Local News 4-23-2014 - UPDATED



Castle Found Guilty in a Fatal Johnson Co. Crash

A Johnson Co. manslaughter trial came to a close Wednesday morning, as a jury of 12 reached a verdict after 2 days of testimony. The trial involved Myra Castle, 53, of Wittensville, who was charged with second degree manslaughter and DUI in connection with the death of 18-year-old C.J. Mollett in August of 2013. Castle was driving her car along Ky Rt. 201 when she collided with a motorcycle driven by Mollett causing his death.

During closing arguments Wednesday, Castle’s Defense Attorney Ned Pillersdorf, told the jury that his client was guilty of one thing and that was “poor judgment” for taking a drink that day, but he said the facts in the case have shown that whether she was drinking or not would not have made a difference in Mollett’s death. Pillersdorf said, “He hit her, not the other way around.” “He was traveling over 80 mph, passing multiple vehicles on Rt 201 and anybody could had been in Castle’s shoes that day, the accident was unavoidable because Mollett was going too fast.” Pillersdorf went onto say, “Castle’s car did not move from the spot the accident happened, the 185 feet of skidmarks left by Mollett’s tire proves that speed played a deadly factor in the accident.”

Commonwealth Attorney Tony Skeans started off his closing arguments Wednesday, by telling the jurors this case should center around one thing and that is “causation.” Did Castle intend to cause the accident that killed Mollett, according to Skeans the answer is “YES, once she chose to drink and drive”. “Her actions and hers alone caused the death of Mollett”. Skeans added, “All responsibility goes on Castle’s shoulders, no one else’s.”

After closing arguments wrapped up, the jury deliberated for nearly an hour before coming back with a verdict. Once court resumed Judge John David Preston read the decision of the jury, guilty of manslaughter in the 2nd and guilty of Operating a Vehicle Under the influence (D.U.I). The manslaughter charge carries a sentence of 5-10 years and the DUI charge carried a potential sentence of 48 hours to 30 days behind bars. Defense Attorney Ryan Allison spoke to the jury about the length of time Castle should spend behind bars and explained she has no criminal background and this was an accident not criminal intent and the jury’s decision should take that into consideration.

Skeans also spoke to the jury and reminded them that C.J Mollett was the victim in this case, the family was suffering because of this and the jury should give Castle the maximum sentence possible. The jury also heard from C.J's mom Kelly, who read a letter she wrote about C.J’s life and how much Mollett had to look forward to in life. After 10 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned to the courtroom and handed down a sentence of 7 years for the manslaughter charge and 30 days for the DUI charge. Castle was taken into custody and led out of the courtroom, she will be back in court May 16, 2014 for formal sentencing.


Not Guilty Plea Entered in a Pike County Crash

A Pike Co. man charged with murder in connection with a deadly crash in March, has entered a not guilty plea in his case. According to the Pike Co. Sheriff’s Dept., Barry Shortridge was driving under the influence along US 460 in the Feds Creek area when he caused a crash that killed Terry Sawyers, as well as Sawyers wife. Shortridge is also facing charges of assault and DUI. His bail was set at 50,000. He is scheduled to be back in court on June 20th.

Man Arrested in Wife's Shooting

An Olive Hill man has been arrested after KSP say an argument with his wife escalated into a shooting. Robert A. Tackett, 47, of Olive Hill, has been charged with attempted murder and domestic violence and he’s been lodged in the Carter County Detention Center. Troopers say Tackett was in a verbal argument with his wife, 49-year-old Lisa Tackett Saturday morning around 9:45 a.m. at the couple's home on Eastland Drive in Olive Hill. The argument got heated enough that Robert Tackett shot his wife in the neck and she is currently listed in stable condition at an area hospital. No other information has been released and the KSP is continuing to investigate the incident.

Beshear: KY's Health Exchange "Indisputable Success"

About one in 10 Kentucky residents has signed up for insurance coverage under the state's health-benefit exchange known as "kynect." The raw numbers: 413,410 Kentuckians, including Beth Moore from Louisville. She signed up when she became self-employed in January, she said, and in March, while on a trip out of state, she had an emergency appendectomy. "As of right now, I've received documentation for over $30,000 of medical claims," she said, "which, if I had not had insurance, would have been catastrophic for me." Moore said she has paid $150 out of pocket on the claims. According to the governor's office, 20 percent of those who enrolled, including Moore, purchased a private insurance plan. The other 80 percent qualified for coverage under Medicaid expansion. While the exchange gives people access to coverage, said Audrey Haynes, Kentucky's health and family services secretary, there has to be a continued focus on long-term health. "Turning around what has long been a health needle that never seems to move for Kentucky in the right direction is certainly our next big step," she said. While opponents of the Affordable Care Act claim it will bust the federal budget, Kentucky's governor is calling it an indisputable success. In Steve Beshear's words, "This is working - that's the bottom line, it's working." "These critics continue, apparently, to sit in their own echo chambers and talk to each other," Beshear said, "because, when you get out and talk to these 413,000 people, they are very thankful." Beshear said about 75 percent of those who have enrolled did not have insurance prior to "kynect." The state used hundreds of so-called "kynectors" - individuals trained to help people sign up. Community Action Kentucky, which serves low-income families across the state, has 120 kynectors, including Kami White, who said she witnessed firsthand how much it's helping. "It meant that they were going to be able to go to the doctor," she said, "and it meant that they were going to be able to get their prescriptions." The next enrollment period opens Nov. 15 for coverage beginning in January.

Winter Proves Very Costly to the State

With all the cold, snowy and icy days that Mother Nature brought to the State, officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet say it cost them a whole lot of money. A matter a fact, more than $68 million worth. State officials say they used over 420,000 tons of salt this winter, to keep roads clear across the Commonwealth. That is compared to 194,000 tons last winter. With that cost, less money will be available for some spring maintenance projects across the state.

Big Sandy Community and Technical College set to Host job Fair April 30th

Big Sandy Community and Technical College, East Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Big Sandy Area Community Action Program and the Kentucky Career Center will hold a job fair from 10am-2pm, Wednesday April 30th on the Mayo Campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College. Sandy Grimm, a career advisor with Big Sandy Community Action Program, said more than 20 employers will participate in the event. AT&T will be accepting applications and also doing on-site testing at the job fair. Other companies participating include: First Commonwealth Bank, Mountain Comprehensive Care Center, Manpower, Wendy's, GMS Mine Repair, Wells Group, Gearheart Communications and Lowe's of Paintsville. Staff members are currently working to contact more employers each day. For more information, contact Sandy Grimm at 606-889-1786 or 606-789-3641.


From the Ky Transportation Cabinet, Beginning WEDNESDAY, (April 23, 2014) through (May 2, 2014)!!! Mountain Enterprise expects to begin work on City streets in Paintsville beginning Today, Wenesday, April 23. Residents should NOT PARK on the following streets from 7 AM until 7 PM through May 2!

4th Street

5th Street

College Street

Twin Oaks Drive

Happy Hollow

Short Street

Stafford Avenue

Court Street

Milling and paving work is scheduled for each of these streets. The work is expected to be finished by Friday, May 2. People may park in areas from 7 PM until 7 AM, but the contractors ask that ALL vehicles be moved NO LATER than 7 AM EACH DAY, Monday - Friday.


Local News 4-22-2014

KSP Make Arrest in a Johnson Co. Burglary

According to a news release from the KSP in Pikeville, on April 18, 2014 Trooper Zach Haney was dispatched to a burglary complaint on Kentucky 40 in Johnson County. Tpr. Haney responded to the complaint and conducted an investigation where several items were taken from the residence. Later this same day Tpr. Hunter Hensley was dispatched to an Intoxicated Person complaint on Kentucky 40 in Johnson County, stating that the intoxicated person was sitting in a vehicle and was refusing to leave. Tpr. Hensley was assisted on scene by Johnson County Jailer Doug Saylor. Upon arrival KSP made contact with the male and consent to search the vehicle was obtained. Tpr. Haney was also requested to respond to the scene. Located within the vehicle were items that were taken from the residence that Tpr. Haney had previously responded to earlier the same day. Also located in the vehicle were items that were taken from other homes in the area. Terry N. Porter was arrested and charged with Burglary 2nd Degree, Criminal Mischief 3rd Degree, Possession of Controlled Substance 1st, Promoting Contraband 1st, Possession Controlled Substance 3rd, and Possession of Burglary Tools. This incident remains under investigation by Kentucky State Police Trooper Zach Haney.

Trial is Underway in a Fatal Johnson Co. Crash

Jury selection ended Friday and the trial is underway for a Johnson Co. woman, charged in the death of an 18-year-old, killed after she collided with a motorcycle. The trial for Myra Castle, 53, of Wittensville began Monday morning. Castle has been charged with second degree manslaughter and DUI in connection with the death of C. J. Mollett. Mollett was killed after the motorcycle he was riding on, collided with the car Castle was operating. The accident happened along Ky. Rt. 201 on August 16, 2013. According to the original indictment, Castle had a blood alcohol of 0.200 when investigators say she crossed the center line and hit Mollett. In a statement to WSAZ news, Castle's attorney, Ned Pillersdorf, said Mollett caused his own death by traveling at an excessive speed and Castle was only going 15 mph and was making a legal left turn at the time of the accident. According to the Kentucky State Police incident report, Castle told troopers at the hospital, she had been drinking vodka earlier in the day.

Alford Plea Accepted in a Magoffin County Murder Case

Reports out of Magoffin County indicate a judge has accepted an Alford Plea for a Magoffin Co. man accused of Murder. Daniel Hackworth was originally charged with the murder of 49-year old Donnie Allen in January 2013. Allen's body was found in Hackworth’s yard, who Police say was found inside his residence with a gun. With the Alford Plea offered by the commonwealth's attorney, the murder charges were dropped to reckless homicide and Hackworth was given a three year probated sentence, which started last week. No further information has been provided.

Pikeville Doctor Pleads Guilty to Drug Conspiracy

A Pikeville doctor has admitted that he allowed a pharmacy access to prescription drug samples. Dr. Thad Manning pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misbranding drugs and has agreed to pay $250,000, which represents the proceeds he received as a result of the conspiracy. He also agreed to enter into a drug rehab center for an addiction of hydrocodone. Manning will be sentenced in July. He faces one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Ex-Mingo County, W.Va Prosecutor Set for Sentencing

A former Mingo County, W.Va prosecutor will soon learn his fate in a federal corruption investigation. Michael Sparks is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, April 24 in federal court in Charleston, W.Va. He faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Sparks and former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury were accused of protecting the late Sheriff Eugene Crum from revelations that Crum bought drugs from a campaign sign maker. Crum was killed in an unrelated shooting last April. Sparks pleaded guilty last year to depriving sign maker George White of his constitutional rights. Thornsbury pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive White of his rights. Charges against White were dismissed in February. Thornsbury is scheduled to be sentenced June 9.

Ky. Releases County Unemployment Rates

Annual unemployment rates were lower in 51 Kentucky counties in 2012 than in 2013, while 57 county rates went up and 12 counties had the same annual rate for both years, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. The annual jobless rate for Woodford County was the lowest in the Commonwealth in 2013 at 6.1 percent. It was followed by Fayette and Oldham counties, 6.5 percent each; Scott County, 6.7 percent; Boone, Daviess, Franklin, Madison and Shelby counties, 6.8 percent each; and Caldwell, Owen and Warren counties, 7 percent each.

Leslie County recorded the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2013 — 17.7 percent. It was followed by Harlan and Magoffin counties, 17.6 percent each; Letcher County, 17.3 percent; Knott County, 16.1 percent; Fulton and Jackson counties, 15 percent each; Bell County, 14.9 percent; Perry County, 13.7 percent; and McCreary County, 13.5 percent.

Long Time Johnson Co. Clerk Passes

Johnson Co. officials, along with the public are mourning the passing of long-time Johnson Co. Clerk Betty Jo Conley, who served the residents in office for 33 years, 25 of those as Johnson Co. Clerk and 8 more as a Deputy Clerk. Betty Jo (Pelphrey) Conley passed away Easter Sunday morning, April 20th at the age of 75 years. She was a proud resident of Leander, Ky. with her husband Wallace.

Betty Jo first took office in 1970 and served 6 terms as the Clerk of Johnson Co. and for that period of time, if you ever stopped by and visited the Johnson Co. Clerk’s Office and spoke with Betty Jo, you immediately recognized her warmth and friendliness to each and every person, but you also had to notice you’re surroundings. From the smell of coffee simmering in the pot, to the smiles and laughter of her employees and of course who could forget the many, many antique dolls and figurines that lined every inch of the Clerk’s office. Visiting there was more than just stopping by and licensing you’re vehicle or taking care of any other business you had, no visiting with Betty Jo Conley left you with a sense of being a person, being someone that for that moment you was talking with her, you were her focus. She knew everyone throughout the county it seemed and if she didn’t know you right off, she would before you left.

Betty Jo would always greet you with that smile of hers and eventually in your conversation with her, would call you “Honey” or give you a “Bless your Heart” and you knew she meant it. Betty Jo Conley was a marvelous woman, a strong woman, a good business woman, there’s so many ways to describe her, but I feel it would be best just to describe her as Friend, a true Friend to MANY and she surely will be missed by everyone.

She is survived by her husband Wallace, one son Chris Conley and wife Chastity; one daughter, current Johnson County Court Clerk, Sallee Ann (Conley) Holbrook and husband Winfield; one daughter-in-law, Kerri Conley Ratliff; five grandchildren; one great grandchild; three sisters.

Funeral: 2:00 p.m. Thursday, April 24th, 2014 in the Jones-Preston Funeral Chapel Visitation: 4:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014,
9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 and after 9:00 a.m. until time of service on Thursday, April 24th, 2014 at Jones-Preston Funeral Home

In honor of Betty Jo Conley and her service to Johnson Co. the Johnson Co. Clerk's Office will be CLOSING on Tuesday, April 22 @ 2 PM and will REMAIN CLOSED until Friday, April 25 @ 8 AM. Also following the Funeral @ around 3:15 PM or so, the Funeral Procession will go through downtown Paintsville, in front of the Courthouse on Court Street in route to her final resting place at Highland’s Memorial Park at Staffordsville. (Tune into the Morning Funeral Announcements @ 5:30 AM and 7:30 AM, the Mid-day News @ 12 Noon and the 5 o’clock News for the complete Funeral Announcement.

Local News 4-21-2014


Fire destroys Pike County home

A Pike County family’s home was destroyed by fire Friday, leaving the family with hardly nothing. The fire was located in the Arrowhead Estates neighborhood and was called into 911 just before 11 AM Friday morning. According to reports, firefighters from four different fire departments, along with Pike County Emergency Management, and The American Red Cross were called to the scene. Fire officials say the family was inside the residence when the fire occurred, but were able to get out, unfortunately three of their pets did not. Firefighters worked for more than three hours to extinguish the flames. Fire officials are continuing to investigate the cause of the fire. No other information has been released.

Floyd Co. Man Charged with Escaping Home Incarceration

Floyd County authorities have charged a Floyd Co. man with escape, after he allegedly cut and removed his monitoring ankle bracelet. Randall Akers was under home incarceration at his home on Old House Hollow in Floyd Co. when he cut off the device and left the residence shortly after midnight, on April 16. Akers was arrested a short time later and now is accused of second-degree escape, tampering with a prisoner monitoring device and third-degree criminal mischief.

According to the Floyd Co. Times, Akers appeared in court Friday and an order holding the new charges against him in abeyance, pending the outcome of his participation in a substance abuse program. Akers is next scheduled to appear in court Oct. 24, at which time the outcome of the substance abuse program will be reviewed. If Akers successfully completes the program, the new charges against Akers will be amended to misdemeanors.

Man Wanted for 2012 Robbery Arrested

A man wanted in connection with the robbery in May of 2012 of an Amish store in Gallia County, Ohio has been arrested. According to the Boyd Co. Sheriff’s Office, Zebulun Lane, 34, was indicted on a robbery charge, with a gun specification, in connection with the robbery of Yoder Lumber in Walnut Township. Lane was arrested last week in Boyd County on a traffic violation and after a routine identity check, deputies found Lane had had warrants for his arrest in Boyd and Campbell counties in Kentucky, along with the indictment in Gallia County. Lane was said to have robbed the owner of the Amish store at gunpoint, taking money and property from the business. No further information has been made available at this time.

Commercial Flights from Pikeville, Ky to Nashville to be Delayed

For years there’s been an effort to provide commercial air service between in the mountains of Eastern Ky and for the last few months, that dream seemed to be turning into a reality, but folks will have to wait just a little bit longer, as the new service has stalled due to proper paperwork. Appalachian Air had been scheduled to start offering flights from Pikeville and Nashville, Tenn. last week, but that initiative has been delayed because the airport in Pikeville hasn't yet obtained all the proper certifications. Officials in Pikeville, along with the airport board and the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce have been working on the initiative for four years. They say the setback is disappointing but only temporary, but no timetable has been set on when commercial flights might begin in the area. Pikeville officials say they are working diligently to get the proper approvals.     

Ky. Academic Standards to get Review

Kentucky residents will get a chance to review state academic standards later this year and suggest changes. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told a Lexington newspaper that the initiative called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge will begin in the fall. He says the project isn't a reaction to criticism of the national Common Core standards, on which Kentucky's standards are based. Instead, Holliday said he has always maintained that the state standards should be formally reviewed after about five years. Kentucky Core Academic Standards were implemented in 2010. Holliday said a group of higher education professionals, business leaders and teachers will use the public feedback to make revisions.

OSHA Hearing Examines Silica Dust Risks in Fracking

LEAD: OSHA just wrapped up nearly three weeks of hearings on a proposed rule to limit worker exposure to silica dust. Hydraulic fracturing was one of the industry exposures examined, along with general construction, masonry and foundries. Greg Stotelmyer reports.

FRANKFORT, Ky. - OSHA has wrapped up nearly three weeks of hearings on a proposed rule to limit workers' exposure to damaging silica dust. Hydraulic fracturing was one of the industries where silica-dust exposures were examined, along with general construction, masonry and foundries. Silica dust is connected to various respiratory illnesses and to silicosis, an incurable chronic lung disease. According to Celeste Monforton, Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University School of Public Health, in her testimony, safety regulations were first recommended back in 1974, and even the rule now under discussion will take up to two years to be put in place. "So, it's really a national disgrace that we allow exposures to silica dust that are so high," she declared.

Monforton added that those most at risk from silica-dust exposure are also the most vulnerable: immigrants, people who don't speak English, and contract workers. Industry groups testified against the rule, saying that deaths from silicosis have declined. Monforton however said it's estimated that the rule would save 700 lives a year. Peter Dooley, health and safety project consultant at the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, testified that workers often don't know that the dust they're inhaling can cause lifelong disabilities. "It's not like asbestos and lead hazards; this is a hazard that's not well-known," he said.

Dan Neal, executive director of Wyoming's Equality State Policy Center, spoke to the hearing in favor of the rule, saying history shows that industries won't meet limits on their own, conduct monitoring, offer medical surveillance, or provide training. Of silica dust, he said: "It leads to long-term complications that impair someone's breathing, lung cancer and kidney problems, among many other related diseases. It's very important for workers to know that they've got to protect themselves, and that they've got a right to protect themselves."

Exposure limits would mean that businesses would have to use various methods to reduce dust at work sites, including vacuum systems or protective respirators for workers. The proposal would limit silica dust that could be breathed in by workers to 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air space. The long-standing existing rule has a much higher limit, at 10 milligrams per cubic meter. Proposed silica dust exposure rule details are at OSHA.gov.

Eastern Ky. University to be Tobacco-Free Campus

Eastern Kentucky University's Board of Regents has approved a tobacco-free campus policy. According to the Richmond Register, effective June 1, the use of tobacco on all property that is owned, leased, occupied or controlled by the university will be prohibited. The tobacco-free policy, which replaces the smoke-free zone policy that had been in effect since 2006, covers all Eastern facilities and grounds. It also prohibits the use of tobacco in vehicles owned, leased or rented by EKU, as well as in personal vehicles while on university property. The university joins more than 1,100 colleges and universities nationwide that have enacted similar tobacco-free policies.

Local News 4-17-2014

U.S. 23 Shut Down in Russell Tuesday, After Undetonated Explosives Discovered

Travelers along a busy stretch of Highway in the Russell area of Boyd Co. had to be re-routed Tuesday, after a decade old set of explosives was found alongside U.S. 23 by construction workers. U.S. 23 between Ashland Drive and Kenwood Drive was shut down for about two and a half hours Tuesday, while law enforcement officials checked out the explosives. Several streets also had traffic delays during the closure.

According to the Russell Police Dept. construction workers on the Ironton-Russell bridge saw the white bags of explosives wedged in between the rock wall in the hillside across from the highway. Rather than digging them out and running the risk of hurting someone, the state police bomb squad was called in to detonate the explosives, causing a boom that was heard and felt miles away. Officials say the explosives were from a former construction project and could have been around 10 years old. No one was hurt during the blast.     

Michigan Meth Suspect Caught in Pike

A Michigan man was arrested last week in Pikeville, accused of manufactuing methamphetamine. Noel Davis, 58, who now lives in Pikeville, was arrested Friday on four federal charges, including conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with the intent to distribute meth, maintaining a residence for the purpose of manufacturing meth, and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. Davis is accused of being the cook in a meth conspiracy involving two other men from Detroit.

According to the Floyd Co. Times, a criminal complaint was filed by Wayne State University Officer Michael H. Jacobs, who serves on a Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Detroit Conspiracy One Task Force, Davis, Zachary Biles and Demarlo Biles attracted the attention of investigators Jan. 16, following an undercover buy by a cooperating witness.

On March 26, the task force executed a search warrant at a Detroit residence where the buys took place, where they discovered several items used in the production of meth, as well as a shotgun and a sub-machine gun. After the search, Zachary Biles admitted to investigators that he sold meth on Jan. 16, while Demarlo Biles admitted to possessing the firearms. Davis eluded capture until officials caught up with him in Pikeville. He appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court, in Pikeville, for an initial appearance, where he was ordered to be transported to the Eastern District of Michigan for further prosecution.

Ky. Lawmakers Finish Work Highlighted By Budget

The 2014 General Assembly session ended at the stroke of midnight on April 16, after a final day of maneuvering Tuesday. The politically divided legislature accomplished its primary tasks - passing a $20.3 billion, two-year state budget, followed by a $4.1 billion transportation spending plan. Kentucky lawmakers also revamped the juvenile justice system to lock up fewer kids and legalized a medicinal oil derived from marijuana to ease the suffering of children stricken with seizures.

Teachers and state employees got pay raises and an adult protection registry will be formed to screen caregivers for some of Kentucky's most vulnerable residents. From the session's outset in early January, Gov. Steve Beshear made education spending a priority. The new state budget raises per-pupil spending to its highest level ever, increases the number of 4-year-olds in preschool, restores cuts to child care programs and provides more money for school technology, textbooks and school safety, Gov. Beshear said. The budget imposed a new round of spending cuts across many state agencies to free up the extra money for education.

But for every bill that made it through the twists and turns of legislative review, many more came up short. Abortion-related bills that stalled in the Democratic-run House would have required doctors to perform ultrasounds prior to abortions and to have a "face-to-face" meeting with women before the procedure. House Speaker Greg Stumbo's proposal to raise the state's minimum wage died in the GOP-led Senate.

A proposed statewide smoking ban was snuffed out. The House didn't take up a bill aimed at spreading wireless and high-speed broadband service by allowing telecommunications companies to scale back on landline investments.Two issues that overshadowed the start of the session - expanded gambling and a tax code overhaul - both fizzled. The budget included $418.9 million in General Fund-supported bonds to help finance construction projects at the state's four-year public universities. The state's two-year schools also are in line for construction projects. The budget includes $145.5 million in agency bonds to support a project at each of the 16 colleges in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

Lawmakers OK Expanding Coalfield Scholarship Bill

Lawmakers have given final passage to a bill expanding a scholarship program for students in Kentucky's struggling coal regions. The measure cleared the General Assembly shortly before lawmakers ended the 2014 legislative session Tuesday night. The bill now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear for his consideration. The measure aims to increase the number of people obtaining college degrees in the eastern and western Kentucky coalfields. The students, for the most part, would attend four-year college campuses in coal counties, in hopes they pursue careers in the same region after graduation. The scholarships are funded with coal severance-tax funds. Participating students have to attend four-year campuses in their region, unless their programs aren't offered locally.

Road Spending Plan Passes Ky. Legislature

A $4.1 billion road-spending plan has passed the Kentucky General Assembly on the final day of the session, avoiding an expensive special session. The Senate approved the plan 37-1 Tuesday, and the House 71-26. The plan includes $5.2 billion worth of projects throughout the state. But as much as 25 percent of that money will not be spent. Lawmakers said they like to include a cushion in case some projects are delayed because of environmental concerns or problems acquiring land. Republicans and Democrats clashed over the plan Monday, and leaders of both parties said it was unlikely they would reach a deal. But lawmakers emerged from hours of closed-door meetings Tuesday to say they had reached an agreement both bodies could pass.

Ky. Releases County Unemployment Rates

Annual unemployment rates were lower in 51 Kentucky counties in 2012 than in 2013, while 57 county rates went up and 12 counties had the same annual rate for both years, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. The annual jobless rate for Woodford County was the lowest in the Commonwealth in 2013 at 6.1 percent. It was followed by Fayette and Oldham counties, 6.5 percent each; Scott County, 6.7 percent; Boone, Daviess, Franklin, Madison and Shelby counties, 6.8 percent each; and Caldwell, Owen and Warren counties, 7 percent each.

Leslie County recorded the state’s highest annual unemployment rate in 2013 — 17.7 percent. It was followed by Harlan and Magoffin counties, 17.6 percent each; Letcher County, 17.3 percent; Knott County, 16.1 percent; Fulton and Jackson counties, 15 percent each; Bell County, 14.9 percent; Perry County, 13.7 percent; and McCreary County, 13.5 percent.

Local News 4-16-2014

Traffic Stop in Johnson Co. Leads to Meth Discovery

According to a news release from the Johnson Co. Sheriff’s Office, on the morning of Friday, April 11th, 2014 at approximately 2:20AM, Deputy Byron Fairchild observed a 2004 Black KIA operating with only one working tail light on Broadway Street in Paintsville. As Fairchild turned to follow the vehicle, he observed the vehicle running a stop sign. After performing a traffic stop on the KIA, it was determined that the driver, 30 year old Nathan Cox of Paintsville, appeared to be operating the vehicle under the influence of drugs. Cox allowed the deputy to search the vehicle and a book bag inside the vehicle. Inside a book bag in the vehicle Fairchild located 3 needles with substances inside and a small clear baggie with a white powdery substance believed to be methamphetamine. Through further investigation it was determined that Nathan Cox was operating on a suspended license. Nathan Cox was taken into custody and charged with: DUI, Possession of Controlled Substance 1st Methamphetamine, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Operating on Suspended License, Disregarding a Stop Sign, and Improper Equipment. Cox was lodged in the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center.

Martin Co. Man Dies in a Motorcycle Crash in Lawrence Co.

One man was killed late Sunday evening, following a motorcycle crash on U.S. Highway 23 in the Shannon Branch area of Lawrence County. The accident happened around 9:50 p.m. Sunday. Police said Elmer L. Maynard, 53, of Debord, Ky. lost control of his Harley Davidson when he struck a guard rail and was thrown from the motorcycle. The Lawrence County coroner said Maynard died at the scene of the crash. Police believe Maynard was driving over the speed limit when he crashed. The crash remains under investigation.

Man Charged With Killing MSU Student Sentenced

A Rowan County man who admitted to murdering the mother of his child was sentenced in the case Monday. A judge agreed with the recommended sentence of 38 years for Casey Shay, who pleaded guilty to murdering Morehead State University student Cassandra "Cassie" Owens last year. Investigators say Shay shot Owens twice as she slept inside the bedroom of her Christian Street home in Morehead in March of 2013. The 21-year-old's body was found a day later. Shay went to the Rowan County Detention Center and confessed he murdered the mother of his child, then 2-yeard-old, Madison.

Owens' mother spoke for about an hour in court Monday before the judge's decision was announced. Melody York directed much of her personal testimony at Casey Shay, detailing her ordeal of finding out about the murder, and questioning Shay's true intention, calling her daughter's murder a planned attack. Shay's family said they disagreed with a lot of what was said about him in court, and added they wished the case had gone to trial.

Human Remains Located Confirmed to be Missing Person

According to a news release from the KSP in Ashland, on Friday April 11, 2014 the Kentucky State Police in Ashland responded to South Shoe, KY after being contacted by the Greenup County Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Department, while searching for a robbery suspect, had located human skeletal remains. The remains were located in a small creek near the intersection of US 23 and State Route 1043.

Greenup County Coroner Neil Wright and The Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s Office have positively identified the human skeletal remains as Gerald L. Boyles. At this time Mr. Boyles death does not appear to be criminal in nature

Lee County Fire Leads to Murder Investigation

According to the Kentucky State Police, they are now saying a Friday fire and death in Lee County, was actually a murder and they will investigate it as such. An Autopsy was performed on Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort and the result’s concluded that Martha Belle Hollar, 79 years old of Beattyville, was deceased prior to her residence catching on fire. The murder investigation is being conducted by KSP Detective Jesse Armstrong and Arson Investigator Pat Alford. The Kentucky State Police requests anyone with information about the case to contact the Richmond KSP Post at (859) 623 - 2404.

House Approves Ethics Reform

House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes to the Legislative Ethics Commission on Monday in an attempt to quell the political storm that erupted last week after the panel did not punish a former lawmaker accused of sexual harassment. In the days following the decision, the three women who filed the complaint said House Democrats were not providing a safe work environment, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell condemned the decision as a "cover-up" and Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes called on the Legislative Ethics Commission to reopen the case.

Monday, House Democrats took turns expressing their "outrage" at the decision and praising the "moral courage" of three state workers who accused former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of sexual harassment. But they did not approve a resolution officially honoring the women because of concerns it could be interpreted as interfering in a pending lawsuit. Two of the women have sued Arnold and the Legislative Ethics Commission in state court.

While the changes passed 98-0, House Republicans used the opportunity to skewer their Democratic colleagues - who control the house with an eight-seat majority - for not doing something sooner. State employees Cassaundra Cooper, Yolanda Costner and Gloria Morgan all filed ethics complaints last year alleging Arnold touched them inappropriately over a four year period. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo appointed a special committee to investigate the charges, but that committee disbanded without taking action.

Legislation approved Monday:

-Required all commission members to attend at least half of the commission meetings in a calendar year

-Required the commission to have at least two women members and at least one minority member

-Clarified that the commission does have jurisdiction over former lawmakers

-Specifically defined sexual harassment by a lawmaker as "ethical misconduct."

And Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo called on the ethics commission to reopen the case. The three women have filed a motion asking the commission to reconsider their decision, which commission members will discuss at their meeting next month.

Juvenile Justice Bill Clears Legislature

Legislation aimed at revamping Kentucky's juvenile justice system by locking up fewer minors has been sent to Gov. Steve Beshear. The measure won final legislative approval Monday on a 30-8 vote in the Senate. Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield says his measure will result in better outcomes for young offenders at a lower cost to taxpayers. He calls it the biggest step in reshaping Kentucky's juvenile code in decades. The bill would steer more young offenders toward community-based treatment as an alternative to detention. It aims to keep more kids out of detention centers for skipping school or running away. Its reach goes further, allowing youths accused of misdemeanors or lesser felonies to avoid detention time, unless they committed sex or weapons crimes or had one prior offense. The legislation is Senate Bill 200.

Today is the Last Day to Pay Property Taxes

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone that TODAY is the LAST DAY to pay your 2013 Property Tax bills at the Sheriff’s Office. At the end of business day today, the bills will be transferred to the County Court Clerk’s Office at the end of the business day, where additional penalties will be applied. You may pay your bills in the Sheriff’s Office, by mail, or online. To pay online, visit our website: http://sheriff.johnsoncounty.ky.gov click on the property tax link, and follow the prompts. Additionally, you may print copies of your paid 2012, and 2013 property tax bills from our website for your records. If you have any questions regarding your property taxes, please call the Sheriff’s Office at 789-3411.