad as the national media paints this region.

From automotive to banking to the coal economy, the forum was a gathering of area representatives whose outlook was upbeat and positive.

East Kentucky Broadcasting's Keith Casebolt was the moderator of the event. According to panel members, there is money to loan, vehicles for great deals, a strong housing market, a coal industry that needs experienced miners, and, an unmatched local medical system. They suggested the national media should take a closer look at what the area is accomplishing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Vehicle Accident At Kimper Shut Down Rt 194 For Several Hours.

Kentucky route 194 at Kimper was closed for several hours Tuesday after a two vehicle collision which occurred near the grade school. We were told ,that one of the vehicles, a tanker truck, leaked a significant amount of gas and diesel. We were also told that two people were injured.


Rocky Adkins To Introduce Bill To Attract NASCAR To Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Steve Beshear today voiced his support for an amendment to the Kentucky Tourism Development Act to add a new eligible category of so-called “legacy expansion” projects.
At a Capitol news conference, Gov. Beshear and bill sponsor House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins were joined by representatives of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. to discuss the positive impact this legislation would have on the future of motorsports in Kentucky.
Bruton Smith, chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., owner of Kentucky Speedway, and Jerry Carroll, consultant to Speedway Motorsports, Inc. said today that passage of this legislation would put Kentucky in position to host the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, that sanctioning body’s top racing series.
“The impact of a NASCAR Sprint Series Cup race for Kentucky is undeniable,” Gov. Beshear said. “NASCAR is the number one spectator sport in the United States and is broadcast in more than 150 countries and 30 languages. I’m excited about the potential of Kentucky joining these ranks.”
Under the proposed legislation, legacy expansion projects must conduct events that are in the top league, series or sanctioned level of their type of event, provide permanent seating for 65,000 spectators and be broadcast nationally. The venue must have previously been approved for incentives and the expansion project must exceed $30 million and present one or more “premier events” not previously held in Kentucky.
“I am hopeful that this legislation will receive favorable consideration in light of the significant impact landing a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Kentucky Speedway would have on our economy,” Rep. Adkins said. “The governor and his staff are to be commended for pursuing this exciting opportunity for Kentucky.”
The legislation, which Rep. Adkins plans to file next Monday, would also expand the availability of time over which the tax credits can be taken for the original investments made and the significant expansion at the Kentucky Speedway.


Tennessee Doctors Extradited In Harlan County Drug Case

Two Tennessee doctors are being held in the Harlan County Detention Center on $5 million bonds and could be arraigned as early as Thursday. Nashville anesthesiologist, 64 year old Dr. Visuvalingam Vilvarajah and his wife, Dr. Miriella Lalanne, were extradited to Kentucky Monday to face three counts of engaging in organized crime after being charged earlier this month with illegally prescribing painkillers in a Harlan County drug case involving about 350 patients. They're also charged with one count each of second-degree assault and first-degree wanton endangerment involving a Harlan County woman who gave birth to a baby addicted to narcotics. Vilvarajah lost his medical license after being sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to fatally shooting his former wife and mother-in-law in 1986. After serving about 5 years, he was paroled, and Tennessee reinstated his license. If convicted, they could be sentenced to 75 years.


Johnson County Men Charged With Theft

Johnson County deputies have arrested 18 year old Jeremy Johnson of Hager Hill and 21 year old Zachary Blair of Paintsville and charged them with theft by unlawful taking. Officers say they are still attempting to locate a 2009 Kawasaki Brute Force 750 ATV the men allegedly stole from a Kawasaki shop in Staffordsville last December.


Kidnapped Johnson County Girl Found In Georgia

48 year old Pamela D. Castle and her aunt, 54 year old Bonnie J. Blair, have been arrested in McKaysville, Georgia in Fannin County. Castle is charged with kidnapping and Blair is charged with complicity to the kidnapping of 9 year old Alissa Castle of Johnson County. Investigators say Castle and Blair took the girl from her legal guardian, Terecia Meade, on January 28th. Meade, another aunt, has had legal custody for several years and was allowing Pamela Castle to stay in her home after the ice storm caused power loss to Pamela's home. Castle and Blair face charges in Georgia stemming from actions while they were taken into custody.


Officials Report Letcher County Water Still Unsafe

Tuesday (today), the Kentucky Division of Water announced it is working with Whitesburg Water Works to resolve the water problems in Letcher County. Officials say the water remains unsafe for anything but flushing toilets. An investigation has found damaged fuel storage tanks four miles upstream from the water plant intake. The tanks are leaking petroleum. Officials are still awaiting results from sample tests.


Final Bid Less Than Paid For State Car

A second internet e-bay auction of a state car, a 2008 Chrusler 300, has ended with a final bid of $24,100/ Former Kentucky Education Commissioner Jon Draud had ordered the vehicle with $13,00 in add-ons, including a more powerful engine, a hands-free phone system and a global positioning system.

The final bid is $6,600 less than the state paid for the vehicle.


Eastern Kentucky Man Charged With Arson

64-year old Dewey Cross of Harlan County has been charged with second-degree burglary, second-degree arson and criminal mischief after his home burned Monday.

Authorities first believed he was trapped inside his burning home in Cumberland. Eventually, they found him at a home next door. Police believe he set fire to his home, then broke into the house next door and set fire to it also.


Perry County Boys Face Charges

According to the Kentucky State Police, two boys are facing wanton endangerment and arson charges following a homemade bomb explosion inside a bathroom at Willard Elementary School in the Busy community of Perry County.

There were no injuries or property damage reported after the boys allegedly used some eaily available household chemicals to create a "flash bang" explosion. State Police say a third boy could face charges. The boys are students at the school, which has classes through 8th grade.

Monday, February 16, 2009


West Virginia Workers Protest In Charleston.

Several state workers rallied at the West Virginia Capitol Monday in Charleston saying that they want better pay. WV Governor joe Manchin says that morale shouldn't be low because state workers are well paid , have jobs and also have a good benefit package. The governor has proposed pay raised to the legislature.


Work Crews Cleanup Fallen Debris From By Pass Road.

Kentucky State Highway workers from District 12 spent the day Monday cleaning up fallen debris on the Pikeville By-Pass. Numerous rock slides have occurred as of late . Traffic was delayed throughout the day as the work continued. The area is no stranger to such slides. City officials have talked in the past to state leaders about alleviating the problem.


Kentucky Abandoned Mine Lands Receives Funding For Stream Cleanup.

The Department for Natural Resources’ Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) announced today receipt of $3,499,764 in federal funding from the United States Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining for acid mine drainage (AMD) abatement in Kentucky.
The funding will be placed into the division’s AMD account and used for development and construction of projects for the abatement of acidic water in the coalfield streams of Kentucky.
Acidic water clogs the natural habitat of aquatic wildlife with iron and aluminum sediments, often resulting in the death of fish, frogs and insects. If the acid in the stream is extremely strong, it may even kill streamside plant life. Additionally, the yellow-orange iron deposits are unsightly to the human eye. The division, working along a watershed-based approach, will use this funding for projects that will provide major benefits to entire severely impacted streams.
“This is the second year AML has received federal funding for AMD and this funding is expected to continue well into the future,” said Steve Hohmann, director of the Division of the Abandoned Mine Lands. “The division currently has at least eight AMD projects under development or construction. This continued funding will certainly allow for more projects to be funded in the future.”


Statement From West Virginia Governor.

Gov. Joe Manchin released this statement today after learning of the passing of Lewis County resident and former state senator, William Sharpe:
“I’ve known Bill Sharpe and the entire Sharpe family most of my life. There’s never been a person who was more suited to be a public servant than Bill Sharpe. I had the pleasure of being seated beside Bill my freshman year as a state senator, and it was a distinct honor to watch him in action. He had a humorous way of participating in the legislative process that still makes me laugh today. He never took himself too seriously and was able to add humor to even the most serious matters.
“He’s going to be missed by every one of us who had the honor of being called his friend and he will definitely be missed by all the citizens he served across the state.”


Two Juveniles Arrested For Bringing Homemade Device To Perry County School.

On 02/16/09 Kentucky State Police received a 911 call to respond to Willard Elementary School in the Busy community of Perry County. The caller advised a loud bang had occurred in the boy’s restroom.
Preliminary investigation indicates that two male juveniles created a homemade destructive device and detonated it in the restroom. No one was injured and no damage occurred to school property. Both juveniles were taken into custody and charged with one count of Wanton Endangerment 2nd Degree and one count of Arson 2nd Degree and lodged in the Breathitt County Juvenile Detention Center. A third juvenile is also being investigated and may possibly be charged in connection with the incident. The investigation is continuing by Det. Gary Sandlin.


Kentucky Highway Fatalities Slightly Down From 2008.

FRANKFORT, KY) – Preliminary statistics* indicate that nine people died in nine separate crashes on Kentucky roadways from Monday, February 9 through Sunday, February 15, 2009.

Eight of the crashes involved motor vehicles and six of those victims were not wearing seat belts. Single-vehicle crashes occurred in Bourbon, Hancock, Harlan, Jefferson, Kenton, Larue, Logan and Washington counties. Two of these crashes involved the suspected use of alcohol.

One motorcycle crash occurred in Madison county and the victim was not wearing a helmet. The crash occurred on O' Possum Kingdom Road in Berea. At approximately 2:15 p.m., a motorcycle being operated by Bruce Mounce, age 56 of Paint Lick, approached a sharp curve while traveling northbound. At the same time, a Pike Electric Company vehicle being operated by Tony Bowling, age 44 of Booneville, was approaching the same curve. Mr. Mounce apparently lost control of his motorcycle and was ejected from it. The motorcycle struck the side of the truck, and Mr. Mounce was then pinned under the left front tire of the truck. The operator of the truck attempted to avoid the collision by steering his vehicle into the ditch line.

Through February 15, preliminary statistics* indicate that 78 people have lost their lives on Kentucky roadways during 2009. This is seven fewer than reported for the same time period in 2008. Of the 73 motor vehicle fatalities, 40 victims were not wearing seat belts. Four pedestrian have been killed. One fatality involved a motorcycle. A total of nineteen fatalities have resulted from crashes involving the suspected use of alcohol.

Citizens can contribute to highway safety by reporting erratic drivers to the Kentucky State Police toll-free at 1-800-222-5555. Callers will remain anonymous and should give a description of the vehicle, location, direction of travel and license number if possible.

*These statistics are still preliminary as KSP waits for all local law enforcement agencies throughout the state to report any crashes and fatalities that may have occurred in their areas.


Kentucky Hospital's Remain Economically Strong.

LOUISVILLE, KY (Monday, February 16, 2009): In addition to enhancing the health and well-being of the communities they care for, Kentucky’s hospitals contribute significantly to the area’s economic health, according to a recent report prepared by the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA). The report revealed that the estimated total annual economic impact of hospital spending on staff salaries and purchases of supplies and services totaled nearly $5 billion in 2007. "Besides their caring role, Kentucky hospitals are an important part of the state and local economies. Even during periods of economic recession, hospitals continue to employee personnel to meet the growing demands for services, and thus contribute to the overall economy," said Michael T. Rust, president of KHA. "Everyone knows that hospitals are the safety net for their communities — staffed and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and ready to assist all patients regardless of whether they have insurance or can afford to pay — however, few realize the tremendous contribution hospitals make to the state’s economy. Strong and economically viable hospitals are critical to our quality of life, and Kentucky’s hospitals are an integral part of a community’s well-being," said Rust.


U.S. Forest Officials Continue To Investigate Falling Death

U.S. Forest Service officials are contuining to investigate the death of a hiker who died Sunday afternoon after falling off the edge of a cliff in Red River Gorge. Officials say 63 year old Ronald J. Trick of Powell, Ohio, had been hiking deep in the Daniel Boone National Forest when he fell several feet off Haystack Rock near Tunnel Ridge Road. Officials say Trick was a frequent visitor to the gorge and hiking alone.


Digital TV Conversion Brings New Era

Just before the clock strikes midnight Monday night (tonight), a new era of television will begin. The old analog signal will switch to broadcast all digital, all the time, for several stations. The digital conversion will cause old-fashioned analog to finally disappear for good. Nationwide, more than 500 stations will switch, beginning Feburary 17th. For others, the digital transition is set for June 12th. Some viewers will need to purchase and install digital receivers or converter boxes or digital television sets. If you are on cable, have satellite or a newer TV, you don't have anything to worry about.


Non-Consumption Advisory Issued In Letcher County

As a precaution, Monday the state Division of Water issued a non-consumption advisory for several customers in Letcher County, asking they not use their water for drinking, showering or cooking. Health department officials say the only safe thing to do with the water is to flush toilets. The state Division of Water emergency response team visited the water treatment plant where an oily sheen on the North Fork of the Kentucky River was discovered, and the water coming out of the treatment plant smelled of diesel fuel. The water is now being tested, and officials are awaiting results. In November, the water supply was shut down for a week, and investigators found sludge leaking into the North Fork from Childers Oil Inc. The owner, Don Childers was cited.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Satellite Debris Explains Loud Boom

Folks from Jackson to London, within approximately a 500 mile area, were alarmed Friday afternoon when they began hearing a series of loud booms. But, their minds were soon put to rest when state police in London announced, according to the FAA, the booms were from falling debris, coming from two satellites that collided in space. The debris re-entering the atmosphere caused the loud booms then burned up before hitting earth.


Kentucky Governor Signs Tax Bill

Within hours after the Senate approved it, Friday, Governor Steve Beshear signed legislation to raise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. Beshear says the new taxes should bring the state enough money to avoid deeper funding cuts for education, health care and public safety programs. Lawmakers approved doubling the state's cigarette tax, raising it to 60 cents per pack, and imposing a 6% retail sales tax on alcohol--beer, wine and liquor. The new taxes take effect April 1st.


Norfolk Southern Announces Temporary Layoffs In Mingo County.

The rail industry announced Friday that Norfolk Southern will layoff 29 workers from its rail yard in Williamson. The company says that the layoffs are temporary.


WV Senate Majority leader Sponsoring Several Bills.

The 79th edition of the West Virginia Legislature is now underway in Charleston. Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin is busy as he is sponsoring several bills. One would return five percent per million dollars of coal severance money back to the county from where it is mined from, Household Exemption Increase Amendment, a bill would increase the benefits of retired teachers, one bill would provide allocated private protection fund revenue to fire departments and fire associations, exempt military retirement from first time income tax obligations, allow two year motorcycle registration and reduce the ratio of school nurses to school children. Also Mingo County Day at the Capitol will be held on Monday, March 23rd.


Perry County Drug Bust

HAZARD A Perry County man suspected of being ³a heavy drug trafficker² in the region was arrested Monday, February 9, following a lengthy investigation by Operation UNITE and the Perry County Sheriff¹s Office.
Taylor Jones, age 51, of Memory Mountain Lane in the Bulan Community, was charged with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and lodged in the Kentucky River Regional Jail.
³We have received many tip line complaints on Mr. Jones,² said Dan Smoot, law enforcement director for UNITE. ³Although we had suspected he was a dealer for more than a year, it was difficult to get the evidence we needed to make an arrest.²
Based upon information obtained during the undercover investigation, law enforcement officers were able to go to Jones¹ home where they conducted a search. Police confiscated 94 Methadone, 42 Hydrocodone and nine Xanax pills in addition to $1,397 in cash.
Jones has a prior conviction for trafficking in marijuana in Perry County.


Lawrence County Drug Bust

LOUISA A man police call ³one of the biggest drug dealers in the Lawrence County area² was arrested last week following a nearly eight-month undercover investigation by three law enforcement agencies.
Operation UNITE detectives arrested 34-year-old Jason Edward Cooksey last week after a search of his residence resulted in the seizure of 437 pills and several thousand dollars in cash. The drugs had a street value of nearly $23,000, police said.
Cooksey, of North Lock Avenue in Louisa, was charged with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance, second-degree trafficking in a controlled substance, trafficking in a controlled substance within 1,000 yards of a school, and possession of marijuana. Additional charges are expected.
³Louisa Police Chief Phillip Claxton and Lawrence County Sheriff Garrett Roberts have been actively involved in this investigation since its inception,² said Dan Smoot, law enforcement director for UNITE. ³They helped develop information and allowed their officers to work on this case as needed since last summer.²


Letcher County Coroner To Step Down In Doctor Shopping Case.

Attorney General Jack Conway and his Office of Special Prosecutions today announced that Letcher County Coroner John Cornett has entered a plea of guilty to seven counts of unlawfully obtaining a prescription for a controlled substance by fraud, commonly known as “Dr. shopping.” The coroner is required to resign from his elected position today as part of the plea. Cornett’s wife, Andrea, a former nurse at Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital, also pled guilty to four counts of theft of a controlled substance.
The Cornetts were indicted in November of 2008 following an investigation by both the Kentucky State Police and the Office of the Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations.
Letcher Circuit Court Judge Sam Wright sentenced Cornett and his wife to pre-trial diversion for a period of three years and both will undergo a drug/alcohol assessment and possible drug treatment. As part of his plea deal, John Cornett also agreed not to seek the office of Coroner during the period of his pre-trial diversion.


Legislative Update From W. Keith Hall

he Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate took the first significant step in addressing the state’s budget crisis by passing House Bill 144 this week. The House passed the bill by a vote of 66-34.
For the past several weeks House and Senate leaders have met to work out details of the budget, conferring with Gov. Beshear and administration officials on a consistent basis. Our revenue plan meets the governor’s revenue request by raising more than $300 million over the next biennium.
HB 144, a revenue measure that is estimated to produce $52 million in 2008/09, will raise $158.8 million in the next full budget year from new tobacco /alcohol user fees.
The tobacco fee portion of HB 144 will increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 30 cents and people now purchasing liquor or beer at a package or retail outlet will pay a 6 per cent sales tax. We are already charged that 6 percent when we purchase a glass of wine or beer in a restaurant or bar, and we pay that same 6 percent when we pay for soda at a retail location. We will now be paying it at the retail level for beer and other alcoholic products.
Other provisions that will help plug the holes in the state budget were included in House Bill 143 which the House passed in a 77-23 vote.
Perhaps most important, HB 143 bill protects education, Medicaid, human services, corrections, parks and mental health and mental retardation services. It holds harmless the SEEK formula, and postsecondary schools are limited to just 2 percent cuts, as opposed to the more than 6% cuts education officials were told to prepare for.
In addition, the plan keeps more drastic cuts from being made. Even though $147 million will still be cut under this plan, House Bill 144 limits the extent of these cuts.
The bill preserves coal counties’ share of coal severance and tobacco settlement revenue, keeping the funds where they are intended to be used.
House Bill 144 prevents state government lay-offs and furloughs, maintaining a state workforce already at its lowest level in nearly 20 years.
We will also take $294 million from the state’s Rainy Day fund and other funds, with the intention of returning it next year.
While these measures will help staunch the bleeding of our state budget, there will still be pain in our commonwealth as the governor makes tough decisions about where to cut agency budgets.
We acknowledge that the passage of House Bill 144 is not a perfect solution, but is instead a first step in the search for long term answers to Kentucky’s budget problems.
But the alternative – to raise no revenue and allow for further drastic cuts which would endanger our seniors and Medicaid programs, hurt our students and educational institutions and imperil our safety by slashing public safety budgets – were not viable solutions we could consider.
There is no question that more can be done, and we are committed to pursuing other avenues, especially addressing Kentucky’s antiquated tax code which desperately needs overhauling.. House leaders have promised to begin that tax reform effort at the end of this short session.
I am very proud that House leaders worked in a bipartisan manner with the Senate and governor to pass House Bill 144. I am hopeful that this same spirit of cooperation and collaboration will continue to guide us as we complete the weeks of the 2009 session and search for solutions to Kentucky’s problems.


Contractors To Begin Removing Debris From Recent Ice Storm

JACKSON, KY – Contractors will begin removing vegetative debris from Kentucky’s recent ice storm in Breathitt, Estill, Magoffin, Menifee, Powell and Morgan counties on Monday, Feb. 16.

This effort will include all state routes in each county, as well as county roads in Powell County.

The work will consist of removing fallen trees and branches from highway rights-of-way, as well as cutting leaning or overhanging trees that still constitute a hazard to motorists.

Contractors will only be picking up fallen trees and branches along the roadside. They will not pick up metal, plastic or wood products such as paneling, siding, plywood or cut lumber. Only one pass will be made along each highway. Contractors also will not be going onto private property to remove fallen trees and limbs from yards or fields.

Dates that debris will be picked up along specific highways have not been determined. Work schedules will be set on a tentative basis, and may be impacted by weather conditions as well as quantities of debris encountered by the crews.

Motorists are urged to watch for these debris removal crews once they begin work. They are urged to “Drive Smart” and be on the lookout for flaggers and equipment in the impacted areas. This work will require lane closures on multi-lane routes, and temporary traffic stoppages on two-lane routes. Drivers should anticipate delays and plan their trips accordingly.


Kentucky Spring Forest Fire Season Underway.

FRANKFORT, KY (Feb. 13, 2009) – Kentucky law designates Feb. 15 through April 30 as spring forest fire hazard season. During this time, it is illegal to burn anything within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland between the daylight hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The law is intended to prevent forest fires by allowing outdoor burning only during the time when conditions are less likely to cause a wildfire to spread. While it is not illegal to burn after 6 p.m., forestry officials say that now is not a good time to do any burning due to the fallen trees and limbs from recent storms. “The fallen timber will dry out and become fuel for future wildfires,” said Leah MacSwords, director of the Division of Forestry. “We are also concerned about escaped fires caused by residents burning storm debris. Although most people who burn debris do no intend for their fire to get out of control, it frequently happens. Last year, 4,871 acres burned in Kentucky as a result of debris fires that escaped.” Most of the wildfires in Kentucky are caused by human negligence or by malicious arson; therefore, most wildfires are preventable. To reduce the risk of wildfire, the division recommends the following guidelines: Debris Burning• Clear a safe zone that is wide enough to prevent the escape of fire.• Keep a supply of water and a rake or shovel readily accessible.• Do not leave a fire unattended.• Burn only when the wind is calm and the humidity level is high. • Extinguish fire completely if conditions become windy.• Keep burn piles small to allow quick control of the fire if necessary. • Locate burn piles an adequate distance from structures and utilities. • Obey all outdoor burning laws including forest fire laws, air pollution regulations and local ordinances. Arson• Report any suspicious acts of arson to the nearest Kentucky State Police post or the Target Arson Hotline at 1-800-27-ARSON. • Report details such as description of suspect, car, or license number. For more information about fire hazard seasons, outdoor burning laws and safe burning practices, contact the Kentucky Division of Forestry at 1-800-866-0555 or visit the division’s Web site at

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