Local News 1-11-2013

Officials in Pike Co. Continue to Search for Answers in a Deadly House Fire

The investigation into what caused a deadly fire in a small Pike Co. commmunity is continuing. The fire claimed the life of 5 people, a dad and four of children, identified as
William Wilfong, 39, Tyler, 5, Dakota, 4, Cheyanne, 2 and Emma, who was just six-months-old. The only survivor of this tradgedy was the mother, Tammy Tucker, who is currently at a burn unit at UK Medical Center in Lexington, Ky., listed in critical condition. The house was located on Elswick Branch Road in the Jonancy community of Pike Co. and the fire reported at around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. Kentucky State Fire Marshal William Swope Jr. says several agencies are involved in finding out the cause of this fire. Swope says with five people dead they want to be as thorough as possible and he adds that they may have preliminary results of their investigation by early this afternoon.

Search Warrant Issued for a Pike Co. Man Involved in a Shooting

According to the KSP in Pikeville, on Saturday January 5 at 5:38 A.M. KSP received a call from the Virgie community of Pike County stating that a male subject had been located in a residence and was bleeding from the abdomen. Tpoopers responded to the residence and found Kelley Bentley of Virgie, Ky. in the residence with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Information obtained at the scene indicates that a verbal argument started between Bentley and a unidentified male and during the argument the unidentified male brandished a weapon and shot Bentley. The unidentified male then fled the scene prior to KSP arrival and Bentley was transported to Pikeville Medical Center for his injuries. KSP officials obtained an arrest warrant for Assault First Degree on 27 year old Mickey Donovan Holbrooks of Pikeville. Kentucky State Police asks that anyone with information on the whereabouts of Mickey Donovan Holbrooks, to please contact Kentucky State Police at (606) 433-7711 or 1-800 222-5555.

Oxycontin Lawsuit to be Held in Pikeville

It's been announced that Pikeville will be the site for Kentucky's efforts to hold the manufacturer of the drug Oxycontin, accountable for misleading the public about the addictive nature of its product, highly abused in Eastern Ky. On Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a state lawsuit against Purdue Pharma should be tried in Pike Circuit Court, where it was originally filed in 2007 by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, when he served as Kentucky's Attorney General. According to a statement released by Attorney General Jack Conway’s office, the state alleges in its complaint, which has since been joined by Pike County, that Purdue Pharma “misled healthcare providers, consumers and government officials regarding the risk of addiction associated with Oxycontin.” The statement also notes that Kentucky saw overdose deaths increase 164 percent between 1999 and 2004.

This complaint seeks to force Purdue Pharma to reimburse the state, as well as Pike County for “costs incurred in drug abuse programs, law enforcement actions, and prescription payments through Medicaid and the Kentucky Pharmaceutical Alliance program.” Purdue Pharma has tried to have this lawsuit removed to U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, arguing that it the complaint represented class-action lawsuit and should be tried in federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005.

Current Atty. General Conway praised the court’s ruling Wednesday, saying in part, "Oxycontin is highly addictive and easily abused prescription drug that has wrought tragic consequences throughout the Commonwealth, and Purdue Pharma’s misrepresentations about its addictive nature helped fuel an epidemic of prescription pill abuse across Kentucky.” “More Kentuckians are dying from prescription drug overdoses than traffic accidents,” Conway added. “Drug companies that mislead consumers about the nature of their drugs must be held accountable.”

Kentucky Breaks Into Top 10 In National Education Ranking

Kentucky's ranking in an annual assessment of all states on key education indicators rose four places, making it 10th in the nation for its efforts to improve teaching, raise student achievement and many other variables related to public education. Governor Steve Beshear joined Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and other education advocates to celebrate this new milestone Wednesday. Each year, Education Week (a national publication that focuses on P-12 education) produces a special issue, "Quality Counts." The report tracks key education indicators and grades states on their policy efforts and outcomes. Last year, Kentucky ranked 14th in the nation. In 2010, the state was in 34th place in this annual report. "Kentucky has made dramatic progress in P-12 education in recent years, and we should be proud of that," said Gov. Steve Beshear. "This Quality Counts report recognizes all the hard work of teachers, administrators, parents, business and community members to educate our young people which will result in stronger workforce and improved quality of life for the people of the Commonwealth."

Quality Counts provides data and information about states' efforts in six areas:
• K-12 Achievement
• Standards, Assessments and Accountability
• Teaching Profession
• School Finance
• Transitions and Alignment
• Chance for Success (an index that combines information from 13 indicators that cover state residents' lives from cradle to career)

States were assigned overall letter grades based on the average of scores for the six categories. This year, Kentucky's overall grade was a B-minus, an improvement over last year's grade and a higher grade than the national average, which was a C-plus. No states received a grade of A in the 2013 edition of Quality Counts. The highest-ranking state was Maryland, with a B-plus. Three states received B grades; eight states (including Kentucky) received B-minus grades; and 19 states received C-plus grades. This is the 17th edition of the annual Quality Counts report, and the theme this year is the impact of a school's social and disciplinary environment on students' ability to learn and on the teacher and administrators tasked with guiding them. The full report is available at http://www.edweek.org/.

Budget Office Reports Improved Revenue in December

State Budget Director Mary Lassiter is reporting that Kentucky's General Fund revenue rose substantially in December, despite lackluster growth in sales tax receipts and a decline in corporate income tax collections. Lassiter released her monthly review on Thursday, showing General Fund revenue up by 4.9 percent and Road Fund receipts 6.2 percent higher. Total General Fund revenue for the month was nearly $946 million. Road Fund revenue was more than $162 million. Property tax collections grew 12.1 percent in December. Individual income tax receipts were up 10.1 percent. And sales tax revenue rose 1.7 percent. Meanwhile, corporate income tax revenue fell by 11.6 percent. Coal severance tax receipts were down 18.7 percent. And collections from the state's cigarette tax were flat.

College Goal Sunday. Help filling out FAFSA

College Goal Sunday, which provides free help to families applying for college financial aid, will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, January 13, at 17 sites across the state. Big Sandy Community & Technical College and Morehead State University are two of these locations. All attendees will be eligible to enter into a drawing for a chance to win a scholarship that can be used at any Kentucky school.  At College Goal Sunday, financial aid professionals from Kentucky will help students and families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the form students must submit to receive federal and state student aid.  For more information about College Goal Sunday, call toll-free, 1-888-4-KASFAA (1-888-452-7322).