Snowy search for suspect
A local man was the subject of a late-night search Thursday after he, along with another subject, reportedly fled into the woods on a cold and snowy night to avoid capture by authorities.
Jonathan Slaven, of Pine Knot, was located by volunteer searchers in the woods east of the Pine Knot Job Corps around 1 a.m. Friday morning suffering from exposure to the below-freezing temperatures, but otherwise unharmed.
According to Kentucky State Police Trooper Shaler Jones the events started to unfold around 8 p.m. Thursday night as he was conducting traffic operations along US 27.
The trooper, traveling northbound near the Pine Knot Job Corps, spotted a speeding southbound Pontiac Grand Prix. The trooper turned and tried to locate the vehicle, which was discovered a short time later parked along the side of the road, with the keys still in the ignition.
Trooper Jones, along with Troopers Matt Ridener and Willie Cowan located two pairs of footsteps in the snow leading away from the vehicle into the woods, suggesting the operator and another individual had attempted to flee the area. The troopers attempted to follow the trail through the snow, but due to the heavily wooded area the results were unsuccessful.
Upon further investigation, Trooper Jones identified the operator of the vehicle as Herman M. Stephens, of Pine Knot, who had several active bench warrants and a suspended license. The passenger was identified as Slaven.
The officers were soon able to make contact with Slaven on his cell phone, who claimed to be lost in the woods while trying to head toward a relative’s house. Stephens stated he was not dressed for the cold weather and had no flashlight.
Fearing the man would succumb to hypothermia in the cold night, with temperatures below freezing and a fresh snow falling, a search and rescue operation was initiated.
Assisted by the McCreary County Sheriff’s Department, Constable Dustin Ridner and volunteers from McCreary County Search and Rescue, Whitley City Fire Department, as well as search and rescue members from Gold Bug, Williamsburg and Woodbine, searchers scoured the woods for several hours.
Around 1 a.m. Slaven was located by rescuers and escorted out of the woods where he was examined by the McCreary County Ambulance Service and treated for exposure. Slaven refused further treatment and was released.
Trooper Jones interviewed the subject who stated he and Stephens had become separated earlier that night. The search was suspended after no trace of the other suspect had been found and it was believed he made it out of the woods on his own.
Trooper Jones said the investigation is ongoing and charges against both individuals are pending.