News in Brief

Lexington mother charged with trafficking daughter

LEXINGTON (AP) — A Lexington mother is being charged with offering her boyfriend sex acts with her then-12-year-old daughter for money.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that around the child’s birthday in August, 33-year-old Stephanie Watts offered her daughter money to have oral sex with her boyfriend, 34-year-old Juan Hernandez, in her home.

Court documents say the daughter told the Children’s Advocacy Center that when she told Watts she didn’t want to have sex with Hernandez, her mother replied, “Well you are going to.”

Documents say the next morning, Watts took $80 out of Hernandez’s pant pocket and told her daughter not to say anything.

The girlfriend of the alleged victim’s uncle told police Watts drunkenly admitted the incident to her in early September.

It’s unclear if Watts has an attorney.


Rehab program helps Ky. inmates clean up their lives

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A rehab program at the Kentucky Department of Corrections is helping inmates clean up their lives.

WHAS-TV reports that the program called “Enough is Enough” helps addicts detox, as well as stay clean.

Ken Wright is the program’s director and one of its teachers. He says part of the discussion about relapse education and relapse prevention involves “identifying triggers.”

Participant Cynthia Weddell says the program also teaches inmates how to be responsible once they get out, like taking care of their bills instead of buying drugs.

Officials say the department also has a similar program for males.


Ky. mall reopens a day after disturbances

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A suburban Louisville mall reopened Sunday with extra security, a day after closing early when roving bands of unruly teens caused a series of disturbances that required police to bring in reinforcements to quell the violence.

The night before, up to 2,000 teens created mayhem at Mall St. Matthews as the shopping center was filled with post-Christmas shoppers, police said.

Dozens of officers from four police agencies responded to numerous reports of fights, harassment of customers and store employees and other problems Saturday night that spread throughout the shopping center, said Officer Dennis McDonald, a spokesman for suburban St. Matthews police.

Police started receiving reports of disorderly conduct about 7 p.m. EST Saturday, and the situation quickly escalated, he said. About an hour later, the decision was made to close the mall early, but teens tried to prevent some businesses from shutting their doors, he said.

No arrests were made, but “it wasn’t for the lack of criminal activity,” McDonald said Sunday.

“We were largely outnumbered, and our focus was on restoring order and dispersing the crowd,” he said. “And we were focused on the safety of patrons and of our fellow officers. Certainly, if they were assaulting innocent people, police would have made arrests.”

Police received reports of gunshots fired but could not confirm whether shots were actually fired, McDonald said.

Minor injuries were reported from people being pushed down or shoved, he said.

The popular mall reopened Sunday with added police presence, he said. There were no reports of problems by early evening, he said.


Man shot to death had hoped to help troubled teens

LEXINGTON (AP) — A Lexington man had once hoped to become a counselor for at-risk and violent kids, but his life ended abruptly when he was shot to death earlier this month.

Andres Soto Jr., 20, was shot Dec. 7 while standing outside on Lexington’s Oxford Circle after 3 a.m. He later died at a hospital. A 15-year-old has been charged with murder in the shooting.

Soto’s family, friends and mentors told The Lexington Herald-Leader Soto had worked to overcome adversity and to help others do the same.

“It’s a terrible irony that what he wanted to do was to counsel that kind of kid,” said Elise Crisp, who taught Soto at The Learning Center at Linlee. Soto graduated from there in 2013.

Police say there’s no evidence that indicates Soto knew the shooter.

When Soto was young, he joined a gang, his brother Bernardo Soto said. But he later decided that wasn’t a good path for him.

“We were raised up a little rough,” Bernardo Soto said. “We saw some rough stuff on the streets.”

The Learning Center’s founding principal Ronald Chi said Soto took his desire to help others outside of the classroom. He led presentation efforts for the city’s Senior Center Project, and also led panel discussions for graduate education students and was a student leader, Chi said.

“His main goal was to help out kids, especially those that don’t understand that education is important, that don’t pay attention,” Bernardo Soto said. “He was trying to bring it up and make sure kids have a future. The kids today are the future of tomorrow and that’s what he lived by.”


Sandhill crane tours offered at Kentucky park

LUCAS (AP) — Barren River Lake State Resort Park is offering tours for people wanting to get a look at sandhill cranes as they migrate home to the north.

The park is offering tours during two weekends for guest to learn more about the birds.

State parks officials say tours will be held Jan. 29-30 and Feb. 5-6 in 2016.

Each year, thousands of sandhill cranes make Barren River Lake a stop as they gather in huge numbers to migrate. The lake’s exposed mud flats in winter provide the birds with a spot to rest and socialize as they settle in for the night. Ample farmlands and wet meadows offer plenty of food.

Sandhill cranes are tall, gray birds reaching heights up to 4 feet, with wingspans of 6 to 7 feet.


Authorities say crash on Ky. 114 claims 4 lives

PRESTONBURG (AP) — Authorities are investigating a crash on Ky. 114 near Prestonburg that claimed the lives of four people, including a 4-year-old.

Kentucky State Police said in a news release that the accident involving two vehicles occurred Thursday evening. Police said a car driven by 54-year-old Sandra Bauer of Salyersville crossed over into the lane of an oncoming vehicle driven by 52-year-old Roland Patrick, also of Salyersville.

Both drivers were killed in the collision, as well as a 4-year-old and an unidentified woman in Bauer’s car.

Police said two other occupants in that vehicle were taken to a local hospital and are in stable condition.


Planners look for music center’s sustained success

OWENSBORO (AP) — Plans for the exterior design of the International Bluegrass Music Center in Kentucky are set and design of the interior exhibits and visitor experience is under way. Now planners are looking for the right formula to ensure the future attraction’s sustained success in Owensboro.

Chris Joslin, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum of Owensboro, tells the Messenger-Inquirer that planners are trying to create a visitor experience so compelling that people will keep coming back.

“We’re trying to create an experience,” Joslin said. “Success in that regard is not just numbers. The tell-tale sign will be people returning two, three or four times. As much as anything, we want it to be dynamic, something new all the time and reasons to come back.”

The museum is partnering with the city of Owensboro to build the $15.4 million center.

The newspaper reports that the awarding of a construction contract for the center and a groundbreaking ceremony are both imminent, based on what city officials have said recently. No firm dates have been announced.

Woodward said the museum has hundreds of hours of bluegrass video and is seeking help from the University of Kentucky to edit them into a usable state for the center. For the last nine years, the museum has conducted and recorded interviews with about 160 bluegrass performers, some now deceased.

The venue is a 500-seat auditorium/concert hall designed for regular live musical performances.

Those regular Saturday night shows will be designed to focus solely on bluegrass music, with a couple of headliners and other performers at each show, Woodward said. On other nights, other genres of music may fill the theater, but on Saturday nights, bluegrass will be the staple, he said.

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