As we close the year of 2016, the Independent takes a look back at the top 10 stories that impacted Magoffin, most of which will influence the county for years to come.
1. Three convicted in vote-buying case
In August, Magoffin County Magistrate District #1 Gary “Rooster” Risner, Tami Jo Risner and Larry Shepherd were found guilty by a federal jury of conspiring to commit vote-buying in the 2014 primary and general elections.
On December 1, Gary “Rooster” Risner was sentenced to 33 months in prison, three years supervised release, a special assessment fee of $800, and must perform 550 hours of community service. On December 6, his attorney, Michael Curtis, filed a notice of appeal regarding the judgment.
Tami Jo Risner was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, three years supervised release, and an assessment fee of $300. Her attorney, Willis Coffey, filed a notice of appeal regarding the judgment on December 5. Since then Coffey has withdrawn as Risner’s counsel and Jarrod James Back has been appointed to represent her during the appellant process.
Larry Shepherd was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release, an assessment fee of $100 and a $20,000 fine. On December 13, his attorney, Jason Nemes, filed a notice of appeal regarding the judgment, as well.
2. Teachers charged in two separate cases
- After Magoffin County Schools Superintendent Stanley Holbrook received a call in May from a parent, alleging that a teacher had corresponded with a juvenile through social media, Kentucky State Police and child services investigated the case.
On September 29, a Magoffin County Grand Jury released an indictment on Charles Allen Skaggs, 40, of Coon Creek Road, Salyersville, though the case is still pending. Skaggs is facing one count of attempted unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual activities (a Class A misdemeanor).
According to the indictment, on or about March 1 through May 12, 2016, Skaggs allegedly knowingly attempted to use an electronic communications system for the purpose of inducing a minor child to engage in sexual activities.
Skaggs is reportedly a physical education teacher at Herald Whitaker Middle School, which at the time was housed in the same building as the high school. Since the allegations were reported to the Magoffin County Schools superintendent, Skaggs has been suspended without pay until further notice.
- A jury trial has been set for two former Magoffin County Schools employees who were arrested in May 2016 for allegedly partying with juveniles.
The case started on May 18, when a video from a party involving juveniles drinking alcohol was posted on Facebook. Kentucky State Police received a complaint regarding the video and determined the party's location was the home of Wendell King, 40, of Patrick Drive, in Salyersville.
According to police reports, five juveniles, ranging from 14 to 19 years old, were given a preliminary breath test and the presence of alcohol was shown. Two other juveniles did not test positive for alcohol. Two juveniles were sent to the emergency room due to their level of intoxication, and the Department of Social Services was notified. All juveniles were released to their parents.
According to the arrest citation, Wendall King, 40, was found undressed and passed out in the master bedroom. Dearl Peters, 41, of Gun Creek Rd., Salyersville, and Leaha Vanhoose, 22, of Paintsville, were also located inside the home.
Both employed by the Magoffin County Schools district at the time of the arrest, Peters was a carpentry teacher and King was a maintenance employee. In the May 19 Magoffin County School Board's regularly-scheduled meeting, the board acknowledged Stanley Holbrook's decision to officially terminate King and Peters, effective as of May 20.
King, Peters and Vanhoose are charged with five counts each of third degree unlawful transaction with a minor (a Class A misdemeanor).
A jury trial for Peters and King is scheduled for February 1, 2017 at 10 a.m.
3. Logan Corporation celebrates start of operations in Salyersville
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on November 4, celebrating the start of operations for Logan Corporation in Salyersville.
The company, which located to the former Joy Global site in Salyersville, started operations for their high-end dump truck bed manufacturing plant. The new location provides space for 70 new full-time jobs, in addition to the 47 employees the company had at the time of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
4. Notable Deaths
Bill W. May, 74, passed away on January 6, 2016, after a long battle with cancer. May worked from 1967 to 1994 with the Community Action Program (CAP). In 2002 he was elected as Magoffin County judge executive, serving from January 2003 through December 2006. In 2012 he was elected to the Magoffin County School Board, serving as chairman until his death.
Thomas R. “Skip” Salyer, 66, passed away on February 3, 2016. In 1977 Salyer was elected as Magoffin County sheriff, serving from 1978 through 1982, and at the time, he was the youngest sheriff to have ever been elected in Kentucky, taking office at the age of 28. He also served as the Republican chair for several years and was even elected as the Republican nominee for county judge twice, losing in the general election by only a small margin.
5. Fatal Wrecks
Multiple fatal accidents occurred in Magoffin in 2016, taking over the headlines several times.
- A fatal collision occurred on February 22, 2016. The initial KSP investigation indicated that Kelly
Vanderpool, 44 years old of Gunlock, Kentucky, was traveling east on KY Route 542 in the Gunlock community. Vanderpool lost control of his vehicle, left the roadway and overturned into a creek. Vanderpool was pronounced deceased at the scene by Magoffin County Coroner, Mark Jenkins.
Evidence at the scene indicated Vanderpool was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision, and alcohol did not appear to be a factor.
- One Magoffin County woman was fatally injured in a one-vehicle accident on Johnson Fork on August 17, 2016. The driver, Buretta McCarty Keeton, age 74, of Salyersville, lost control in a curve, hit a rock, and rolled the vehicle an estimated 3.5 times, landing upside-down in the water, Rescue Squad Captain Carter Conley said.
Rescue crews started CPR and transported Keeton to the ambulance. EMT workers with Trans-Star continued CPR, taking her to Paul B. Hall Medical Center. After ER staff continued trying to revive her, she was pronounced deceased later that evening.
- An Ohio man died in a wreck involving two motorcycles and a pickup truck on KY Rt. 30 on August 27.
Four motorcycles, driven by men from Zanesville, Ohio, were traveling north on Rt. 30. A local man, Steven Rice, was driving a pickup truck, traveling south, when the truck and one of the motorcycles hit head-on.
The driver of the motorcycle was pronounced dead at the scene, suffering massive trauma in the wreck.
Another motorcycle also was involved in the wreck, with the driver sustaining a possible fracture to his left foot and possible closed-head injury, Conley said. He was airlifted to Pikeville Medical Center.
- A Magoffin woman was fatally injured in a wreck that occurred on KY Rt. 114 on October 2, 2016. KSP’s preliminary investigation indicated that Ellis Roark was traveling West on KY Route 114 in the Salyersville community of Magoffin County. Roark lost control of his 2003 Ford Ranger and struck a rock embankment. Leah Groce Roark, 53 of Salyersville, was a passenger in Ellis Roark’s vehicle. Groce Roark suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased by Magoffin County Coroner Mark Jenkins.
- On the last day of the year, a Harrodsburg woman was fatally injured in an accident that occurred on the Mountain Parkway. KSP’s preliminary investigation indicated that Sara Berry was traveling westbound on the Mountain Parkway in the Salyersville community of Magoffin County on Saturday, December 31, 2016. Berry lost control of her 2008 Nissan Sentra, crossing into the oncoming lane and colliding with a 2013 Chevrolet pickup. Berry, 33 of Harrodsburg KY, suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by Magoffin County Coroner, Mark Jenkins.
6. Demolition of former Salyersville First Baptist Church Building
After a messy disagreement that virtually split the community, on Friday, April 1, Judge Kim Childers overruled a motion for an injunction regarding the Magoffin County Public Library Board, which allowed the board to proceed with their plans for a new library.
The board decided the most economical and logistically-sound plan was to demolish the building on the property they owned, the former Salyersville First Baptist Church building, and build a new library on that property. A group in the community opposed the plan, however, protesting the demolition and arguing that the building should be deemed a historical landmark, though that classification was never attained.
After the judge gave the board the greenlight, demolition began at roughly 6:30 a.m. on Monday, April 4. Construction plans are already in place, with work set to begin on the new library building in early 2017.
7. New Superintendent
On January 28, Magoffin County Schools Superintendent Stanley Holbrook announced his upcoming retirement after the 2015-2016 school year. In a special-called meeting held on May 27, the Magoffin County School Board hired Scott Helton as the next superintendent of schools, for a term of four years.
In total, at the time of the hiring, Helton has worked for the Magoffin County Schools District for 28 years, holding positions as a teacher, principal and central office staff.
8. Judge executive gets to keep his position
The state Supreme Court ruled in August 2016 that there was not enough evidence to uphold circuit and appellant court rulings that would have forced Magoffin County Judge Executive Dr. Charles Hardin to vacate the office.
In February 2015 Circuit Judge John David Preston ruled that due to the many election irregularities, there was no way to determine who had won the 2014 election and declared the office vacant. In a 2-to-1 decision, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel upheld Preston’s ruling in June 2015, though the Supreme Court ruling overturned those decisions.
Hardin is currently serving his third consecutive term as judge executive.
9. New high school officially opens
Since the 2012 tornado, the high school and middle school had been combined into one building, however, the school district celebrated the opening of the new Magoffin County High School on August 2, 2016. The new school, decked out with advanced technology and modern architecture, is located off of KY Rt. 114/US 460, adjacent to the Restaurant Row portion of the Mountain Parkway. The former high school building is now officially the Herald Whitaker Middle School.
10. Magoffin schools rank as proficient
The Kentucky Department of Education released the 2015-2016 test scores on September 29, with the Magoffin County School District ranking as proficient for the first time.
Magoffin County School District scored 66.8 out of 100 overall, compared to last year's score of 65.1. In order to be classified as proficient, districts had to have at least an average score of 66.2.