State News in Brief


Man indicted on murder charges in case of missing couple

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A central Kentucky man has been indicted on two murder counts in the case of a missing Florence couple.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that 52-year-old Craig Pennington of Springfield also was indicted on several other charges, including kidnapping, tampering with evidence, theft, terroristic threatening, abuse of a corpse and menacing.

The bodies of Robert Jones and Crystal Warner have not been found, but relatives and friends have continued searching in Washington County near Mackville, where Pennington rented a cabin from Jones.

Jones and Warner have been missing since July 3.

Their car was found July 8 off Interstate 75 in Scott County. That same day, Kentucky State Police arrested Pennington in connection with their deaths.

Pennington remains in the Marion County jail in lieu of a $2 million bond.

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AG: No criminal charges in Kentucky landfill case

FRANKFOR (AP) — Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says his office found insufficient evidence to seek criminal charges in the disposal of radioactive waste at an Appalachian landfill.

Beshear’s announcement caps his office’s four-month investigation into the presence of low-level nuclear waste at Blue Ridge Landfill in Estill County.

Though his office determined it could not pursue criminal charges, Beshear said Friday he believes civil damages could be pursued against the company accused of hauling the waste.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services said Friday it plans to impose significant civil penalties over the disposal. It said tests indicate no immediate threat to public health.

The landfill owner has said it was unaware of any dumping of radioactive waste.

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Automotive supplier to open new production facility

FRANKFORT (AP) — Gov. Matt Bevin says an automotive supplier is opening a new production facility in southern Kentucky that will lead to 145 new jobs over the next decade.

Bevin announced on Monday that Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems Inc. will open a fifth plant in Franklin. He said in a statement that the company is renovating a 65,000 square-foot building to house the operation.

The decision to open another plant is in response to an expected increase in demand from its automotive-industry customers. The company chose the location due to its proximity to Interstate 65 and to another Sumitomo plant in Scottsville and because the area has a trained workforce.

Franklin Mayor Ronnie Clark said Sumitomo is the first company that will have a presence in the city’s new business park.

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Corrections officer apologizes for Facebook post

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A Louisville Department of Corrections officer who was suspended over a Facebook post about police has apologized.

News outlets report Sgt. Derek Hale issued a statement Friday saying he accepts responsibility for tension caused by the post and will work to “bridge the divide” between the community and law enforcement.

Corrections Director Mark Bolton suspended Hale on Wednesday and began an investigation.

The post showed an image of a white police officer with the words “If we really wanted you dead all we’d have to do is stop patrolling your neighborhoods. And wait.” Hale reportedly wrote, “Ha … truth,” and posted it on his personal account.

The post came after fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, and a rampage in Dallas that left five police officers dead.

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Automotive supplier to open new production facility

FRANKFORT (AP) — Gov. Matt Bevin says an automotive supplier is opening a new production facility in southern Kentucky that will lead to 145 new jobs over the next decade.

Bevin announced on Monday that Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems Inc. will open a fifth plant in Franklin. He said in a statement that the company is renovating a 65,000 square-foot building to house the operation.

The decision to open another plant is in response to an expected increase in demand from its automotive-industry customers. The company chose the location due to its proximity to Interstate 65 and to another Sumitomo plant in Scottsville and because the area has a trained workforce.

Franklin Mayor Ronnie Clark said Sumitomo is the first company that will have a presence in the city’s new business park.

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Crews searching Kentucky Lake for missing boater find body

BENTON (AP) — Crews searching Kentucky Lake for a man who fell off a boat over the weekend have found a body.

Garry Clark with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife told WPSD-TV that the body was found on Monday between Moor’s Marina and a rock quarry on the Land Between the Lakes side of the lake. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the body was that of the missing boater.

Marshall County Rescue Squad Chief Curt Curtner told The Paducah Sun that the 36-year-old man was with four other people in a 19-foot pleasure boat Saturday evening when he fell into the water. No one else was injured.

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Judge orders new trials in alleged ‘Satanic’ killing

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A Kentucky judge has vacated the convictions of two men whom prosecutors said were inspired by satanic worship to murder a woman in 1992.

Meade Circuit Judge Bruce T. Butler ordered new trials for Garr Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Dewayne Clark, The Courier-Journal reported. The two men were convicted for the murder of 19-year-old Rhonda Sue Warford in part based on a hair found on her sweatpants that prosecutors said was a “microscopic match” to Hardin.

New DNA testing showed the hair did not come from Hardin.

Butler also said prosecutors were wrong to tell the jury a cup found in Hardin’s room was a “chalice” used to drink sacrificial animals’ blood to enhance their standing with Lucifer. At the time, Hardin said he cut his hand on the cup. DNA testing confirmed the blood belonged to Hardin.

“This court is confronted with the stark reality that Mr. Hardin and Mr. Clark were convicted based on suppositions that we now know to be fundamentally false,” Butler wrote in a 24-page opinion issued Thursday.

Former Meade Commonwealth’s Attorney Kenton Smith, who prosecuted the case, said he was surprised with the ruling given that both men “have on multiple occasions admitted their involvement.”

“I think the first jury got the case correct and the next one will, too. However the situation comes out, we have the best system of justice in the world, and I respect it,” Smith said.

Current Meade Commonwealth’s Attorney David Michael Williams opposed the motion for a new trial, noting that Clark admitted to the Kentucky Parole Board he stabbed Warford and was involved with satanism. But Butler noted defendants are often forced to take responsibility for crimes they did not commit in an attempt to win parole.

Kentucky Innocence Project Director Linda Smith represented Clark and Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project in New York, represented Hardin. Both men will be returned to the Meade County Jail. If Williams decides to seek a retrial, he could ask for bail to be set. Scheck said he believes the judge’s “strong and powerful opinion” should rule out a retrial.

Warford disappeared on April 1, 1992. Her body was found three days later in Meade County’s Dead Horse Hollow. She had been stabbed 11 times.

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Man sues for spending years in jail until cases were dropped

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A man who spent more than seven years in jail awaiting trial until his release has filed a lawsuit claiming Louisville police detectives and others manufactured the cases against him.

Lawyers for the man, Percy Brown, said he was “entirely innocent,” The Courier-Journal reported. They filed the lawsuit on Friday in U.S. District Court.

Brown had faced a series of charges including murder, sodomy and kidnapping until the last case against him was dropped April 5 and he was released, a free man.

During his long stay in jail, Brown says he missed out on the chance to share births, funerals and time with his five children, along with the opportunity to “fall in love, to marry and enjoy the fundamental freedom . of a human being.”

The suit filed by the Chicago law firm Loevy & Loevy, which has won dozens of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements for clients who showed they were wrongly incarcerated.

The 28-page complaint alleges that seven Metro detectives, plus one on the University of Louisville force, framed Brown in the 2004 murder of Jennifer Nicole French because he refused to admit his involvement in a check-forgery scheme.

“This manifest injustice was not the result of mere flaws in the judicial system,” the suit said. “Rather, the defendants conspired to take Mr. Brown’s liberty through a series of knowingly false charges based on evidence that the defendants fabricated.”

Alicia Smiley, a Louisville police spokeswoman, had no immediate comment on the suit.

Josh Abner, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office, which defends Metro government, said it does not comment on pending litigation and that its lawyers haven’t reviewed the allegations yet. He said the office would respond in court.

In a news release, one of Brown’s lawyers, Elliot Slosar, said Brown suffered a “true injustice” and should never have been arrested in the first place.

Louisville police charged him four years after her murder, claiming he killed French, a young mother of two, because she was about to testify against him in the check-fraud case.

Brown’s lawyers say in the suit that they have an impeccable alibi for Sept. 16, 2004, the day French was shot in the back of the head: A receipt, included in the complaint, showing he was gambling that day at Belterra Casino, about 65 miles from Louisville, and won $10,300.

Police and prosecutors have claimed that the receipt only proves that somebody was using Brown’s casino card that day — not that he was there.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Cooke, a spokesman for the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, said the murder case was dismissed in February 2015 because prosecutors couldn’t find a witness — not because they thought Brown was innocent. Cooke said the commonwealth could charge Brown again for the crime. He declined to comment on the evidence because he said the office anticipates Brown will be re-indicted “at some point.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for alleged malicious prosecution and fabrication of evidence.

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Fundraising continues for Bill Monroe museum

OWENSBORO (AP) — A western Kentucky tourism official says fundraising is continuing toward the construction of a proposed museum dedicated to bluegrass music legend Bill Monroe.

Ohio County Tourism Commission executive director Jody Flener told the Messenger-Inquirer that the project’s goal is to raise $1 million and conduct a groundbreaking next spring.

Although an architect has yet to be hired, Flener says the museum will focus on Monroe, his family and his band, the Bluegrass Boys.

Flener says Ohio County has received $300,000 in state funding for the project.

Monroe died in 1996. Three years later the county spent $250,000 for several Monroe memorabilia items that have been kept in storage.

A museum website, www.billmonroemuseum.com , was started in April. The website is selling customized bricks for $75 and $250, depending on size.

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Cave Run Lake boat ramp closing for 5 days

MOREHEAD (AP) — State officials say the Warix Run Boat Ramp at Cave Run Lake near Morehead is closing temporarily next week.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a news release that the boat ramp will serve as a staging area for a fish habitat improvement project. Artificial habitat structures will be installed in the waters at Warix Run and nearby coves.

The ramp is scheduled to be closed July 25 through 29.

Department Fisheries Habitat Coordinator Joseph Zimmerman says this is the third year for the habitat project. It’s expected to be completed next year.

The release said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service and several Cave Run Lake angling groups are working together to improve the habitat.

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Journalist hired by Health and Family Services agency

FRANKFORT (AP) — Veteran journalist Jean West has been hired as executive director of communications for Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson says West began her new job last week.

West previously served as news anchor for WAVE-TV’s News Sunrise morning news program in Louisville. She also hosted and produced a weekly prime time program devoted to medical, health and education issues.

West also served as owner and producer of West Media Consulting/Faces West Productions, where she produced TV programs and advised on ways to publicize community services.

West has a bachelor’s degree in speech and theater arts from Southern University and a master of fine arts from the University of California Davis.

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