The year in review: Top local stories of 2015

Following is a countdown of the top ten stories of Harlan County for 2015 as selected by the staff of the Harlan Daily Enterprise:

10. HPD Facebook post goes viral: Harlan City Police Chief Mike Thomas had no idea his little joke in the midst of a snowstorm would bring international attention to Harlan when he placed a post on the department’s Facebook page announcing an arrest warrant had been obtained for Queen Elsa, the ice princess from the popular Disney movie “Frozen.” Shortly after the post was made, people from all over the country began sharing. “All points bulletin!!! HPD has issued an arrest warrant for Queen Elsa of Arendelle,” said Thomas in his post. “Suspect is a blonde female last seen wearing a long blue dress and is known to burst into song “Let it Go!” As you can see by the weather she is very dangerous. Do not attempt to apprehend her alone.” The lighthearted post was followed up by a more serious message, asking residents to take safety precautions during the freezing weather.

9. Fire at beauty school: The Jenny Lea Academy of Cosmetology and apartment building was gutted by a fire that reportedly started in the beauty school’s restroom.

8. Turner, Osborne sentenced for murder: A long trip through the courts came to a conclusion in February for two individuals charged in the 2011 murder of Stephen Gibson. Tim Turner, 39, and Rachel Osborne, 36, of Mary Alice, were sentenced by Judge Robert Costanzo in Harlan Circuit Court. Turner was sentenced to 40 years while Osborne received a sentence of 20 years. Turner and Osborne were arrested shortly after Gibson was found dead in his home on June 2, 2011.

7. KSP makes arrest in fatal fire: Kentucky State Police Det. Josh Howard arrested Melissa Gregory Brown, 30, of Harlan and Christopher Hill, 44, of Cumberland, on charges of first-degree arson and murder, in connection with the fatal house fire on Aug. 16 at Stanfill. Kentucky State Police troopers were called to the structure fire after a report of a person being trapped inside the residence. According to Kentucky State Police Public Affairs Officer Shane Jacobs, April Dean, 26, was found unresponsive inside her residence that become engulfed with fire.

6. Justified comes home: For its six-year run on FX, Justified called Harlan home and used the rich history, colorful stories and people of the southeastern Kentucky town to create a story that made it one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television. Justified’s story ended in April, with several hundred fans at the Harlan County High School auditorium being the first to see the screening of the series’ final show, three days before the rest of the world viewed the finale on television. Graham Yost, the show’s developer and executive producer, was in attendance for the screening, along with several writers and producers. Two of the show’s stars also attended — Joelle Carter, who played Ava Crowder, and Jacob Pitts, who played the role of Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Gutterson.

5. Flooding seen in county: Flooding occurred in the county in March as heavy rains caused problems.

4. Dealing with disaster (snow storm): Packing a punch that placed it among the most devastating in recent history, Winter Storm 2015 provided the then-new Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley with quite a challenge in only his second month on the job. “It was a baptism by fire, but I think we’ve handled it very well,” Mosley said at the time. He also described the series of events that led to the current state of emergency situation, noting that 3 inches of snow fell on Feb. 14 and then another 10 to 12 inches of snow arrived two days later, followed by below zero temperatures on Thursday and Friday and then another 6 to 10 inches of snow and ice.

3. Mudslide wreaks havoc: Residents in Lynch awoke on March 6 to a mudslide on KY 160, which caused the road to be closed. The mudslide occurred when the side of the mountain near the Lynch-Cumberland Manor Apartments came down from the No. 33 Mine, which had broken loose above the flumeline.

2. Local mines to terminate 95: In January, two coal companies operating in Harlan County, Fox Knob Coal Co. Inc. and JAD Coal Co. Inc., issued WARN Act notices of their intentions to terminate a total of 95 employees. The notices, dated Jan. 5, were received at the Harlan County Judge-Executive’s Office on Jan. 8. Both the Fox Knob and JAD notices stated that they intended to cease production operations at its facility located at 980 Highway 3349, Coldiron, Kentucky, and the job losses were expected to be permanent.

1. Smith wins The Voice: After months of show stopping performances, Harlan native Jordan Smith was announced as Season 9 winner of the hit reality television show ‘The Voice,’ winning $100,000 and a recording contract with Republic Records. Going into the show, Smith was at the No. 1 spots on both ‘The Voice’ and Top 100 iTunes charts with his most recent single, ‘Mary Did You Know.’ Additionally, going into the live results finale Smith held half of the top 10 spots on ‘The Voice’ iTunes charts and had 10 singles ranking on ‘The Voice’ chart. Smith performed with former Voice coach and world renowned singer Usher on the live results show. The duo sang Usher’s hit ‘Without You.’

Staff Report


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