2016: A year in review

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, January 3, 2017

JANUARY 

— Caller ID led police straight to an Irvine man accused of phoning in a bomb threat to the Winchester Walmart on New Year’s Day.

Kyle Hebert, 23, was charged with second-degree terroristic threatening when he was arrested about six hours after the store received the phone call. The call was made around 4:55 a.m. According to the arrest warrant, store employees said a male voice said there were several bombs throughout the store set to go off every 45 minutes. The store was evacuated as a precaution but the store was not searched.

— Bluegrass Newsmedia, LLC, a new Kentucky entity owned by Carpenter Newsmedia, LLC, and managed by Boone Newspapers, Inc., (BNI) completed its purchase of The Winchester Sun, The Advocate-Messenger in Danville, The Jessamine Journal in Nicholasville and The Interior Journal in Stanford from Schurz Communications, Inc., of South Bend, Indiana. The purchase was announced in December and finalized Jan. 1.

— With a new school facilities plan due in April, the district local planning committee met for the first time in January. The 20-person committee was responsible for creating a draft facilities plan, which will include prioritized construction needs.

— Charlie Rogers Jr., 22, of 123 Second St., was sentenced Jan. 8 to 10 years for one count of first-degree assault and four counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for the Sept. 18, 2014, incident at Harmon Field near Meadow Street. All five sentences will be served concurrently for a total of 10 years.

— Along with her family and friends, Sonia Dudley, a mother of two, helped raise the first walls of her Habitat for Humanity home at 402 Pearl Street Jan. 11.

— Curtis Wilkerson, 24, of 623 Reims Drive, was sentenced to a decade in prison for his role in a robbery as well as an attempted robbery which left one person dead. Wilkerson was charged with one count each of facilitation to first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary for a pair of incidents in September 2014. The burglary conviction stems from a Sept. 22, 2014, incident where Wilkerson and Devon Marshall took a taxi from Richmond to Winchester and then robbed the driver at gunpoint. The following morning, the pair attempted to rob the 96 Truck Stop on Rolling Hills Lane. Owner Jim Tipton pulled a gun and fired three shots, one of which struck Marshall, who was captured and died two days later.

— Clark County Board of Education Chairman Michael Kuduk announced he was asked to resign or face criminal charges related to the destruction of a yard sign placed on the front lawn of the school system’s Central Office. The incident took place following the board’s December meeting, he said, in which Superintendent Paul Christy’s contract was discussed and eventually renewed for two years with a 3-2 vote. Kuduk said he tore up a sign that said, “We Support Mr. Christy.” In a meeting shortly after, Kuduk said he would not resign from the board despite the threat of criminal charges. An investigation by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office never produced official charges.

— Thirteen Clark County nonprofit organizations given a total of $269,151.47 at a check ceremony at Leeds Center for the Arts. The funds were raised through the annual GoodGiving Guide Challenge.

— Brandon Guy, 29, and Aaron Spencer, 26, were both sentenced to 20 years in prison after brutally assaulting 50-year-old Kenneth Payton Jr. on Oct. 21, 2012, and setting his house on fire around him.

FEBRUARY 

— Audrey Powell, 25, of Lexington, was charged with official misconduct and theft of identity charges after allegedly posing as another social worker to see her ex-boyfriend’s kids.

— Stole Power, a team from Studio One, earned the 2016 Clogging Champions of America Showdown of Champions National Championship for a challenge senior team for the second consecutive year. The team won for its moving line routine at the competition in Knoxville Jan. 22-23.

— Todd Wilson was appointed to fill the District 2 seat  on the Clark County Board of Education,  which became vacant after Beth Griffith resigned.

— A juror’s illness forced a mistrial in the case against 35-year-old Demetrius Morton, who was charged with first-degree manslaughter for punching 51-year-old David Bailey in the face on June 22, 2013. Bailey fell backward onto Denny Avenue and hit his head on the pavement. Bailey died almost a week later.

— About 50 people gathered at Clark Regional Medical Center to learn about a proposed needle exchange program for Clark County, officially called a Harm Reduction Syringe Access Program.

— Winchester native Whitney Leggett was promoted to editor of The Winchester Sun.

MARCH 

— The Winchester Police Department offered a $1,500 reward for information about the people who set a WPD cruiser on fire while it was parked near Broadway Street and Burns Avenue.

— Dale Emmons, former campaign manager for R.J. Palmer, issued an apology for a TV advertisement that ran in October 2014 alleging then-senate contender Ralph Alvarado, a local physician, got “rich off addiction.” Alvarado ousted Palmer, who was the incumbent, for the 28th district state senate seat less than a week later.

APRIL 

— Habitat for Humanity of Clark and Madison Counties dedicated its 14th home in Clark County, a 1,100-square foot three-bedroom home on Pearl Street for Sonia Dudley.

— The Winchester Board of Commissioners agreed with a unanimous vote to purchase the historic Sphar building on North Main Street with $100,000 of funds contributed to the project by The Greater Clark Foundation.

— Kentucky Bank and CVS Pharmacy announced a plan for dramatic revitalization in downtown Winchester. After joint discussion and planning, Kentucky Bank and CVS have come to an agreement involving the property on the downtown corner of Maple Street and Lexington Avenue. CVS Pharmacy purchased the Kentucky Bank building located at 24 W. Lexington Ave., while Kentucky Bank plans to build two new offices.

— Clark County school administrators and booster club officers were ordered to attend training session stemming from the findings of an into allegations levied against the George Rogers Clark High School baseball program. The OEA received complaints of misconduct in the high school’s baseball program, among them improper use of the program’s facilities and equipment. Other complaints included coach Matt Ginter’s private business selling equipment to the program and the improper sale of equipment belonging to the high school.

— Advance America in the Colby Station shopping center was robbed at gunpoint April 21. The suspect, who was later identified as 34-year-old Aaron Vasquez of Mount Sterling, got away with an undisclosed amount of money. Vasquez turned himself into Winchester Police two days later.

MAY

— Cory Cox, 23, of 518 Kimberly Drive, was charged with public intoxication, second-degree burglary, resisting arrest, third-degree assault on a police officer, second-degree assault on a police officer, terroristic threatening and third-degree criminal mischief after head butting Clark County Sheriff Lt. Johnny Graves.

— Prosecutors announced the four suspects in the December 2014 shooting at an apartment complex on Oxford Drive which resulted in the death of 19-year-old Amber Caudill would each have their own trial. Christopher Robinson, 21, of Richmond was the first scheduled to be tried in his part in the shooting, which also allegedly involved co-defendants Aaron Stailey, Lillian Barnett and Lamont Wilkerson.

— In advance of the May 17 primary election, candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and state representative talked about issues facing the Commonwealth at a candidates forum.

— With a 3-2 vote, the Clark County Board of Education approved a draft district facilities plan that lists completing phase two of the new George Rogers Clark High School as the only priority-one project. Board member Judy Hicks and Chairman Michael Kuduk cast the dissenting votes. Phase two of the new high school includes a 4,000-seat competition gymnasium; a football, soccer and track complex with a fieldhouse; baseball and softball fields and four tennis courts. The competition gym carries the heaviest price tag, estimated at more than $12 million.

— A woman escaped serious injury while walking on the Winchester Traveling Trail and police are still searching for the suspect. Winchester Police Capt. James Hall said a woman was walking on the trail during the evening when she was approached by a man walking a yellow dog. The woman escaped and called 911 from her vehicle. The suspect fled on foot.

— After two years as a Kentucky Work Ready Community, Clark County earned its recertification through the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

JUNE 

— Smoke Signals, the student newspaper at George Rogers Clark High School, was named runner-up in the 2015-16 KHSJA’s annual contest in Class AAA general excellence. The paper finished behind state champion Oldham County.

— The Clark County Board of Health approved the operating protocols to begin the county’s needle exchange program.

— Two Madison County women were killed in a late-night three-vehicle crash on Bypass Road. The women, 62-year-old Sarah Helfrich of Richmond and 35-year-old Juanetta Mitchell of Berea, were in a vehicle which was rear-ended and were pronounced dead at the scene. A Cadillac, driven by James Pelfrey, approached the vehicles from behind but did not see them. Pelfrey told police he was blinded by lights from another vehicle and did not see the other cars when he struck them at full speed.

— Lacee Duncan was named Clark County’s 2017 Distinguished Young Woman during the program at George Rogers Clark High School. The daughter of Brackstan and Tonya Duncan, Lacee is a senior at GRC. Along with the title and a $1,200 scholarship, Duncan will go on to compete at the Distinguished Young Women of Kentucky contest.

— The annual Relay for Life honored a long-time volunteer and former event chairperson Melanie Gabbard, who was killed in a workplace shooting in December 2015.

JULY

— Clark County Community Education Director Cora Heffner, along with a host of community members, volunteers and advisory council members celebrated Community Education’s 15th anniversary with a luncheon at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

— The Winchester GED Center moved to the Bluegrass Community and Technical College campus.

— People got out and about all over town during a brief spike in popularity of Pokemon Go, a gaming application for smart phones released by Nintendo. Millions of people across the nation are engorged in the game, including many Clark Countians.

— Glenn Witt, 52, of 4013 Paris Road, a long-time Clark County constable, faced a single charge of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance following a traffic stop on Rolling Hills Lane, following a controlled buy.

— Robert Jeffries, a 32-year-old Louisville native, was hired as director of planning in theWinchester-Clark County Office of Planning and Community Development.

— East Kentucky Power Cooperative filed an application with the Kentucky Public Service Commission to build a 60-acre solar energy facility in Clark County. The proposal calls for the utility to install 32,000 photovoltaic panels on property next to its offices on U.S. 60. Once complete, the panels could generate 8.5 megawatts of energy. The estimated $17.7 million project could be completed in less than two years, pending PSC approval.

— The Clark County Animal Shelter helped Winchester Police detectives in an animal neglect case in which 16 animals — 11 dogs, three cats and two rabbits — were taken from a residence at 78 Melbourne St. Shelter director Adreanna Wills was called to the home after neighbors nearby called Winchester Police to report a number of dogs lying in the street in front of the home.

AUGUST 

— A civil complaint was filed by Claude D. Helfrich, whose wife Sarah C. Helfrich, was killed in a June 7 crash near the intersection of Bypass and Colby roads. According to police, Sarah Helfrich and 35-year-old Juanetta Mitchell of Berea were in a Ford Aspire which was stopped for a red light at the intersection. Shortly after 10 p.m., their car was hit from behind by a Cadillac CTS driven by James Pelfrey. Helfrich and Mitchell were pronounced dead at the scene.

In the suit, Claude Helfrich claims Pelfrey acted wantonly and negligently in causing the crash.

— An autopsy confirmed human remains found on Goshen Road were those of 38-year-old Robert “Bobby” Jones, who had been missing for a month. Jones and his girlfriend Crystal Warner were reported missing by family members.  State police from the Columbia post charged 52-year-old Craig Pennington on July 8 with two counts of murder, robbery, kidnapping, tampering with physical evidence, theft by unlawful taking of an automobile and wanton endangerment for their deaths.

— The Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter, Inc., which opened Jan. 6, 2015, at 103 Talbott Ave., announced it would move to a new location at 850 Bypass Road, the former location of Major Dads Military Surplus and Supplies.

— An unexpected string of overdoses left police believing heroin laced with Fetanyl made its way to Winchester. Winchester Police and Winchester Fire-EMS responded to five overdoses within hours, four of which were at the same location. Kelvin Shaw, 34 of 271 Winn Ave. and formerly of Detroit, was charged with three counts of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and single counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and violation of conditions of release.

— Aaron Vasquez, 34 of Mount Sterling, pleaded guilty in Clark Circuit Court and asked to be sentenced immediately for first-degree robbery charges stemming from an armed robbery of a check cashing business in April. Vazquez was sentenced to 10 years.

SEPTEMBER

— In its 112th year, the Winchester Labor Day Parade honored “Queens of the Past.”

— Clark County Pharmacy moved from its location at 1520-B Boonesboro Road, behind Dr. Larry Ertel’s office, to a renovated building just up the road at 716 Boone Ave.

— The Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter invited the community to an open house celebrating the completion of its new facility on Bypass Road.

— For the 15th year, the community gathered at St. Joseph Catholic Church for the annual Blue Mass service in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The service honored local law enforcement while remembering the victims of the attacks.

— The Winchester-Clark County Planning Commission gave approval Sept. 6 to a final development plan for a Holiday Inn Express, to be located in the Winchester Plaza at 1515 West Lexington Road.

— The Clark County Board of Education voted to approve storing Narcan, the opioid overdose antidote medication, at George Rogers Clark High School and Phoenix Academy.

— Three of the four people charged with a 2014 attempted burglary turned homicide pleaded guilty to their roles. Christopher Robinson, 21, of Richmond, pleaded guilty to murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree assault and second-degree assault for the incident, which left Crayvone Richie and Justin Meadows wounded and 19-year-old Amber Caudill dead. Caudill was in the apartment below Meadows’ when a bullet came through the ceiling and killed her. Aaron Stailey, 26, and Lamont Wilkerson, 22, each pleaded guilty to complicity to murder, complicity to first-degree burglary, complicity to first-degree assault and complicity to second-degree assault. The three received similar sentences of 20 years for murder, burglary and one assault count, which will run concurrently. The second assault charge will run consecutively: 10 years for Robinson, seven for Wilkerson and five for Stailey.

— The staff and students at Baker Intermediate School rallied to raise money and offer assistance for a beloved teacher who received a devastating cancer diagnosis this summer. Kristy Blackwell, 34, teaches sixth-grade language arts at Baker. Blackwell began an aggressive chemotherapy regimen to battle stage three brain cancer in September.

OCTOBER 

— Veteran newspaperman and Ashland native Michael Caldwell was named publisher of The Winchester Sun, Winchester Living magazine and affiliated websites.

— Bobby Singleton, 79, and his girlfriend, 43-year-old Tracy White, were arrested and charged second-degree assault for allegedly attacking one another with a fireplace poker during a domestic dispute over sex.

— The Clark County Fiscal Court approved the purchase of 77 acres to add to the existing 348 acres of the Lower Howard’s Creek Nature and Heritage Preserve in southern Clark County.

— Crews from Bravo Network were spotted around Clark County filming for an unnamed show. Some celebrity gossip websites reported reality TV stars Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright, a 2007 graduated of George Rogers Clark High School and Winchester native, have begun filming a spinoff to the show Vanderpump Rules in Cartwright’s hometown.

— The Winchester Board of Commissioners voted to create a single-role paramedic position at Winchester Fire-EMS, which would not include any firefighting duties or certifications.

— The Winchester-Clark County Film Society had it’s official ribbon cutting and began to lay the groundwork for an ambitious goal: to host an independent film festival in 2018.

— Candidates for Kentucky Supreme Court Justice, 5th district; U.S. Representative, Clark County Board of Education, district 2; Circuit Judge Family Court, 25th district, 4th division; Winchester Board of Commissioners and 73rd District State Representative spoke at a heavily-attended candidates forum at the Clark County Extension Office.

NOVEMBER

— Bojangles’ celebrated the grand opening of its newest location at 100 Hospital Drive in Winchester with a variety of giveaways and prize promotions.

— A youth design team of 25 students from area schools participated in a series of workshops to design the children’s area at Project 1107, the planned green space to be located in the former location of Clark Regional Medical Center on Lexington Avenue.

DECEMBER

— Osram Sylvania announced plans to close its Winchester plant next year. Osram Sylvania manufactures incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity discharge lighting products at seven facilities in the U.S. The Winchester plant, located on West Washington Street, is expected to close in September 2017.

— A conflict in state retirement programs forced first-term magistrate Matt Brinegar to resign from the Clark County Fiscal Court. Brinegar, a career firefighter with Winchester Fire-EMS, retired during the same week. Brinegar was one of five first-time magistrates elected to the fiscal court in 2014.

— The Winchester YMCA announced plans to shut its doors permanently Dec. 13, ending a three-year effort to revitalize the organization. The YMCA posted a letter on its Facebook page this morning from Board of Directors Chairman Brian Thomas announcing the closure. The Y’s youth basketball program, which Thomas called one of the biggest in the state, will continue until the season ends Feb. 17, 2017.

— An early morning house fire at 2 Navajo Trail killed the only resident home at the time, 85-year-old Lilly Strange. The fire was reported around 4:30 a.m. Dec. 15, and the home was fully engulfed by the time fire crews arrived.

— Kirk Garrett, 48 of Richmond, was sentenced to 20 years for his part in the May 13, 2015, death of Roy Combs and wounding of Billy Combs at a rock quarry in Clark County. Garrett’s three co-defendants, Don Attaway, Kristi Mattingly and Christopher Coleman, are all awaiting trial.

— A Kentucky jury ruled former Democratic state senator R.J. Palmer knowingly aired a false TV ad in 2014 and ordered him to pay his  Republican opponent, state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, $200,000. Palmer lost the campaign to Alvarado in 2014, a week after airing a TV ad claiming Alvarado, a Clark County physician, “gets rich off addiction.”