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During 2023, The Voice took its readers on an interesting journey throughout McCreary County. In 2023, readers of The Voice followed along as a new sheriff and school superintendent (once again!) settled into their McCreary County offices. Readers felt a sense of relief as family and friends of missing individuals gained a sense of closure as sad cases of missing loved ones were solved. Along with highlighting new businesses and growth in McCreary County, The Voice gave readers a first-hand glimpse into the problem of homelessness in McCreary County. Readers of The Voice were proud to see the good in McCreary County as we highlighted heroic local heroes, talented youth, and the fine people who live all around us.
As The Voice looks back on 2023, it also look forward to the future. The Voice thanks you, our readers, for your support. Those of us who work at The Voice remain committed to our mission of, “…informing, educating, and caring about our community while preserving the history of McCreary County.”
We look forward to having you by our side as we embark on our journey into 2024.
Happy New Year!
Sampson takes office as McCreary County Sheriff-January 2023 began with newly elected McCreary County Sheriff David Sampson taking office. Other government officials remained as before, including McCreary County Judge Executive Jimmie “Bevo” Greene and County Court Clerk, Eric Haynes.
McCreary County on the receiving end of a $26 billion national opioid crises settlement-McCreary County officials anticipate the county receiving an estimated total allocation of $689,633, for the years spanning 2022 through 2038. The total allocation will be paid out through installments. The County will receive a total of seven payments for the year 2022 including two payments from the distributors’ settlement and five from Johnson & Johnson. The estimated 2022 total allotment of payments is $139,141. The funding must be used to support addiction treatment and recovery services, including underlying causes of substance abuse, long-term recovery, addressing barriers to treatment such as lack of transportation or housing, and overdose prevention and harm reduction (including distribution of Narcan.)
McCreary Countian chosen as Kentucky’s National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) Officer of the year- Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer Joseph “Joey” Braden was selected by the NWTF State Board for the award.
McCreary County loses national chain business-McCreary County lost its last stand-alone national chain drug store when Walgreens in Whitley City totally closed its doors on February 27, 2023.
Bring Roscoe Garland Home-In an effort to find 54 year old Roscoe L. Garland of McCreary County, family and friends created the “Bring Roscoe Garland Home” Facebook page on February 6, 2023. Garland, who was reported as missing to Kentucky State Police (KSP) on October 14, 2022, was last seen on August 1, 2022. Garland was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS) on February 9, 2023.
Tuscany Pines apartment complex fails multiple inspections-Condemnation and closure of Tuscany Pines apartments is expected.
Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH) announces local opening-Lake Cumberland Imaging & Specialty Care McCreary County, a new stand-alone center in Whitley City, launched on February 6, 2023.
School Superintendent arrested– On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, McCreary County School District Police Department Officer Gus Skinner arrested McCreary County School Superintendent Dr. John W. Gunn, charging him with unlawful possession of a weapon on school property.
According to unconfirmed, confidential sources, Dr. Gunn arrived at the McCreary County Central Office at approximately 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning to pack personal belongings from his office before anyone arrived at the building. When Gunn attempted to unlock the doors to enter the Central Office building, he was unable to enter because his key card had been deactivated.
The McCreary County Board of Education had agreed to accept Gunn’s release agreement the prior night (Monday) in a split vote of 3-2. After meeting in executive (closed) session for approximately 2 ½ hours, the Board split its vote 3-2 in favor of accepting Gunn’s agreement and release. Acting on a motion made by Board Chairperson Johnny Barnett and seconded by Board Member Cody Perry, Board Members Barnett, Perry, and Estle Swain voted to accept Gunn’s release agreement. The remaining two board members voted against accepting the release.
(Note: As of January, 2024, the case continues to wind its way through the court system.)
McCreary County first responders are fur-baby’s heroes and best friends-It is often said a dog is man’s best friend. However for Otis, a likable three year old, white pit bulldog who lived with his owners at the Big South Fork Trail Lodge, that old saying reversed itself when some men serving as McCreary County first responders became the dog’s best friends and life-saving heroes.
After responding to the report of a structure fire on Friday night (February 24, 2023), the Whitley City and Pine Knot Fire Departments, McCreary County Sheriff’s Office, and McCreary County EMS found everyone had cleared the impacted building except Otis, who was in the upstairs bathroom. The dog’s owner and other individuals had been unable to rescue the dog due to heavy smoke.
Discovered unresponsive and having difficulty breathing, Otis was carried on a sheet to a nearby ambulance where Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Chaney helped load him into the ambulance. Advanced EMT Zack Starrett and EMT Jordan Hill began immediate care, providing oxygen therapy and rapid warming with heated blankets and placement of warm fluid bags around the canine’s body. After approximately twenty minutes, Otis began to respond to his rescuers.
McCreary County’s Strongman-Pursuing his goal of one day becoming the “World’s Strongest Man,” McCreary County’s Josh Gregory returns home after winning a national strongman competition held in Miami, Florida.
Hoping to build trust and help smooth issues, Interim Superintendent sees himself as a transition person-The McCreary County School District’s Interim Superintendent, Larry Hammond, hit the ground running when he arrived for work on Friday (February 24, 2023.) Hammond replaced Dr. John Gunn as acting superintendent following Gunn’s resignation earlier in 2023.
The Voice gets a glimpses into the make-shift shelter and life of one of McCreary County’s street homeless, an individual who intermittently for a period of three years lived in a shelter forged together from cardboard signs, tarps, and other scrap materials. The makeshift camp was built away from the main road but in an area visible to those passing by.
“I didn’t have anyone to turn to, so the woods was my best option,” Dan explained. “I stayed several weeks on what’s called The Sand Rock. I’ve always been super respectful when it came to people around me so I hardly ever had fires or caused any kind of scene to raise attention.”
Search for school district superintendent begins-Since February 1994 through March 2023 (29 years), the position of school district superintendent in McCreary County has been occupied by 19 different individuals, either as interim, acting, or (full) superintendent. This equates to an average 1.9 year length of stay for a superintendent employed by the McCreary County School District.
Three people charged with murder-Two arrests occurred after KSP discovered the skeletal remains of Roscoe L. Garland on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at approximately 5:00 p.m. Mr. Garland’s remains were located on a Forest Service Road in Whitley County, KY. Mr. Garland was reported missing from McCreary County on October 14, 2022. Joe D. Bryant, 48 years old of Pine Knot, KY and Broderick A. Taylor, 24 years old of Pine Knot, KY were each arrested and charged with (1) Murder (2) Abuse of a Corpse and (3) Tampering with Physical Evidence. Later, on April 27, 2023, Kentucky State Police (KSP) Detective Matthew Parmley arrested a third person, Roscoe L. Bryant of Pine Knot, KY, and also charged him with murder in connection with the disappearance and death of 54-year old Roscoe Garland, Pine Knot.
Criminal littering nets tough sentence-A McCreary County resident who spent time in the Knox County Detention Center for failure to appear in court to answer charges of Criminal Littering and Violation of the Local Solid Waste Ordinance appeared in court last week, pleading guilty to Criminal Littering. As a result, the resident was sentenced to 90 days incarceration which was conditionally discharged for two years if certain tough conditions are met.
Dog attack results in fatality– A sixty-one year old resident on Slab Vanover Road in Parkers Lake, was killed early Wednesday (4-12-23) morning by a pack of dogs as she walked along the road from one residence to another. (Later in the year, McCreary County’s local animal control ordinance regarding vicious animals was tightened.))
On March 27, 2023, sixty-three year old Raymond Owsley walked away from the Cumberland Manor Rest Home in Parkers Lake (Hwy 90), KY where he was a resident. Owsley’s disappearance remained relatively unpublicized until April 30, 2023 when local teenagers discovered the body of a deceased male off of Beulah Heights Road. The press became aware of Owlsey’s disappearance on April 30/May 1. In May, rumors began circulating throughout McCreary County that the body might be that of Owsley. Initial examination of the body by the McCreary County Coroner’s Office did not produce positive identification of the body. Officials are now waiting for positive identification and notification of next of kin following autopsy results from the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort
Paul Brian Crawford selected as Superintendent of McCreary County School District– Paul Brian Crawford, who is currently principal of Bell County High School, takes the reigns as local school superintendent on July 1, 2023.
Man vanishes after taking out the trash-On Tuesday, June 13, 2023 at approximately 3:30 p.m., Henry Stuart Lang walked out of his residence at the end of Webster Road (off of Beulah Heights Road in Parkers Lake) and up his driveway to deposit household garbage in a trash can. He vanished without a trace.
State law makes “gray machines” illegal in KY– Law enforcement will crack down on local “games of skill.”
“I want to get the word out now so people have the opportunity to get rid of their gray machines,” McCreary County Sheriff David Sampson explained. “Unless there is an appeal that results in an injunction, the law goes into effect June 29. I was elected to enforce the law, and we will be required to enforce this new law.”
SPEC building may be leased-KPDI grant funding will be used by McCreary County IDA and Fiscal Court as a first step towards potentially leasing the SPEC building to Outdoor Venture Corporation (OVC). Completion of the SPEC building will be in accordance with the needs of OVC. If McCreary County IDA is successful in securing a two year lease of the building with OVC, there is then potential for IDA to sell the building to OVC, following the two year lease. According to IDA, completion of the building and successfully leasing to OVC may bring 25 new jobs to McCreary County.
Gunn pleads not guilty-In his arraignment hearing before McCreary County Circuit Court Judge Dan Ballou, former McCreary County School District Superintendent Dr. John W. Gunn entered a plea of “not guilty” to the charge of unlawful possession of a weapon on school property.
“The issue of which restrictions for carrying a firearm can be levied on an individual is currently a very ‘live’ issue,” Gunn’s attorney, David Hoskins told The Voice. “A lot of decisions from different courts are now interpreting the impact of Bruen, a U.S. Supreme Court case. A Federal judge in Lexington ruled that a person with a domestic violence order cannot be prohibited from carry a firearm. A 3rd Circuit Federal Court also recently ruled convicted felons cannot be kept from carrying a firearm.’”
Phillips resigns as District 2 Magistrate-Having served as McCreary County’s District 2 Magistrate for the past 20 ½ years, Roger Phillips announced his resignation effective Monday, June 26, 2023. Citing health issues as the reason for his resignation, Phillips tendered his resignation in a letter delivered to County Court Clerk Eric Haynes, Judge Executive Jimmie “Bevo” Greene, Fiscal Court, and the office of Governor Andy Beshear.
Commonwealth Attorney Ronnie Bowling and McCreary County Attorney Austin Price begin process to establish the “rocket docket” program in McCreary County.
According to McCreary County Deputy Coroner Cameron Gilreath, the State Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the remains of a body found on July 4, 2023 near Webster Road off of Beulah Heights Road in Parkers Lake, KY are those of 38-year old Henry Stuart Lang. The remains were found in a wooded area approximately ½ mile from Lang’s residence and foul play was ruled out as a cause of death.
Wrongful death suit filed over inmate’s death- A wrongful death complaint filed in Knox County KY Circuit Court by the estate of Ashton Goins through the estate’s administrator charges that Goins, a McCreary County resident, died as a result of gross negligence, recklessness, and wanton conduct on the part of the Knox County (KY) jailer and her agents, representatives, and/or employees.
Schools restructured-The McCreary County Board of Education voted unanimously during their last meeting to restructure the current Pine Knot Elementary School (Buildings 1 & 2) to Pine Knot Primary School and Pine Knot Intermediate School
Restructuring Pine Knot Elementary into two schools with two principals instead of one school with one principal is not a new concept as Pine Knot Elementary was structured into two schools-Pine Knot Primary and Pine Knot Intermediate-when districtwide consolidation of schools occurred in 2005. In approximately 2015, the board voted to combine the two schools together into one school (Pine Knot Elementary, Buildings 1 & 2) with only one principal.
Anderson family ownership of local grocery comes to an end–
“In life, a person sometimes has to make difficult decisions,” Conny Anderson said, concerning the recent decision to sell Anderson Grocery in Pine Knot to Andrew and Michelle Shepherd. “Sometimes, the decision you are forced to make isn’t what you really want, but it is the right thing to do. At my age and without children to carry on the business, I saw this decision as something that was necessary, given the situation.”
Six-year-old McCreary County author hosts book signing-Local author, six-year-old Harriett Renfro, is set to sell and sign copies of her first published book, “Harriett Renfro’s Three Silly Stories for Kids.”
Residents express environmental concerns-Local environmental issues came to the forefront as multiple readers of The Voice contacted the newspaper, expressing concerns and asking questions regarding the spraying of herbicides along power lines, particularly in the Mill Creek/Sawyer-Eagle area.
Body Identified-The body of a deceased male discovered by local teenagers in a wooded area off of Beulah Heights Road on April 30, 2023 was identified as that of sixty-three-year-old Raymond Owsley of Knott County, KY. Owsley, who was a resident at Cumberland Manor Nursing Home in Parkers Lake, KY, went missing from the facility on March 27, 20223.
Fiscal Court pledges $50,000 to Farmers Market-During their regularly scheduled meeting for August, the McCreary County Fiscal Court pledged $50,000 for construction of a new, fully equipped McCreary County Farmers Market facility. In an effort to build a new facility, Farmers Market Board Member Larry King is spearheading a fundraising effort to take advantage of a dollar-for-dollar match grant offered through the Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund (KADF.)
“KADF will match up to $250,000 … so bottom line we could have half-a-million dollars to work with,” King said.
MCSO welcomes K9 Mando-McCreary County Sheriff (MCS) David Sampson happily announced his newest deputy, MCS Deputy Alex E. Jones, will be canine handler for the McCreary County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO.)
MCSO recently welcomed Mando, a three year old Czech German Shepherd, to the team. Mando, who was donated to MCSO by the Southeast Search and Rescue organization, is trained to sniff out and alert officers to the presence of fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. The organization is also donating training and other K9 essentials.
For Deputy Jones, partnering with Mando is a dream come true.
Parkland Motel under new ownership-The Parkland Motel has a new owner in Nick Patel, and he is vowing to revamp the lodging into an excellent mid-scale (priced) place for visitors and tourists to stay overnight in McCreary County.
“I want to make this a nice and welcoming motel for visitors,” Patel said.
Fairbridge Inn begins its next chapter-The former Fairbridge Inn in Whitley City, KY, across from Krogers, is now officially The Next Chapter (TNC) South Rehabilitation Center with capacity to receive up to 160 male clients. TNC South’s first clients will be the forty men currently receiving services at The Next Chapter (TNC) North in the blue roofed building adjacent to Blue Ridge Mobile Homes in Whitley City, KY. After TNC North men move to TNC South, the northern facility will become a rehabilitation center for up to forty women.
A McCreary County teenager made a startling discovery last week while hiking through a wooded area off of Sweeney Drive in Revelo, KY. McCreary County Sheriff David Sampson reports a teenager found the partial remains of a human skeleton near a stream hidden by forest. Sheriff Sampson’s office was notified of the discovery on Saturday evening (October 14, 2023.) Sheriff Sampson and Deputies Dustin Ridner and Greg Rhoades, Scott County, TN Detective David Stephens, and Deputy Coroner Cameron Gilreath inspected the area between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m., flagging and photographing locations where skeletal were found. Deputy Coroner Gilreath collected the remains. As of January 3, 2024, the remains have not been identified.
Remains found in 2022 officially identified-Remains consisting of a human skull discovered on November 11, 2022 in the yard of a resident at the end of the Tunnel Ridge Road in Stearns, KY have officially been identified. According to a report of forensic laboratory examination received last week (October 3, 2023), the remains are those of Ronnie Howard. Howard was last seen in September, 2021. Foul play is not suspected.
Relay for Life-This year’s McCreary County Relay for Life was reminiscent of past relays, featuring lots of participation and activities. Survivors of cancer gladly walked the Survivors Lap, and were individually recognized and honored.
Big South Fork Announces Temporary Closure of Blue Heron Tipple Bridge-Closure of the Blue Heron Tipple Bridge is effective immediately in the interest of visitor safety. A recent bridge safety inspection conducted by the Federal Highway Administration identified structural issues specific to the pier’s bridge decking which is now leaning beyond acceptable standards
Bo Rowe shares his unlikely fight against stage 4 lung cancer-Rowe credits his progress in the battle against stage 4 lung cancer to his faith in God, a strong support system, and recent medical strides made in targeted therapy.
“Now, most days, Jax and I go out and just sit and take everything in, staring at everything, including the butterflies,” Bo said with a smile. “Today, I’m happy to be here!”
General election results tallied-In the sole local race, Bill Taylor was elected as Magistrate/District 2. Taylor replaces long-time District 2 magistrate, Roger Phillips. Citing health reasons, Phillips resigned earlier in the year.
Thanks to some big hearts and helping hands, a McCreary County mutt lands herself a new home in a Wisconsin college town-A young couple from Clover, Wisconsin, returned to McCreary County to adopt Suri, a stray dog they helped get to a local rescuer weeks prior when they were visiting McCreary County.
McCreary files its first case under Kentucky’s “gray law’-19 gaming machines were seized, a summons was served, and a court date set for McCreary County’s first case filed under KY’s “gray law.”
Barnett addresses court concerning shortage of EMTs-McCreary County EMS Director Jimmy Barnett addressed the McCreary County Fiscal Court during their regular December meeting on 12-14-2023.
“My worst fear has always been not being able to provide an ambulance to someone when they need it,” McCreary County EMS Director Jimmy Barnett said. “Now, I’m concerned it really could happen.”
Barnett made his remarks as he spoke to the Court regarding his requested pay rate increase for EMS and 911 employees. The lack of availability of EMTs is currently a statewide problem.
USP McCreary/20 years later-USP McCreary, a high-security federal prison for male offenders with an adjacent minimum security camp opened in 2003. Twenty years later, The Voice examined USP-McCreary and its impact on the local community.