News in Brief


Increased number of whooping cough cases reported in Ky.

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky health officials are reporting an increased number of whooping cough cases in the state.

Health officials reported 87 cases between August and December of last year. The state Department for Public Health says the highest concentration of cases occurred in Jefferson County and northern Kentucky.

Officials say the highly contagious respiratory disease is caused by bacteria. They say it is transmitted through respiratory droplets from sneezing, coughing or talking.

Officials say the disease can be prevented by vaccination.

They say whooping cough can be deadly for infants too young to have been fully vaccinated, so it’s important for parents and caregivers of young children to be up-to-date on immunizations.

Officials say a series of vaccines is available for children. Teens and adults should be protected with a booster.

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Man pleads not guilty in kidnapping, death of girl

SCOTTSVILLE (AP) — A south-central Kentucky man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed a 7-year-old girl who disappeared from a youth football game.

Timothy Madden of Scottsville appeared in court Wednesday on charges of murder, kidnapping, first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy. He is charged in the death of Gabriella Doolin, who disappeared Nov. 14 while attending a game to cheer on her brother. She was found dead less than a half-hour later in a creek.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Clint Willis said the judge set a March 31 deadline to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Media outlets reported that defense lawyer Travis Lock asked prosecutors to provide evidence to him. A status conference is July 13.

Lock says he’ll decide after viewing the evidence whether to request a change of venue.

Madden is being held in jail without bond.

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Task force formed to support police after Richmond slaying

RICHMOND (AP) — A central Kentucky man has formed a new task force to push for changes in state law, as well as judicial and correctional systems, in the wake of a fatal shooting of a Richmond police officer last year.

The Richmond Register reports Downtown Richmond Association President David Gannon has created the Ellis Coalition: Richmond/Madison County Task Force in honor of slain officer Daniel Ellis.

Authorities say Ellis was killed in November by 34-year-old Raleigh Sizemore Jr. while Ellis was investigating a reported robbery.

Public anger surrounding Ellis’ death was compounded by the knowledge that Sizemore had been paroled earlier that year.

In addition to pushing for tougher laws against crime, Gannon says the task force will work to see that local law enforcement agencies are properly funded and equipped.

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House panel OKs bill to help prosecutors combat sex crimes

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has gone before a legislative committee to push for a bill he says would help prosecutors crack down on sex crimes against children and vulnerable adults.

The measure won approval from the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Beshear says the measure, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins, would close “a glaring gap” in state law that’s hindering some prosecutions against alleged child sex abusers.

Beshear says the bill would close the legal loophole by creating a “continuous course of conduct” law.

He says it would allow children and vulnerable adults to testify about patterns of abuse without being penalized for not remembering exact dates and places where abuse occurred.

The measure stems from a state Supreme Court ruling last year.

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Ky. House panel approves expungement bill

FRANKFORT (AP) —A Kentucky legislative committee advanced a billon Wednesday that would allow some nonviolent felons like her to have their criminal records expunged.

A bipartisan group of supporters said the legislation, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee, embraces the principles of redemption.

The measure won solid backing from committee Democrats, while Republicans were divided on the issue.

The legislation would allow people convicted of Class D felonies — nonviolent crimes whose maximum sentence is five years in prison — to ask the court to clear their records. It would not apply to anyone who has multiple felony convictions or has committed a sex crime or a crime against a child or an elderly person.

Similar bills have surfaced for more than a decade but ultimately died each legislative session.

Supporters hope that support from new Republican Gov. Matt Bevin will provide enough momentum to enact an expungement law. At a rally last week, Bevin urged the GOP-led state Senate to pass such legislation, calling it “the right thing to do.”

Senate President Robert Stivers said Wednesday there has been considerable discussion among Senate Republicans about the issue. He said he still has some questions about its application.

The bill’s supporters at the House Judiciary Committee hearing included Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson.

The tens of thousands of Kentuckians potentially eligible to have their felony records cleared under the bill could help solve the state’s workforce shortage, they said.

The bill’s critics included Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti III of Lexington. He said the measure would allow expungements of some crimes that most people would not view as minor. The lawmaker mentioned burglary and wanton endangerment convictions as potential examples.

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Former Gov. Beshear returning to work for Lexington law firm

FRANKFORT (AP) — Former Kentucky Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is returning to work for the Stites & Harbison law firm.

Beshear will work in the firm’s Lexington office, which he supervised from 1987 until his election as governor in 2007. In a news release, the firm said Beshear will use his expertise as an attorney and a high-level elected official to serve clients throughout the region and in Washington, D.C.

A two term governor, Beshear left office last month and was succeeded by Republican Matt Bevin. Beshear was attorney general from 1979 to 1983 and was lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987. His son, Andy Beshear, also worked at Stites & Harbison before being elected attorney general in November. Andy Beshear took office last week.

Stites & Harbison has 10 offices in five states.

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Batts, Comer file for Congress in Kentucky’s 1st District

FRANKFORT (AP) — Two Republicans with varying political pedigrees have filed to run for Congress in Kentucky’s 1st District.

Former Agriculture Commissioner James Comer filed his paperwork on Wednesday. Comer finished second in the 2014 Republican primary for governor by 83 votes but performed well in the 1st District.

Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts also filed. Batts was first elected in 2014 and also serves in the Army Reserve. He said he is running to combat what he called the “very real threat of radical Islam.”

Both men want to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who is not running for re-election after 20 years in office. Republican Miles A. Caughey and Democrat Samuel L. Gaskins have also filed for the seat. Longtime Whitfield aide Michael Pape plans to run but has not yet filed.

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Ky. taking comment on draft version of elk plan

FRANKFORT (AP) — The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is reviewing proposed guidelines for management of the state’s elk herd and wants the public’s ideas and opinions.

The draft is available online at http://fw.ky.gov , and people may contribute feedback by email until Feb. 5. The email address for Deer and Elk Program Coordinator Gabe Jenkins is [email protected]

Elk were initially released into the southeastern Kentucky mountains in 1997. Fish and Wildlife said in a news release that once the herd became established, the agency’s focus shifted from restoring a free-ranging elk population to managing what is now the largest population of elk east of the Rocky Mountains.

Jenkins and department biologists have been developing the long-range plan using data from past Kentucky elk research projects and input from interested parties.

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Eastern Kentucky University bans hoverboards from dorms

RICHMOND (AP) — Eastern Kentucky University officials are asking students returning to campus next week to leave their hoverboards behind.

The Richmond Register reports the school has joined more than 30 other universities nationwide that have banned or restricted hoverboards on their campuses recently over concerns that the two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters are unsafe.

In an email sent to students this week, Eastern Kentucky announced that hoverboards are prohibited from the university’s housing facilities.

Chief External Affairs Officer for Communications and Marketing Kristi Runyon Middleton says the decision was made largely because of concerns that the items could catch fire.

Middleton says hoverboards can currently still be used on university property.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported last week that it’s investigating 28 fires in 19 states tied to the motorized scooters.

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Minnesota woman charged with killing father

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — A central Minnesota woman who’s behind bars in Kentucky is charged with fatally bludgeoning her father with an axe-like tool.

Thirty-eight-year-old Lisa May Kearney was charged Wednesday in Stearns County District Court with second-degree murder. Kearney was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky Jan. 6, two days after police found the body of Jeffrey Schilling in the St. Cloud home he shared with Kearney.

A criminal complaint says the 66-year-old father died of head injuries, apparently inflicted with a short-handled maul found nearby. Prosecutors say Kearney is being held on $250,000 bail in Kentucky and has refused to waive extradition to Minnesota.

The complaint says a neighbor and law enforcement confirmed a strained relationship existed between Kearney and her father. Kearney’s attorney at the Jefferson County public defender’s office in Louisville did not immediately return a call for comment.

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Foundation field trip grants go to Land Between Lakes, more

GOLDEN POND (AP) — The National Park Foundation is providing funds to help with transportation costs for students making field trips to Land Between The Lakes in western Kentucky and Tennessee.

The grant will help pay for transportation for students staying at Brandon Spring Group Center, which focuses on environmental education.

The foundation says its grants have made it possible for more than 400,000 students to visit national parks and other public lands and waters. The foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks.

The grant will benefit about 240 fourth-grade students staying at Brandon Spring.

In Kentucky, Green River Lake will also receive the “Every Kid in a Park” grants.

In Tennessee, grants will go to Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shiloh National Military Park and Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge.

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