Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stumbo says Christian health care will get vote

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- House Speaker Greg Stumbo has said his chamber will vote before the legislative session ends at midnight on a bill that would allow a Christian health care plan to operate in Kentucky.

The vote could give final passage to a proposal that would exempt the Medi-Share ministry from state insurance regulations. A county judge ordered the ministry to shut down last year at the Kentucky Insurance Department's request. The bill in its current form would require members to sign a notice acknowledging they're aware they may not have their claims paid.

The plan resembles secular insurance in some ways but only allows participation by people who pledge to live Christian lives with no smoking, drinking, using drugs or having sex outside of marriage.

Talks continue on industrial hemp legislation

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins is reporting progress in negotiations on a bill that would allow Kentucky to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the crop.

Adkins said Monday that he's optimistic a deal can be struck before the Legislature adjourns on Tuesday.

The hemp legislation has been hotly debated this year in Frankfort and was languishing in the House before Adkins stepped in with a proposal that seemed to revive it.

Hemp thrived as a crop in Kentucky generations ago but has been banned for decades by the federal government after it was classified as a controlled substance.

Under Adkins' proposal, the Kentucky State Police would be the agency designated to issue licenses to hemp growers.

EF-1 Tornado confirmed in Pulaski County

FERGUSON, Ky. -- It began just as a rainy Sunday afternoon, but then, the winds became violent.

The EF-1 tornado had winds of at least 100 mph when it touched down Sunday in Ferguson

Emergency officials estimate more than 20 structures were damaged or destroyed by the tornado and its 100 - 105 mph winds.

No one was hurt in the storm. Officials estimate it caused at more than $100,000 in damages.

No action yet to override religious freedom veto

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Nearing the end of the next-to-last day of the Kentucky legislative session, lawmakers haven't taken action to try to override Gov. Steve Beshear's veto of a bill intended to protect the religious beliefs of Kentuckians from government intrusions.

Beshear vetoed the measure on Friday, saying that while he values religious freedom, the bill went too far. That was one of several issues that remained unresolved as lawmakers headed into the final day of the legislative session on Tuesday.

Legislators have yet to take action on bills including one to allow members of the military to vote overseas by email. Another proposal awaiting approval would allow a Christians-only health care plan to operate in Kentucky.

Labor talks resume between Appalachian Regional Healthcare and USW; union issues counteroffer

HAZARD, Ky. - Talks resumed Monday over a possible new labor contract between Appalachian Regional Healthcare and more than 2,000 of its workers.

The employees are members of the United Steelworkers union and include LPNs, clerical workers and X-ray and lab technicians.

The two sides so far have been unable to agree on a new contract and a strike may be on the horizon.

The current labor contract between ARH and its USW employees ends Sunday. The union has already filed a strike notice and a walk-out could happen as soon as 12:01 a.m. on Monday, April 1.

Patriot eyeing Ky. for bio-energy plant

CORBIN, Ky. -- A bio-energy company has been scouting out locations and buildings in a Corbin business park as it looks for a site to build a plant processing sugar beets into fuel.

According to reports, Patriot Bio-energy Corporation is eyeing a location at the Southeast Kentucky Regional Business Park in Corbin. Patriot already has more than 20 acres of energy beets growing in Whitley County.

Patriot CEO Roger Ford said that is because the original site near Willamsburg doesn't have the infrastructure and highway access they were looking for.

Ford said Corbin and Whitley County officials have been notified about Patriot's hopes to develop what the company calls its "Integrated Energy Park."

The deal is still contingent upon the required infrastructure and suitable state incentives.

Monday, March 25, 2013

One killed in Morgan County accident

WEST LIBERTY, Ky. -- A Morgan County man lost control of his motorcycle and died.

State police say that 24-year-old Joshua Branham was driving his motorcycle on Kentucky Route 191 around 7 o'clock Saturday night, when he lost control and drove off the road. The motorcycle drove into a creek and hit an embankment.

Branham was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers say that neither alcohol nor drugs were a factor in the crash, which is still under investigation.

Watchdog has never requested contract reviews

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Ky. Rep. Dennis Horlander is supposed to act as a watchdog over state government contracts, but a records review found that he has never asked for a review of a single contract.

Despite that, the Louisville Democrat has been paid extra for his role as co-chair of the General Assembly's Government Contract Review Committee over the past four years.

In a written statement, Horlander said his main role is to oversee committee staff, help committee members get information and encourage new members to request contract reviews.

Horlander's co-chairman on the committee pulled some 600 contracts for review over the same four-year period.

Unknown soldier's grave marker restored

PIKE COUNTY, Ky. -- A senseless act in November took a piece of history away in Pike County. On Saturday, folks gathered in between Elkhorn City and the Virginia state line, at the unknown Confederate soldier's grave, to rededicate the historical marker that had been rammed by a car, knocked down, and tossed over a hillside.

A bank account was set up and because it is so important to the community numerous donations came in and the Elkhorn City Heritage Council wrote a check for the remaining balance.

Folks at the rededication ceremony say it is truly an honor to get the marker put back up because of the pride and responsibility they take in protecting the resting place of the unknown soldier.

Tyler Brown was arrested for the vandalism of the unknown soldier's grave.

CSX train derails, 4 cars land in river

DICKENSON COUNTY, Va. -- A train derailment just below the small town of Haysi, Virginia, caused some concern for folks both in Virginia and Kentucky.

Officials say just before 10 o'clock Saturday morning, approximately 18 CSX cars were derailed near lower Splashdam Road in Dickenson County, sending four train cars into the Russell Fork River which runs into Kentucky.

Doug Tackett with Pike County Emergency Management says, "We were told at first that there was probably product in the water from one of the cars that had derailed. We went over to meet with the Virginia officials and found out there was really no product that had spilled into the river."

According to Incident commander, Rocky Woods, "All of them are empty that's in the water, we do have a tanker that is derailed that is carrying an acid that is leaking but it is not in the waterway at this time."

Due to the initial possibility of chemicals in the waterway, officials at Breaks Interstate Park played it safe by closing off river and garden hole access. Park superintendent, Matt O'Quinn says, "We hate to limit any recreational access but we have to error on the side of caution this time and make sure all the fish are ok, the water is ok, and people can enjoy themselves in a safe way."

Virginia hazardous material crews were called to the scene and officials say they expect to be there through the night. Wood says, "The main thing is we are trying to keep it from getting into the waterway because it does run into Kentucky."

There were no injuries reported in the accident.

Friday, March 22, 2013

More motions filed in Magoffin County mansalughter case

SALYERSVILLE, Ky. -- A Magoffin County case involving the death of a 4-year-old is getting more complicated.

Cameron Mullins died two years ago from what the coroner called blunt force trauma.

The child's father, James Garcia, who was originally charged with first degree manslaughter, agreed to amended charges of reckless homicide back in February.

Last week the judge rejected the plea agreement James Garcia made in the case.

At that point the defense filed a motion asking the judge to recuse herself.

The defense argued in court that no media attention has been given to this case in the past year until this month when the judge rejected the plea deal.

The judge denied the motion and said the offer given to her was incomplete.

The cost of counterfeit bills

Police in Kentucky counties have had their hands full with recent fake money finds.

Counterfeit bills seem to be slipping through law enforcement's hands, and the more culprits they catch, the more fake money they're left tracking. In a special investigation, we sat down with the Secret Service to see the tell-tale signs of a fake bill.

Just recently, two counterfeiters were arrested in Jackson County, where police say a husband and wife team had $4,000 in fake bills. Also, law enforcement in Williamsburg arrested two people, accused of helping circulate thousands in fake cash.

"Counterfeit currency in and of itself is considered contraband and so if you have it, it's not legally held and so it can be seized and therefore you're out that amount of money," explained Secret Service Agent Paul Sims.

Many retailers use black lights and pens to make sure their cash sales are secure.

"If somebody has a $100 bill, and it's been passed on them and it's counterfeit, that's hard to recoup that money," Agent Sims said.

Agent Sims says anyone can spot a counterfeit bill. Real money has a watermark, color shifting ink, and a security thread.

"The problem is that a lot of people are very comfortable taking money, and because of that they just don't check," he said, "what we're really looking for and who we want is that person that's making that money. Not necessarily just the citizen that ends up with it."

Sims says it's important to spot counterfeit bills the minute you get them, because police will take the cash, even if you're not at fault.

Court rules against Kentucky mine that owes $1.7M

HARLAN, Ky. -- A federal court ruling is ordering a Kentucky mine operator to pay $1.7 million in fines it owes for mine safety violations.

The ruling against D&C Mining Corp. of Harlan County says the company must pay its fines and post a bond to guarantee future compliance with federal mine safety laws.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says D&C Mining has amassed 1,244 violations between 2006 and February 2012. The agency has performed 10 surprise inspections of D&C Mining since 2010. MSHA says that's the most surprise inspections of any mine in the country.

The court is also ordering the mine operator to keep its property at its mining site and not sell or move it. There was no answer Thursday at a number for D&C Mining.

Ky. court overturns conviction in multiple slaying

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- An eastern Kentucky man serving life in prison after being convicted of killing three children will get a new trial after the Kentucky Supreme Court concluded a juror should have been removed from the case before the trial started.

Justice Will T. Scott found that a judge should have granted a juror's wish not to serve in the case of 32-year-old Clayton Jackson in 2004 when he went on trial for arson and murder in Clay County. The juror was a friend of the victim's brother.

Justice Bill Cunningham dissented, saying dismissing the juror would have been a "thin reed of speculation" about how the juror's relationship would affect his judgment in the case.

Jackson was convicted of killing Michael, Robert and Jordon Sturgill.

Kentucky’s jobless rate remains at 7.9 percent in February 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 21, 2013) — Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted preliminary unemployment rate stayed at 7.9 percent from January 2013 to February 2013, according to the Office of Employment and Training (OET), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

The preliminary February 2013 jobless rate was .4 percentage points below the 8.3 percent rate recorded for the state in February 2012.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate decreased to 7.7 percent in February 2013 from 7.9 percent in January 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for vacant Supreme Court seat

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat in the 6th Supreme Court District. The district is composed of 21 counties in the Northern Kentucky area. The vacancy was created by the retirement of Justice Wil Schroder effective Jan. 17, 2013.

The three attorneys named as nominees to fill the vacancy are Joseph E. Conley Jr. of Villa Hills, Michelle M. Keller of Fort Mitchell and Allison Emerson Jones of Prospect.

Conley is a partner with the law firm of Raines, Buechel, Conley & Dusing in Florence, of which he is a founder. He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He received his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Keller is a Kentucky Court of Appeals judge. She previously served as a nurse and is an adjunct professor at the Xavier University School of Nursing. She received her juris doctor from Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

Jones is an administrative law judge for the Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims. She received her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

The counties in the 6th Supreme Court District are Bath, Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Fleming, Gallatin, Grant, Harrison, Henry, Kenton, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Oldham, Owen, Pendleton, Robertson, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble.   

Owner of Bluegrass Women's Healthcare in Elizabethtown Charged with Health Care Fraud, Mail Fraud, Misbranding and Smuggling

The owner of Bluegrass Women's Healthcare, located in Elizabethtown, Kentucky was charged, in a 13 count federal grand jury indictment this week, with health care fraud, mail fraud, misbranding and smuggling announced David J. Hale, United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. The charges follow a more than three year investigation by Attorney General Jack Conway’s Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control, along with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Canh Jeff Vo, age 45, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky was the owner, supervising physician, and president at Bluegrass Women's Healthcare between March 2008 and September 2009 when the alleged violations occurred. Vo offered gynecological and obstetric services to women at Bluegrass Women's Healthcare, including providing forms of birth control. According to the federal indictment, between March 2008 and September 2009, Vo, with the intent to defraud or mislead, purchased and inserted into patients, foreign, non-FDA approved Mirenas (levonorgesteral-releasing intrauterine device). These Mirena intrauterine devices or IUDs, were misbranded in that their labeling was not in the English language; and their labeling did not bear adequate directions for use.

Further defendant Vo is charged with health care fraud for submitting false claims for reimbursement from the Medicaid Program. Specifically, Vo is alleged to have billed the Kentucky Medicaid Program and other insurers as if he was administering the FDA-approved version of Mirena, at a greater cost, when he was actually administering a non-FDA approved version of Mirena.

Additionally, Vo is charged with ten counts of mail fraud for utilizing the United States Mail, by receiving payment from the Kentucky Medicaid Program and private insurance companies for Mirena IUDs which were not approved for sale in the United States.

It is also alleged, in the federal indictment, that between March 2008 and September 2009, Vo received, brought, and imported into the United States, Mirena IUDs, knowing that these were misbranded and unlawfully introduced into interstate commerce from various countries, including from Canada.

If convicted at trial, Vo faces a maximum of 233 years in prison, a maximum fine of $3,010,000 and up to 3 years of supervised release.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lettricea Jefferson-Webb.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Grimes coy about potential run for US Senate

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes still isn't saying whether she's seriously considering a U.S. Senate bid.

Grimes acknowledged Wednesday that she's being encouraged to run for the seat now held by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. But Grimes, a rising star in the Kentucky Democratic Party, said she's solely focused right now on getting legislation passed in Kentucky that would ensure soldiers deployed oversees get their election ballots counted back home.

Grimes, the state's top election official, said the military voting issue will be her top priority until the Legislature adjourns Tuesday.

Grimes is one of at least two potential challengers that Democratic leaders have been courting to run against McConnell. Actress Ashley Judd, a former Kentucky resident now living in Tennessee, also is mulling a run.

Hillbilly Days preparation kicks off

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Hillbilly Days organizers met Wednesday to kick off preparation for the festival.

Officials with the Shriner's Hospital were there and said the festival has raised nearly $800,000 for the hospital in 25 years.

Tourism officials say it brings nearly 150,000 people to Pikeville.

Hillbilly Days will kick off April 18 and run through the 20 in downtown Pikeville.

Johnson County students win Governor's Cup

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. -- An Eastern Kentucky school is celebrating a big academic win.

The Johnson County Middle School academic team won this year's Governor's Cup competition.

It's an academic competition that includes schools and students from all across the commonwealth.

This is the second year in a row the team has won the cup.

This makes the 10th Governor's Cup win for the school.

Police make drug busts during unrelated searches

KNOTT COUNTY, Ky. -- Eight people are in jail on drug-related charges after two meth busts on separate days in Knott County.

Deputies with the Knott County Sheriff’s Office made both drug busts while checking a residence for a completely different reason.

It all started on Saturday with a warrant for one man, Hubert Hall.

In the process of looking for Hall at a home in Pippa Passes, police stumbled upon an active meth lab.

“It led to that gentleman being arrested on the indictment as well as being charged again along with four other individuals,” said Sheriff, Dale Richardson.

Those four people were Dillon Jent, Robin Slone, Amber Hall, and Robin Fugate.

Police then went on what they thought was an unrelated case of a stolen truck.

“The fellas that had supposedly taken the truck, had gone to the location of the meth lab on Saturday night, and had stolen some appliances,’ said Richardson.

While searching for the theft suspects at a home in the Pinetop community, police stumbled upon another active meth lab.

Police did not find the two suspects inside, but did arrest three others on meth charges, Alma Frazier, Susan Johnson, and Roger Jacobs.

Jacobs says he did not know the suspects officers were looking for.

“They came in and busted me for manufacturing said they had an arrest warrant,” said Jacobs.

But he thinks the two other people with him should not have been arrested.

Police are still searching for the two theft suspects and two others from Pippa Passes.

Seven of the people arrested were indicted yesterday. The Grand Jury is scheduled to hear Roger Jacob's case next Tuesday.

Pike County Man Indicted on Attempted Murder, Rape

PIKE COUNTY, Ky. -- A Pike County man has been indicted in connection with an alleged domestic disturbance incident that left a woman unconscious.

A recent grand jury charged Jonathan Thornsbury, 29, of Sydney, with attempted murder, rape, sodomy and being a persistent felony offender, according to court records.

On March 7, Kentucky Sate Police said as were responding to the call at the residence in Sydney, they learned the parties had left the residence.
A short time later, troopers located the vehicle belonging to the parties involved in the disturbance at a store.

Inside the vehicle, troopers say they found an unresponsive woman. She was taken to Pikeville Medical Center where she was admitted into ICU for her injuries.

Troopers said last week the woman had been released from the hospital.

Thornsbury will be in Pike County Circuit Court on March 27 for a hearing.

Willie Blanton Charged with Murdering Parents

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. -- A Johnson County grand jury that met on Wednesday indicted Willie Blanton on two counts of murder in the deaths of parents.

On February 22, investigators found the bodies of William Blanton, 60, and Sandra Blanton, 53, buried near a barn their farm in Oil Springs in Johnson County.

The couple disappeared in early September. Investigators say they died the result of blunt force trauma and put their time of death around the time they went missing.
Commonwealth Attorney Anna Melvin says that in addition to the murder charges, Willie, 29, was indicted for tampering with evidence.

He is set to be arraigned on the charges April 5 in Johnson County Circuit Court.
The bodies were found after Willie’s girlfriend, Amanda Fannin, made a plea deal with the Commonwealth Attorney.

In the plea deal, Fannin, 32, of Oil Springs, agreed to divulge everything she knew about how the couple died, and where the couple’s remains could be found. This included information and testimony that would allow the Commonwealth Attorney to prosecute Willie Blanton for the deaths of his parents and concealing their remains.

Prosecutors say Fannin didn't have anything to do with the murders, but was the only person, other than Willie Blanton, who knew about them.

In October, Willie and Fannin, were indicted in Johnson County on charges not directly related to the disappearance of Blanton's parents. Both have been in jail since that time on those charges.

Those charges will be dropped against Fannin as part of her plea deal.

Kentucky Receives New Funding to Fight Prediabetes Epidemic

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) has been awarded a federal grant to help curb rates of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes among residents of the Commonwealth. The award, worth $134,380, comes from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Similar awards will also go to seven other states.

Kentucky was selected based on its discussions and planning to work with the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), which specifically targets individuals with prediabetes and works with them to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“Diabetes is a tremendous public health concern that is both horrific for the individual, if unmanaged, and costly in terms of medications, various complications and long-term hospitalizations that are so often associated with the disease,” said Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes. “We must act now to begin reversing the devastating impact of diabetes on our state. We are excited to continue our work with the Diabetes Prevention Program to help more Kentuckians start making healthier lifestyle choices so they can avoid developing diabetes and lead longer, healthier lives.”

Type 2 diabetes, the most common type, is a disorder in which the body does not appropriately make or use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert food into energy. As a result, glucose (commonly referred to as “sugar”) builds up in the blood. If glucose, or blood sugar, stays too high, it can cause damage to the body.

Type 2 diabetes is more common among people who are older, overweight, physically inactive, have a family history of diabetes, have ever had gestational diabetes, and are African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.

Meanwhile, prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes often leads to type 2 diabetes within a few years. However, DPP lifestyle change programs can decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by almost 60 percent.

“Prediabetes has become an absolute epidemic in America,” said John Robitscher, CEO of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. “We appreciate the opportunity that CDC has provided us to identify well-positioned states that can make a difference in slowing the incidence of this alarming trend.”

“Nearly a quarter of a million (233,000) Kentuckians are estimated to have prediabetes at this time,” said Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. “This condition may progress to a diagnosis of diabetes if actions to halt the progress of the disease are not taken.”

The DPH Kentucky Diabetes Prevention and Control Program is coordinating the diabetes prevention grant project in the Commonwealth. The program has been collaborating with a steering committee to develop a work plan for the grant. 

The committee includes sites that currently offer the National Diabetes Prevention Program - the YMCA of Greater Louisville, the YMCA of Central Kentucky, and the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati.  In addition, the Louisville Metro Department of Health and Wellness, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department and the Department for Public Health’s Worksite Wellness Program are also participating.      

Kentucky will focus on three diabetes prevention strategies – raising awareness among healthcare providers to improve the recognition and treatment of prediabetes; encouraging state and local government to add CDC-recognized lifestyle change programs to its list of covered services under employee health plans; and partnering with businesses to increase support for coverage of CDC-recognized lifestyle change programs as a covered benefit.

NACDD will partner with the state of Kentucky to provide technical assistance along with help from the National Business Coalition on Health and the Directors of Health Promotion Education.
Other states selected to receive grant funding include, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Washington and West Virginia.  Each state will have until Dec. 31, 2013 to complete its project work.

CDC estimates 79 million people in America have prediabetes. It also projects national efforts to prevent type 2 diabetes could save $5.7 billion in health care costs and prevent 885,000 cases of type 2 diabetes in the next 25 years.

“This is an extremely important opportunity for states to demonstrate how they can play a part in supporting increased use of lifestyle change programs,” said Senior Diabetes Consultant for NACDD Marti Macchi, who will oversee the grant program.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Study ranks health of all 120 Kentucky counties

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A new report says Oldham County, just northeast of Louisville, is the healthiest place to live in Kentucky.

The study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute compared the relative health of all 120 of Kentucky's counties. It concluded residents of Owsley County in eastern Kentucky led the least healthy lives.

Among factors considered in compiling the rankings were the rate of people dying before age 75, high school graduation rates, unemployment, access to healthy foods, air and water quality, income, and rates of smoking, obesity and teen births.

The rankings are intended to help communities create solutions for people to be healthy in their own communities.

UK tuition expected to go up 3%

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Tuition at the University of Kentucky is expected to go up 3 percent next year, the smallest increase since 1997.

According to reports, the finance committee of the UK Board of Trustees approved the suggested tuition increase without any discussion.

The full board is expected to approve the plan also Tuesday, and it then 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.

2 placed on leave in ethics probe

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Two people charged in an ethics probe involving former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer have been placed on leave while the investigation continues.

Farmer's sister, Rhonda Monroe, and deputy Agriculture Commissioner Bruce Harper were among seven people charged along with Farmer on Monday of ethics violations.

They each face three counts. Monroe holds the position of assistant executive director in the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

Media reported that Monroe was placed on special leave with pay while Harper was placed on unpaid administrative leave at his own request.

The others charged on Monday with ethics violations no longer work for the state.
Farmer, who left state government at the end of his second term in 2011, faces 42 ethics violations.

Group working to fight drug abuse

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. - People in Floyd County are coming together to fight drug abuse.

Communities Against Drug Abuse (CADA) met Tuesday in Prestonsburg.

Their guest speaker was Floyd County Coroner Greg Nelson.
He joined them to talk about the toll drug abuse is taking across the county.

He told the group since 2010 more than 100 people have lost their lives in Floyd County because of drugs.

CADA meets the third Tuesday of each month in Prestonsburg.

Former pain clinic manager pleads guilty in drug case

An Eastern Kentucky woman and former manager of a West Virginia pain clinic says she reluctantly helped sell prescriptions illegally.

Myra Miller pleaded guilty to conspiring to misuse a physician's federal drug registration number.

Miller says she helped provide illegal prescriptions for Hydrocodone and Xanax in February 2010.

She also said Doctor William Ryckman had assured her she was not breaking the law, and threatened to fire her if she did not cooperate.

She will be sentenced June18th.

Letcher Co. case heading to grand jury

Whitesburg, Ky. -- The case against a Letcher County man accused of wanton endangerment is headed to the grand jury.

During a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Roger Elswick's defense waived the right to the hearing, and no testimony was heard.

Elswick was charged with wanton endangerment after his wife, Connie Webb Elswick, was found dead on the side of Cram Creek road.

An arrest citation says the two were fighting when Roger Elswick drove away. He told police his wife must have jumped on the back of the car and fallen off.

Roger Elswick's bond was reduced to $50,000 full cash with home incarceration.

Floyd County shooting suspect in court

FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. -- A suspect in a Floyd County murder case was back in court Tuesday.

Loretta Wright is charged with attempted murder and complicity to murder for a shooting at the home of her sister and brother-in-law, Lorene and Famer Halbert.

Famer Halbert died, and now both of the Wrights are facing charges.

The judge found enough probable cause to send the case to the grand jury. He also denied a motion to have Loretta Wright released on house arrest.

Ronald Wright is facing murder charges for Famer Halbert's death. A court date has not yet been set.

Officials say seven children under the age of 10 were in the home during the shooting but none were harmed.

Seven Die On Kentucky Roadways Last Week (Mar. 11 through Mar. 17)

 (Frankfort, KY) -- Preliminary statistics* indicate that seven people died in seven separate crashes on Kentucky's roadways from Monday, Mar. 11 through Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013.

One single-fatality, motor vehicle crash occurred in each of the following counties: Allen, Bell, Casey, Christian, Pulaski and Trigg. The victims in Allen and Christian counties were not wearing seat belts. The crash in Pulaski County involved the suspected use of alcohol.

One pedestrian was killed in Jefferson County in a crash that involved the suspected use of alcohol.

Through Mar. 17, preliminary statistics* indicate that 107 people have lost their lives on Kentucky roadways during 2013. This is 31 less than reported for this time period in 2012. Of the 94 motor vehicle fatalities, 47 victims were not wearing seat belts. One of the three motorcycle fatalities was not wearing a helmet. Nine pedestrians have been killed. One fatality involving an animal drawn vehicle has been reported. A total of 26 fatalities have resulted from crashes involving the suspected use of alcohol.

As of Mar. 17, Kentucky has had 21 days with zero highway fatalities reported during 2013.

Pike County Natives Found Murdered in North Carolina

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- A North Carolina man has been arrested and charged with murdering a Pike County, Ky., native and her son.

Kelly Pruitt, 33, and her son Kevin Hurley, 8, were found dead at their home early Friday morning.

Police in North Wilkesboro arrested 33-year Jason Pardue and charged him with two counts of murder, two counts of first-degree sex offense with a minor under 13 and one count of incest.

The Wilkes County, N.C. Sheriff says Pruitt was stabbed multiple times, and evidence suggests Hurley was suffocated.

The mother and son had been missing for several days before authorities found them dead.

Investigators say Pardue continued to live in the home for days after the two were killed.

Family Members Arrested in Drug Bust

FLATWOODS, Ky. -- Three family members were arrested Tuesday night in a drug bust at two homes along Beth Ann Drive in Flatwoods.

James Bowen, Mary Beth Bowen and Steve Bowen all were arrested and taken to the Greenup County Detention Center on drug-related charges.

Mary Beth Bowen, 52, and James Bowen, 31, are mother and son, police say. Both were charged with trafficking in a controlled substance.

Steve Bowen, who is Mary Beth Bowen's ex-husband, also faces a drug trafficking charge.

Law enforcement officials confiscated prescription drugs, cash, syringes, other drug paraphernalia and suspected stolen property.

About 7 p.m. Tuesday, members of the FADE Task Force, Flatwoods Police Department, Russell Police Department and Vanceburg Police Department executed two search warrants at both homes.

That action was a result of a lengthy investigation stemming from citizen complaints in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Heavy rains factor in Floyd County crash

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. -- Police say heavy rain was a factor in a Floyd County accident Monday afternoon.

They say a Mustang hydroplaned and hit a truck on U.S. 23 in Prestonsburg.

Police say the car went under the truck and the driver had to be cut out. They say she was complaining of leg pain and had glass in her mouth. She was taken to Highlands Regional Medical Center.

Police did not release the name of the woman driving the car.

The truck driver was not injured.

Pike Co. officials ask for searches at Hatfield-McCoy sites

PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Pike County was put in the national spotlight after The History Channel's 'Hatfield and McCoy' mini-series aired and interest in this feud is showing no signs of slowing down.

The phenomenon continues to grow as artifacts have been found. The National Geographic Channel's 'Diggers' searched the property in Pike County that once belonged to Randall McCoy. Several items were found including bullets and a chunk of the burnt cabin.

Now, Pike County officials are urging the Kentucky Heritage Council to conduct more digs. Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford explains, "With the understanding that the artifacts be used and not removed out of state permanently, you can loan them to anybody but make sure they remain in the hands of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and county of Pike."

Pike County will be holding the first ever Hatfield and McCoy Heritage Days this Labor Day weekend.

Rand Paul endorses immigrant path to citizenship

WASHINGTON - Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is endorsing a path to citizenship for the nation's illegal immigrants, a significant move for a favorite of tea party Republicans who are often seen as hostile to such an approach.

Paul's path to citizenship comes with conditions that could make it lengthy and difficult for illegal immigrants to travel, according to a speech he was to deliver Tuesday morning to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Among the conditions, Congress would have to agree first that progress has been made on border security.

Nonetheless, Paul's endorsement of allowing illegal immigrants an eventual way to become citizens puts him in line with a growing number of Republicans who are embracing action on immigration as a way to broaden the GOP's appeal to Latinos.

US Supreme Court declines Ky. God reference case

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a challenge to a reference to "Almighty God" in Kentucky's homeland security law.

The high court on Monday rejected the case without comment.

The order came seven months after the Kentucky Supreme Court made a similar decision in a lawsuit brought by the group American Atheists.

The plaintiffs had claimed in a 2008 suit that the law was a violation of constitutional bans on state-sponsored religion.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld the law and said the reference is made to "a generic 'God'" and doesn't "seek to prefer one belief over another."

The controversy arose because of two related laws passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Proposed smoking ban in Elkhorn City brings mixed reactions

ELKHORN CITY, Ky. -- A proposed smoking ban in Elkhorn City is sparking a debate throughout the community. The ban would eliminate smoking in public areas, including restaurants.

Council members say their desire to make the city safer and healthier is the motivation behind the ban.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

Richie Farmer accused of ethics violations

Richie Farmer, the University of Kentucky Basketball player, Clay County High School star and the former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner has been accused of 42 ethics violations.

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission filed them against former Farmer. The Big Blue Nation weighed in on the news.

The allegations include placing friends in jobs without actual duties to run his errands, having employees take him to doctors' appointments and shopping trips, and building him a basketball court on his property.

Farmer faces a $5,000 fine for each of the 42 counts. That could total $210,000.
Seven other employees who worked with farmer face ethics charges, including his sister.

Floyd County Sheriff Arrested for DUI

POWELL COUNTY, Ky. -- The Floyd County Sheriff is out of jail after being arrested for DUI Sunday night.

Stanton, Ky. Police arrested John K.Blackburn, 62, of Prestonsburg, about 8:15 p.m. Blackburn was booked into the Powell County Detention Center shortly after 9 p.m.

Blackburn was released on a $2,500 surety bond at 8:51 Monday morning, according to the jail.

According to the incident report from the Stanton Police Department, Blackburn’s SUV was pulled over near the 25 mile marker on the Mountain Parkway after an officer says he observed the SUV nearly hitting a guard and crossing the center line several times.

After stopping the vehicle, the officer said he observed Blackburn with blood shot eyes and the odor of an alcoholic beverage. He says Blackburn insisted he had only had water and was weaving because he was talking on his cell phone.

Blackburn told the officer he was not able to perform a field sobriety test due to medical conditions.

A breathalyzer test was later given and the police report indicates his blood alcohol level was .202. The legal limit in Kentucky is .08.

The officer says Blackburn finally stated he had been at a casino and had alcoholic beverages earlier in the day.

Sheriff Blackburn is expected to be arraigned in Powell County District Court on the misdemeanor charge next month.

Blackburn has been the Floyd County Sheriff since 1998

Gov. Beshear Signs Long-Awaited Graduation Bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Calling it “one of my most satisfying acts as Governor,” Governor Steve Beshear today signed into law the Graduation Bill (Senate Bill 97), which will keep Kentucky students enrolled in school until they turn 18.

Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear have joined educators and child advocates to fight for this bill’s passage for the past five legislative sessions. A late-session compromise among legislators led to the approval of SB97, which allows school districts to opt in to the higher dropout age immediately. Once 55 percent of school districts adopt the policy, all remaining districts must then adopt the standard within four years.

“Finally, we have agreed to stop jeopardizing our students’ futures by allowing them to leave school before they’re even eligible for a driver’s license. Now, we are holding them to 21st century expectations of education and training,” said Gov. Beshear. “The days of dropping out of high school and expecting a dependable, well-paying job are long gone. This bill will not only keep students on track for a high school diploma, but it will ensure we have a better-trained, better-prepared workforce, which will pay off for our state for decades to come.”

“Allowing students to leave school at 16 is an antiquated practice that has hindered our citizens’ progress for far too long,” said First Lady Jane Beshear. “School districts now have the tools to keep these students engaged and learning throughout high school, creating stronger, self-sufficient adults who will be responsible, contributing members of their communities.”

High school graduates provide both economic and social benefits to society. In addition to earning higher wages, research shows that high school graduates live longer, are less likely to be teen parents, and are more likely to raise healthier, better-educated children.
Studies also show that high school graduates are less likely to commit crimes, rely on government healthcare or use other public services such as food stamps or housing assistance.
If the high school dropouts of 2009 had graduated, Kentucky’s economy would have an additional $4.2 billion in wages over those students’ lifetimes.

“This bill is an economic win for Kentucky and an even bigger win for the students who otherwise may not have stayed in school,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “I echo the Governor’s appreciation for the General Assembly and others who supported this bill and thank him as well as the First Lady for their continued leadership on this issue.”

“Now, these students have a better chance to graduate from high school and be ready to succeed in postsecondary training, education and in life,” said Kentucky Board of Education Chair, David Karem. “That’s the Kentucky Board of Education’s goal for all Kentucky students.”

Gov. Beshear thanked the legislators who sponsored the bill in this session, as well as those who have supported the legislation for the past several years.

“Regardless of political party, this topic was something we could all agree on,” said the Governor. “The bipartisan cooperation that led to passage of this bill is a testament to our legislators’ commitment to Kentucky students and the Commonwealth’s future.”

“This bill is an example of two chambers and two parties working together to obtain good public policy. SB97 raises the standard for our students but also provides a local framework,” said Sen. David Givens.

“I’ve been proud to work on this issue over the last several years, so it means a lot to know that we now have a path forward to get the high school dropout age raised,” said Rep. Jeff Greer. “I want to thank Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear for their leadership, and I appreciate the overwhelming support we saw from my House and Senate colleagues. Our goal now is to work with the school districts to help them make this a reality for all of our students.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Floyd County sheriff arrested on DUI charges

STANTON, Ky. -- Powell County Officials at the detention center say Floyd County Sheriff John K. Blackburn was arrested on DUI charges Sunday night.

Jail records show Blackburn was arrested by the Powell County sheriff's department and was booked into the jail just before 9:30 Sunday night.

No other details are being released right now.