Local News 3-21-2013

Son of Murdered Johnson Co Couple Indicted on 2 Counts of Murder

On Wednesday, the Johnson County Grand Jury met and handed down several indictments against the son of the Johnson Co. couple who was reported missing for several months, but whose battered and partially decompossed bodies where found. 30-year-old Willie Blanton was indicted on 2 counts of murder in the death of his parents, Sandra and Larry Blanton. He was also indicted on 2 counts of tampering with physical evidence, for burying his parents on their family farm in the Oil Springs community of Johnson Co. Blanton’s former girlfriend, Amanda Fannin had reached a plea deal with the Commonwealth Attorney back in February that gave Johnson County Sheriff Dwayne Price, "key" information that led officials to the location of the missing couple's bodies. Part of the terms of that agreement, meant Fannin cannot be prosecuted for crimes she may have committed after learning of the deaths and to never seek the death penalty for Willie Blanton. Fannin could still be charged however, if she's found to have left out important information, lied, or to have been involved in murdering the couple. Willie Blanton was also indicted for being a persistent felony offender, a charge which elevates the murder and tampering charges. If convicted, Blanton could get life without parole, or up to 50 years in prison.  Blanton is currently being held in the Boyd County Detention Center.

Floyd Co. Shooting/Murder Case Heading to Grand Jury

Loretta Wright appeared in Floyd District Court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing following the shooting death of her brother-in-law, Famer Halbert, last week. Kentucky State Police Det. Jason Dials relayed to the court the events surrounding Halbert’s death. According to Dials’ testimony, Ronald and Loretta Wright had come by the home to visit with Lorene and Famer Halbert, and had been discussing the death of their son. Dials said that the Wrights visited with Lorene Halbert for probably 30 minutes, while Famer was asleep in his bedroom. As they were getting ready to leave, Ronald Wright allegedly asked to use the restroom. As Lorene Halbert and Loretta Wright waited on the front porch, a gunshot was heard. Dials said 54-year-old Famer Halbert, of McDowell, died in his bed of a close contact gunshot to the forehead. Dials then testified that multiple struggles ensued over the weapon, and that during these struggles both Lorene Halbert and Ronald Wright were shot. According to Dials, the Halberts’ seven grandchildren were home at the time of the shooting, and some of those children have issued statements saying they witnessed the struggle over the weapon.

Dials testified that no official murder weapon has yet to be recovered, though he added that .357 ammunition was found in Ronald Wright’s possession. Dials told the court on Tuesday that the weapon that killed Famer Halbert was a “large caliber projectile.”  Loretta Wright is currently charged with one count of complicity to commit murder and one count of attempted murder. Ronald Wright, has reportedly been served with an arrest warrant, and is awaiting extradition back to Kentucky. Floyd County District Judge Jimmy Marcum remanded the case to the hands of a Floyd County grand jury. Because the Halberts’ grandchildren were in the home at the time of the shooting, the grand jury could add as many as seven counts of first-degree wanton endangerment against the Wrights.

Pike County Man Indicted for Attempted Murder, Rape

A Pike County man has been indicted in connection with an alleged domestic disturbance incident that left a woman unconscious. A grand jury has charged Jonathan Thornsbury, 29, of Sydney, with attempted murder, rape, sodomy and being a persistent felony offender. Reports indicate that on March 7, Kentucky Sate Police said they were responding to a call at a residence in the Sydney community of a possible domestic, but learned that the individuals had already left the residence. A short time later, after searching for a vehicle, troopers said they located the vehicle in question and belonging to the individuals involved with this disturbance call at a nearby store. Inside the vehicle, troopers say they found an unresponsive woman. Troopers took the woman to Pikeville Medical Center where she was admitted into ICU for her injuries. Thornsbury is expected to be in Pike County Circuit Court on March 27 for a hearing.

Three Family Members Arrested in Flatwoods During a Tuesday Drug Bust

Three family members have been arrested following a drug bust at two homes in the Flatwoods community Tuesday night. Reports indicate that around 7 p.m., members of the FADE Task Force, Flatwoods Police Russell Police and Vanceburg Police executed two search warrants at the homes on Beth Ann Drive. Investigators said the raid was a result of a lengthy investigation stemming from citizen complaints in this particular neighborhood. Arrested was James Bowen, Mary Beth Bowen and Steve Bowen, all on drug-related charges. Police said Mary Beth Bowen, 52, and James Bowen, 31, are mother and son, and that Steve Bowen is Mary Beth Bowen's ex-husband. Investigators say they confiscated prescription drugs, cash, syringes, drug paraphernalia and suspected stolen property. All three people were taken tot the Greenup County Detention Center.

Beshear Signs Bill Empowering Abuse Review Panel

Gov. Steve Beshear has signed a bill giving broader investigative powers to a state panel that reviews serious cases of child abuse and neglect in Kentucky. Beshear created the panel last year by executive order. But the law he signed Wednesday gives panel members deeper access to case files involving children who died or suffered serious injuries. The law also allows panel members to discuss certain cases in private to protect victims' identities. The 20-member panel began reviewing cases earlier this year. It is tasked with making recommendations to social services agencies on how to improve abuse investigations. Panel members have already said that more training is needed to better serve Kentucky's children.

UK Tuition Expected to Increase 3%

Tuition at the University of Kentucky is expected to go up 3 percent next year, the smallest increase since 1997. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the finance committee of the UK Board of Trustees approved the suggested tuition increase without any discussion. This now goes to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education for final approval. The average in-state undergraduate student will pay $10,110 in the 2013-14 school year. It will be the first time that annual tuition has topped $10,000. Tuition at UK, the state's largest public university, has jumped 150 percent in the past decade.

Putting Food on the Table: Report says Kentucky Still Struggles

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Many people in Kentucky struggle to put food on their tables, despite an upturn in the state's economy. The state ranks 19th for the number of people who say they didn't have enough money to buy food at least once in the last year, according to a report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). The report says that's one out of every five Kentuckians (20.3 percent). Marian Guinn, who oversees the God's Pantry Food Bank, which collects and distributes donated food throughout the eastern half of Kentucky, said people are still struggling. "The fact that we're serving one in seven Kentuckians, and in actuality one in five Kentuckians may be struggling to meet the nutritional requirements of their household, is not at all surprising." The southeast and southwestern states are the two regions of the country where food hardship numbers are the highest, according to the report. It highlights the need to improve food stamp benefits, which are now called SNAP. The president of the Food Research and Action Center, Jim Weill, said that when people's nutritional needs aren't met, it's difficult for them to move ahead in other aspects of their lives. "We know from the research that means that parents and kids aren't doing as well at work and at school as they would be doing if they were consistently eating a healthy diet," he declared. Weill said improving food stamp benefits would start with passing a national Farm Bill that protects and strengthens the program. Some in Congress have suggested reducing benefits. The 5th district in Kentucky has the 23rd-highest food hardship rate among congressional districts nationwide. Guinn said that region of the state does not have enough food pantries and there are not enough employers fueling the economy. "Our struggles in south central and southeastern Kentucky relate to the rural nature of many of those counties as well as the lack of a lot of social service infrastructure," she asserted. Guinn said the good news is that God's Pantry has been able to grow distribution in recent years, a trend she hopes will continue. The FRAC report is at FRAC.org.

Big Sandy RECC “Beat the Peak” Thursday March 21st from 6 am to 10 am

Big Sandy RECC is asking their members to "Beat the Peak" this morning, “We’re asking all Big Sandy RECC members to voluntarily conserve or limit energy on Thursday morning from 6 am to 10 am when our membership will be using the greatest amount of electricity. It is during these times that our cooperative often must purchase power from the market at extremely high prices.” During “normal” load periods, Big Sandy RECC pays only pennies per kilowatt-hour for power. However, during times of “peak” demand, Big Sandy RECC can pay up to one dollar per kilowatt-hour. “If we have to buy expensive power during a peak, as a not-for-profit cooperative we must pass these higher costs to our members. That causes power bills to increase.”  “We’re asking members to be our partners in holding down costs by turning off all unnecessary lights or appliances during the peak period, and by delaying their use of dishwashers, washing machines, clothes dryers and any use of hot water.” “Working together with our members, we can “Beat the Peak” by using our electricity resources wisely.”  “By working together, we can hold down rising energy costs.”  David Estepp, CEO. If you have questions, please contact Bruce Aaron Davis at 606-789-4095 or toll free at 1-888-789-7322.