By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The year 2012 was, to say the least, an eventful year in the county’s history. From the March 2 tornado to the demolition of the former Marymount Hospital, the county underwent extreme events throughout the year. Listed below are the top 12 headline events of 2012:
1. Six people died and dozens more were injured when a tornado ripped through the northern section of the county that fateful Friday night. While three residences were destroyed in the Hawk Creek community, dozens of East Bernstadt residents were left homeless and mourning the loss of friends and family who were not so lucky. The diligent efforts of emergency workers and volunteers cleared the debris and wreckage in record time in the aftermath of the storm.
The victims of the tornado were Sherman Dewayne and Debbie Allen of Little Arthur Ridge Road, Ethel Pruitt of Bentley Road, Wilburn and Virginia Pitman of Pitman Road in East Bernstadt. MaryAnn Pruitt of Bentley Road remained in critical condition at the University of Kentucky Medical Center for three weeks before succumbing to her injuries.
2. A Keavy couple was arrested on July 11 for allegedly trading a 1999 Dodge pickup for a newborn baby of a “childhood friend” in January 2012. Initially charged with illegally purchasing a child, Jeremy and Jamiee Brown of Devil’s Neck Road in Corbin faced a possible indictment by a Laurel grand jury in August. No indictment was returned against the Browns. Instead, the child’s mother, 31-year-old Heather Kaminsky of London, was indicted for endangering the welfare of a minor — a charge for which she pled guilty on Dec. 4. (The felony charge of prohibited act of adoption, was reduced to a misdemeanor offense of endangering the welfare of a minor as part of a plea bargain in Laurel Circuit Court.) Kaminsky was ordered to serve 140 days in jail, but had already been incarcerated for 138 when the plea bargain was entered.
Kaminsky was also charged with possession of a methamphetamine precursor and was sentenced to serve three years, which was then probated for three years, leaving her with only two more days in jail. She was released on Dec. 6.
3. After two and one-half days of testimony, a Laurel jury failed to reach a unanimous decision in the murder trial of Lisa Gilliam in September. Gilliam was charged with the Jan. 7, 2011 shooting death of her husband, London attorney Larry Gilliam. After several hours of deliberation, jury members reported to Special Circuit Judge Robert McGinnis that they could not reach a decision in the case. McGinnis sent the jury back to discuss the verdict once more, but after another hour of deliberation, the panel was deadlocked.
Two days later, Lisa Gilliam’s attorneys filed a motion for a “directed verdict of acquittal,” which McGinnis granted in November. The case is reportedly to appear on Oxygen Channel’s series, “Snapped,” sometime this year.
4. Though only by a slim margin, voters within city limits voted not to have beer and liquor stores in downtown London. The final tally had the “No” voters winning by 958 votes over the “Yay” vote count of 801.
Instead, the city of London will continue selling alcohol only in restaurants seating 100 persons rather than have beer and liquor sales. The special vote came on March 6 and involved all six of the London precincts, and a portion of Sublimity/Fariston and Liberty whose voters addresses fell within the city limits.
Adjoining cities of Manchester, Corbin, and Williamsburg all voted in favor of alcohol sales, leaving only London as a ‘moist’ city and Barbourville as ‘dry’ county.
5. A politically oriented comment re-written on the board in a South Laurel High School classroom made national news and had the public in an uproar following the Nov. 6 election. Kendra Baker, a 17-year educator, heard the comment that “You can’t be a Democrat and go to Heaven” and wrote it on her whiteboard. A student took a picture of that and it was emailed to The Sentinel-Echo. Baker was found in violation of the school district’s policy No. 8.1353 and the Student Code of Conduct that states that “teachers have the responsibility to maintain a classroom atmosphere conductive to learning, with mutual respect and trust, and be a model of a responsible citizen.”
A week later, the mother of one of the students in Baker’s class filed a complaint against Baker and withdrew her child from the public school system. The child’s mother did state that Baker personally apologized to the child concerning the incident.
6. Long-time state representative Albert Robinson re-gained his seat in Frankfort following an intense political battle over his Democratic opponent, Amie Hacker on Nov. 6. Robinson was nominated by the Republican nominating committee for the 21st Senate district that includes Laurel, Powell, Jackson, Estill, and Menifee counties in August after London attorney Tom Jensen chose to step down from state legislature and seek the Laurel Circuit Court judgeship. Jensen was running unopposed in his re-bid for the Senate seat, but after Robinson’s nomination as the Republican candidate, a newcomer to the political scene, Laurel resident Amie Hacker, threw her hat into the ring.
Robinson had served in the state senate for several years following the retirement of former Senator Gene Huff. Robinson received intense criticism for a pension increase for legislators that was later overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
7. A Manchester doctor who resides in London pled guilty to child pornography in October. Dr. Kishore Kumar Jadhav faces federal prison time for producing pornography involving a minor at his sentencing in February. Jadhav was arrested by federal authorities on April 20 and remains in prison. His arrest came after authorities searched his office and found pornographic pictures and videos of a minor performing sexual acts.
8. Nearly six months after a Berea entrepreneur’s unoccupied boat was found idling near Marsh Branch on Laurel River Lake, no sign of 32-year-old Clarence Holmes has yet been found.
Holmes was last seen around 3 p.m. on July 5 near Marsh Branch prior to a severe thunderstorm in the area. He had reportedly been assisting other boaters in securing their equipment as a storm approached. His pontoon boat was discovered, idling but unoccupied. His personal belongings of a cell phone, watch, and wallet were still on the boat.
Despite efforts from water and rescue teams from all over the state, Holmes’ body has not yet been recovered.
9. Both of the county’s school systems underwent searches for new leadership during 2012. Following the retirement of former Laurel County School Superintendent David Young in November 2011, Dr. Doug Bennett from the Whitley County School System was named as the new county school superintendent in July.
The retirement of long-time East Bernstadt superintendent Homer Radford sparked a search for a new leader for the elementary and junior high school in the northern section of the county. Vicki Jones, former principal of Cold Hill Elementary, was named to the position in mid-December and officially begins today (Jan. 2) as students return from Christmas vacation.
10. The former Marymount Hospital building was demolished during the summer of 2012. Although undergoing several ownership changes and even the change from Marymount to Saint Joseph London, the hospital on the hill was a beacon of light to many of London’s tried-and-true natives.
After the new hospital opened in August 2010, the owners began seeking a buyer for the property, but choose to remove the building when prospective buyers indicated that the property was worth more without it.
11. The November 6 election brought some local upsets in school board and city council races.
The Laurel County School Board election for District 5 ended with long-time member and current Vice-Chair Lola Reed being ousted by newcomer Jeff Lewis. In the East Bernstadt school board elections, current board members Robert Frost and Kenny Woodruff were voted out and replaced by Sandra Smith and Mequeil Storm.
The London City Council race also had a few surprises in store, as eight-term member Sharon Benge was unseated by Jim Hays. Hays lost to Benge in the 2010 election by only two votes but won by five votes during the 2012 election.
12. During the month that promotes domestic violence awareness and prevention, a London man stabbed his girlfriend to death on Oct. 23.
Sean Messer now awaits pretrial hearings in Laurel Circuit Court on charges of the murder of 25-year-old Pamela Honeycutt, by whom he fathered a two-year-old daughter.
Honeycutt reportedly went to McDonald’s with her sister and the argument broke out upon her return. Witnesses say Messer stabbed Honeycutt in front of her two youngest children and attempted to stab Honeycutt’s sister and a neighbor when they tried to intervene in the fight. Messer ran away after the incident but was captured hours later when he attempted to steal Honeycutt’s car from a dealership where it was to be worked on.