|Breathitt Online News
Hazard couple charged with sodomy of underage relative by Jarrid Deaton Staff Writer
A Hazard couple was arrested last week on sodomy charges allegedly committed against an underage relative. William Wooton, 44, is charged with first-degree sodomy for allegedly engaging in oral sex with a male relative under the age of 12. Jessica Wooton, 21, is charged with complicity to commit sodomy for allegedly aiding William Wooton
in committing the act, and by failing to prevent the offense. According to the court documents, Jessica Wooton allegedly had prior knowledge of the events and failed to prevent them. A preliminary hearing for the couple was held on Tuesday in Perry District Court.
Education forum focuses on budget problems in schools by Jarrid Deaton Staff Writer
The problems created in education due to budget cuts was the main topic of discussion at an educational forum held at the Hazard Community and Technical College last week.
Members of the Partners for Kentucky's Future voiced their concerns about the current funding crisis in education. Many educators from the region were present to discuss
how the budget problems were affecting their area. According to Dr. Jay Box, President of Hazard Community and Technical College, the shortage of funds may force the closing of Kentucky School of Crafts, which was just recently opened by the college. Box said that there had been a cut of $44 million from the budget which would force the closing of the school, along with many other hard decisions. "We have some severe cuts that we have to make," Box said. According to Box, one of the other cuts that will have to be made involves the duel-credit classes between the college and high schools.
"There just isn't going to be enough money to fund the program," Box said. The budget problems are also a concern for Perry County schools. A.B. Combs Principal Estill Neace was another speaker who addressed their concerns at the forum. "We are going to have to cut after-school programs, textbook funding, and we are getting ready
to have to cut staff," Neace said. "We are taking a backwards step in public education."
The Partners for Kentucky's Future recommend that people who are concerned about the cuts and lack of funding to write personal letters to legislators in order to make a difference.
Perry Solid Waste Board considers legal options in garbage service cases
by Jarrid Deaton Staff Writer
The Perry County Solid Waste Enforcement Board are considering other options in making sure that everyone maintains garbage service. The board has cited fines of $500 to 10 individuals for not appearing after being summoned by certified mail, but none of them have responded to the fines. Fairly Sumner, of Vicco, Stephen Johnson, of Busy, Harold Boggs, of Viper, Wayne Stidham, of Busy, Danny McQueen, of Hazard, Earlene Molin, of Viper, Kim Feltner, of Hazard, Barry Anderson, of Viper, Margie Deaton, of Gays Creek, and Lisa Everidge, of Happy, were all cited twice by the board for not maintaining garbage service. When they did not appear after the second attempt, the
board fined each of them $500. The board is considering filing leans on the property owned by those who do not maintain garbage service, or do not appear before the board to make other arrangements.
Stumbo asks for execution date for Helen Madden's killer
Attorney General Greg Stumbo is asking for an execution date to be set for the man
who pleaded guilty to the brutal murder of a 61-year-old woman at a Hazard laundry mat in 1989. Donald Herb Johnson was sentenced to death for the murder of Helen Madden.
On November 29, 1989, in Hazard, Johnson came Bright and Clean Laundry and asked Madden if he could use the telephone. After Madden refused, Johnson allegedly stabbed her at least 24 times, repeatedly bit her, beat her beyond recognition and then
disemboweled her. Johnson also allegedly sexually assaulted Madden during the
attack. Johnson then allegedly went to a restaurant to have dinner directly after the murder. The case was transferred to Floyd Circuit Court where Johnson pleaded guilty to capital murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. In correspondence forwarded to Governor Ernie Fletcher, Stumbo requested execution dates for Johnson and David Lee Sanders, who was convicted of two counts of murder in Madison County in 1987. Stumbo requested that Fletcher set the dates as soon as possible in order to carry out the sentence imposed in each case.
Stumbo later withdrew the request for Sanders' execution after learning an appeal had already been filed in the case. "These were brutal and malicious murders," Stumbo said "I have pledged in my new position to be tough on criminals. By signing these orders, I
am keeping that promise and helping ensure the safety of Kentuckians." Fletcher has not released a statement on how he plans to handle the death penalty request.
Mother of Jimmy Browning thinks he deserves new trial
While her son sits in the Perry County Detention Center after receiving a sentence of
55 years for the murder of Tamara Beverly, Joan Morton is trying to get him a new trial.
According to Morton, everyone who was sentenced under the administration of Perry Circuit Judge Doug Combs should have their cases reexamined. Morton believes that Combs wasn't qualified to preside over her son's case, and sees the recent allegations against Combs as a validation of her theory. "Jimmy entered a guilty plea and Judge
Combs took it back," Morton said. Morton also believes that Browning's trial, which was moved to Letcher County, was not fair. "Combs presided over the trial for two days, then he stepped down," Morton said. "The new judge told Jimmy that 'it appalls me to look at you'. He never had a chance for a fair trial." Morton maintains that Ance Neace is solely
responsible for Beverly's murder. "He's been telling people at the jail that he did it all while Jimmy was asleep in the car," Morton said. Morton says she blames Combs for much of the trouble that her family has endured. "He destroyed all our lives," Morton said. "He took away my only son." Jimmy Browning was found guilty of murder and tampering with physical evidence by a jury in Letcher County in August, 2003. Ance Neace,
who had entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors, testified against Browning at the trial.
On again, off again Perry BOE meeting causes confusion
An on again, off again, meeting of the Perry County Board of Education caused
confusion and controversy on Thursday night. The Hazard Herald received a call
on Wednesday saying that the meeting had been postponed, but Superintendent John Paul Amis called Thursday to say that the meeting was still scheduled at the regular time. Later on Thursday, Board Chairman Donnie Spencer called to say that the meeting was postponed due to Bruce Fields, board member, being out of town. "Three members decided to postpone the meeting because there is no way we can elect the chairman with only four members in attendance," Spencer said. Board members John "Punkin"
Combs and Paul Alexander showed up for the meeting at the originally scheduled time and said that they were not informed of any cancellation or postponement.
According to Amis, the board could have postponed the selection of a chairman until February, and had an opinion from the Kentucky School Board Association on the matter.
Amis said that he included a letter with the information about the possibility of postponing the selection of the chairman in each board member's packet. In the letter sent to the board members, Amis said that it was important to have the meeting at the regular scheduled date because there were bills that needed to be paid immediately and FRYSC Grants that needed to be signed. Other items of note on the agenda related to the budget.
Amis estimated that over 500 vendor checks were going to be expected on Friday, and
they would not be able to issue them because the board did not take action on the payment of bills. According to John "Punkin" Combs, the board has never had this type of problem before. "I am in my 30 year as a member of the Perry County Board of Education and this is the first time I can ever remember the board not paying their bills," Combs said. Combs also mentioned the fact that architects from Lexington came to the
meeting for the action on the Big Creek Elementary roof and gym floor project, and a $5,000,000 construction project for the Buckhorn School. According to Kentucky School Law, a board of education must hold at least one regular meeting each month. The Perry County Board of Education will not be able to comply with the law because any meeting that is held without a vote to reschedule is considered a special called meeting.
Hazard man charged with three counts of attempted murder
A police chase involving an alleged stolen vehicle ended with the arrest of a Hazard
man on three counts of attempted murder. Johnny Dunn, 32, was arrested and charged with three counts of attempted murder after allegedly trying to run over officers that were trying to stop the vehicle. According to the report, The Kentucky State Police received a call for assistance form the Hazard City Police, who were in pursuit of a stolen 1993 Jeep Cherokee in the Raccoon Creek Road section of Perry County. Trooper Tim Mullins attempted to make the traffic stop, but Dunn allegedly accelerated the vehicle in an attempt to run over Mullins. Mullins then fired two rounds at the left front tire of the vehicle to try and force it to stop. Deputy Ben Campbell and ABC Officer Ray Roberts also attempted to stop the vehicle, but Dunn allegedly tried to run over them as well.
After officers fired two more shots at the vehicle's tires, Dunn lost control and wrecked into the creek.Johnny Dunn, who is a convicted felon, was placed under arrest after being treated for minor injuries caused by the wreck. Dunn was charged with three counts of attempted murder, receiving stolen property, and several other traffic charges.
The incident is still under investigation by the Kentucky State Police.
Fruit stand owners busted for allegedly selling drugs
A Perry County couple that own and operate a local fruit market, were arrested on
January 7, for allegedly selling drugs along with their fruit. Wally Deaton and his wife, Sandy Deaton, were arrested and charged with trafficking in a controlled substance after officers executed a search warrant on Wally's Fruit Stand on Combs Road in Hazard.
According to police, the bust was the culmination of months of surveillance and several controlled buys conducted by undercover detectives. Officers allegedly located
cocaine, OxyContin, and several other controlled substances at the market. The investigation was conducted by the HIDTA Task Force, which consists of the Hazard Police Department, Kentucky State Police, and the Perry County Sheriff's Department.
Combs charged with 10 counts of misconduct
Perry County Circuit Judge Douglas Combs Jr. was charged Tuesday with 10 counts of misconduct by the state Judicial Conduct Commission. The Associated Press reported
Tuesday that Combs, who was removed from the bench last month, saw the
commission file the charges on Dec. 5, but that they were not made public until yesterday. Combs was accused of directing payments to his wife and others to work as
substitute court reporters, knowingly allowing a lawyer to use his office for private practice and of taking a trip to Las Vegas with an attorney who argued cases before him.
Among these accusations, the conduct commission has claimed, in filing the formal charges, that Combs missed or was late for court hearings and had 157 absences
from 1999 to 2003, did not follow random selection of past grand jury representatives and banned a local prosecutor from his office. Statements from a circuit court reporter led to the initial investigation into Combs. The reporter claimed that Combs ordered her to give information on drug-related cases after key evidence went missing, which, in turn,
sparked a series of other questions surrounding the embattled judge. Combs allegedly had a confrontation with Perry Commonwealth's Attorney John Hansen. According to previously published reports, Combs allegedly would not allow Hansen to enter the grand jury room and physically pushed him when he attempted to follow them. Combs has said that Hansen had disrupted his office by looking at mail, computer screens and papers in his office. Other allegations that came against Combs shortly before he was removed from the bench were that he supposedly took offense to comments by the grand jury
foreman and charged him with contempt of court, fined him $100, and removed him from the jury. According to a member of the jury, who wished to remain anonymous at the time of the statement, Hoover Haynes, 73, who was serving as the forman of
the grand jury, told Combs that he believed the judge had insulted the jury and had not treated them properly. The commission said that from 1998 to last August, Combs
directed payments for stand-in court reporters who were not needed and did not perform
services, according to the Associated Press. The subs included his wife, an attorney, two deputy sheriffs and the wife of his cousin, the commission said.
The commission also said Combs allowed attorney John F. Faust Jr. to use his office as his private law practice. Combs also had Faust prepare him for cases that Faust wasn't
participating in, the Associated Press reported the commission as saying. Faust nor Combs could be reached for comment Tuesday. As for claims of a pleasure trip to Vegas, the Associated Press reported Combs as replaying that he made a "pro rata contribution" toward the group's transportation cost for the June 2003 trip. Combs said he also paid for
lodging expenses and that he and his wife were not guests of the attorney. Combs'
attorney, Peter Ostermiller, of Louisville, said in a response to the commission that the ex-judge has "always sought to exercise his judicial responsibilities fully and impartially", the Associated Press reported. Combs was removed indefinitely from the bench by Chief Regional Circuit Judge Stephen N. Frazier of Paintsville last month. Floyd County Circuit
Judge John David Caudill has been appointed as a substitute until further notice
Speedy's Tobacco Road robbed
by Jarrid Deaton Staff Writer
Police are investigating a robbery that took place on New Year's day at Speedy's
Tobacco Road in Hazard. According to reports from the owners, a man wearing a blue ski mask entered the store around 3:45 p.m. and demanded the money from the register. The suspect then left the scene with around $150 in cash. Although this is the first time that the store has been robbed while being open, it has been burglarized in the past.
Joshua's Dream dorm destroyed in blaze
by Jarrid Deaton Staff Writer
A fire at a life training center for drug abusers destroyed a dorm on Sunday night. Joshua's Dream Foundation, which helps people who are addicted to drugs regain their lives, is now asking for help from the community it serves in order to rebuild the dorm which was destroyed in the blaze. The dorm, which housed 30 men, caught fire on Sunday night after what some fire officials believe was an electrical problem. An
investigation will be conducted by the State Fire Marshall's office to determine what caused the blaze. Some of the residents were inside the dorm at the time of the fire, but everyone made it out without injury. The male residents of the building lost all clothing, bedding, toiletries, and personal care items. The building also contained the men's laundry room, lounge area, computer lab, as well as the sanctuary and class room which was utilized by all residents. Also, the teaching materials and equipment that were being stored in the building were lost in the fire. According to Donnie Coots, chairman of the organization, the fire will not stop Joshua's Dream from continuing its mission. "While the fire is a major obstacle, we are determined to continue operations and rebuild the
dormitory better than it was before the fire," Coots said. Although the fire was a large setback, the community has already started helping the organization. Dr. Vernon Cooper donated $2,000 toward the disaster relief and rebuilding of the dorm, and other members of the community have donated clothes and supplies. Donations are being accepted on site at Joshua's Dream Foundation. There are also many drop-off sites at area
businesses and community churches. Anyone who would like information on
donating supplies, clothes or money, should call the office at 606-476-8001.
Hazard man charged with purse snatching
by Jarrid Deaton Staff Writer
A Hazard man has been arrested and charged with second-degree burglary in connection with a purse snatching at Magic Mart on Dec. 22. Randy Ritchie, 21, was arrested by the Hazard Police Dept. on Dec. 29, and charged with second-degree burglary and theft by unlawful taking. According to the police report, Ritchie allegedly grabbed a woman's purse and forced it from her, then fled from the scene. The incident is still under
investigation by Hazard Police Officer Jason Duff, and other additional criminal charges are pending.
Judge Combs investigated
The top story of 2003 is the controversy involving Perry County Circuit Judge Doug Combs. The rumors about an investigation conducted by the FBI stared around the middle of the year and persisted until it was made public that Combs was being
Combs, who is under investigation by the FBI and the state Judicial Conduct Commission for alleged misconduct, was replaced by Chief Regional Circuit Judge Stephen N. Frazier of Paintsville, who then appointed Floyd County Circuit Judge John David Caudill the new temporary chief judge in Perry County.
The investigation, which officially began with interviews in October, focused on allegations that Combs hired at least 30 people, including his wife, as temporary employees over a period of six years. The alleged cost of hiring the temporary employees was more than $90,000 in state funds. Combs also had an alleged altercation with a
grand jury forman the day before the decision to appoint a new judge. Hoover Haynes, 73, who was serving as the foreman of the grand jury, told Combs that he believed the judge had insulted the jury and had not treated them right. According to the grand jury member, they had waited for more than two hours for Combs to arrive in court last Thursday, and then Combs allegedly left before the jury could return the indictments.
After allegedly telling Combs that his actions were insulting, Hayes was fined $100 by the judge and dismissed from the grand jury. Combs also allegedly had a confrontation with Perry Commonwealth's Attorney John Hansen. According to reports, Combs would not allow Hansen to enter the grand jury room and physically pushed him when he attempted to follow them. Judge Caudill will continue to preside over all felony cases until
further notice. Combs has not commented on the allegations against him.
Browning, Neace sentenced in Beverly murder
The 2001 murder case of Tamara Beverly came to an end in 2003 with a plea bargain and a guilty verdict in a jury trial. Ance Neace and Jimmy Browning, charged with the
murder of Beverly, were in the courtroom on numerous occasions in 2003, for both motion hours and Browning's trial.
Jimmy Browning was found guilty of murder by a Letcher County jury for his alleged role in the murder of Beverly. The prosecution claimed that Browning was just a
responsible for Beverly's death as Ance Neace, who had previously pleaded guilty to the charge. The prosecution also claimed that Browning held Beverly under in the septic pond until she drowned. Ance Neace testified as to Browning's role in the murder at the trial.
The defense claimed that Neace was the only one that was responsible for Beverly's death.
The jury reccomended a sentence of 55 years in prison for Browning after the guilty verdict. Browning could be eligible for parole after serving 20 years of the sentence.
Neace, after testifying against Browning, received a sentence of life in prison just two weeks after Browning's trial.
The body of Tamara Beverly was found in a septic pond with a commode being used to keep the body submerged. Although evidence indicated that she had been beaten,the cause of Beverly's death was ruled as drowning after an autopsy was performed.
Neace will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
Suit filed against Buckhorn Children's Center over missing watch
A Perry County man has filed a lawsuit against the Buckhorn Children's Center alleging that the negligence of its employees allowed an individual under their supervision to break into him home and steal a valuable watch.
William Budd filed suit against the center saying that an individual under their care broke into his apartment and took a watch worth approximately $5500. Budd is asking for a jury trial and compensation for the loss of the watch.
Perry County Sheriff's Dept.: 5, alleged burglars: 0
The Perry County Sheriff's Department arrested five people in relation to two separate
burglaries last week.
On Dec. 22, deputies received a call that a burglary was in progress on Edith Lane. Deputy John Stacy arrived on the scene and immediately detained two subjects in the front yard of the residence. After searching the residence, a third subject was located hiding in a back room.
Johnny Campbell, 37, Terry Campbell, 27, and Paul Godsey, 24, were all placed under arrest and charged with third-degree burglary.
Later that same evening, deputies received a call that a possible burglary was in progress at the Wright Lumber store in Grand Vue Plaza. Employees at the El Azul Restaurant reported that the front door of Wright Lumber had been broken and were also able to provide a description of the vehicle. Deputies James Grigsby and Joey Sparkman responded to the call and searched the store, locating clothing tags on the floor and
outside on the sidewalk.
After getting a better description of the vehicle from witnesses and also viewing a security video, Grigsby noticed a similar vehicle driving on Combs Road. Grigsby stopped the vehicle and allegedly found property from the Wright Lumber store inside.
Pete Combs, 40, was charged with third-degree burglary, possession of burglary
tools, DUI, driving on a suspended license, and a bench warrant for failure to appear. John D. Little, 20, was charged with third-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools, carrying a concealed deadly weapon, and two bench warrants for failure to appear.
All subjects were lodged in the Perry County Detention Center
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