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The year 2012 has been a difficult one for Marion County.
We’ve experienced a great deal of heartache and tragedy.
But there have been some bright spots, too.
The following is what the editorial staff deem to be the top 10 stories of the year.
Our wish is that 2013’s list will include more “good” news and less of the bad.
1. Marion County Deputy Anthony Rakes killed during traffic stop
There is no such thing as a “routine traffic stop,” and what happened to Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Rakes in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Nov. 14, is a tragic example.
According to KSP Public Affairs Officer Billy Gregory, Rakes’ shift was ending and he was headed home. At approximately 2 a.m., Rakes, 31, initiated a traffic stop on a 2007 KIA that was stopped in the westbound lane of Danville Highway, right outside city limits. Rakes reported the vehicle to Lebanon Police Dispatch, turned around and parked behind the vehicle. Rakes gave the license plate number to dispatch, got out of his vehicle and the next thing he said was, “Shots fired.”
Marion County EMS responded and transported Deputy Rakes to Spring View Hospital where he died in surgery. Autopsy results indicate that Rakes died from injuries sustained from two gunshot wounds located in the abdomen and upper torso area.
The man accused of shooting Rakes, Dewayne Shipp, 49, of McDaniels was arrested behind McDonald’s in Campbellsville by Kentucky State Police and officers from the Campbellsville Police Department. Shipp was initially transported to Taylor County Hospital for a leg injury. He was later transported to University Hospital in Louisville, where he was treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg, according to Kentucky State Police. It is unknown when he sustained the wound.
Shipp has been indicted for murder for Rakes’ death, and he has been transferred to the infirmary at the Kentucky State Reformatory.
Rakes was a six-year veteran of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and was the department’s firearms instructor.
Before becoming a deputy, Rakes had worked two years at the Lebanon Police Department.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, law enforcement officials from all over Kentucky and a few from out of state joined local emergency service personnel and hundreds of Marion Countians in paying their respects to Rakes.
“He was a good man,” Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Clements said at the funeral service. “Everyone who knew him would tell you that, and it didn’t take long for those who didn’t know him to realize that.”
2. Bar owner in jail for murder
The owner of Raywick Bar and Grill, Chris Gribbins, 46, of Hodgenville was arrested and charged with murder and second-degree assault following a shooting in Raywick Friday, Nov. 9.
David Litsey Jr., 22, of Lebanon was shot outside of the Raywick Bar and Grill that morning. Litsey, a 2009 graduate of Marion County High School, was transported to Spring View Hospital where he died from his injuries, according to the Kentucky State Police.
The Lebanon Police Dispatch received a call reporting the shooting at 1:21 a.m. Nov. 9. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Kentucky State Police responded to the scene.
According to court records, Gribbins was “identified as discharging a firearm that resulted in the death of David Litsey.” The records continue to read that Gribbins was involved in beating another individual by using a firearm earlier in the night.
Gribbins and Michael Gibson, 48, of Raywick have both been charged with second-degree assault. The court records read that Gribbins and Gibson both caused physical injury to Phillip J. Franklin, 22, of Springfield by hitting him with a pistol.
Gribbins is being held at the Marion County Detention Center on a $500,000 bond on the murder charge and a $40,000 bond on the assault charge.
3. Raywick bar accused of discriminating against African-Americans
The Nov. 9 shooting that ended with the death of David Litsey Jr., is the second serious incident at the Raywick bar this year. Under the previous owners, the bar was called Susie’s Bottoms Up. The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights investigated an incident April 5 at Susie’s Bottoms Up, and the commission concluded that the bar likely discriminated against African-Americans that night.
According to individuals who visited the bar that night, African-Americans were not being allowed inside.
Desmond Spalding was one of the patrons at Susie’s Bottoms Up on April 5. He said other customers told him blacks weren’t being allowed inside, but he assumed they were joking until he got to the door.
“The bouncer said, sorry to tell you this, no black people can come in tonight,” he said.
After initially being denied entrance, Desmond Spalding contacted his wife, who is a local attorney. Dawn Spalding said she arrived, screamed at the owner, Susan Riggle, and then paid for herself, her husband and their friend Autria Calhoun, who is also black, to get inside.
Dawn Spalding said she also provided contact information for another patron, Rusty Johnson of Bardstown, who said he was initially denied entrance into the bar that night because of his race.
Riggle told the Enterprise that she had decided to turn away anyone who may have been involved in an incident outside the bar the previous Thursday, March 29. She said a crowd of people, most of whom were black, remained outside the bar, and a deputy had been assaulted.
Chris Gribbins purchased the Raywick bar in June from Susie and David Riggle.
While Gribbins was not involved in the April 5 incident, the complaint with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights alleges that he and his business are “subject to successor liability” and that he should have known that Susie’s Bottoms Up was involved in litigation and an investigation by the commission.
An administrative hearing is still pending on this matter.
There are two things Ernie Brown Jr. said he wanted to do when he grew up.
“I want to do something with animals, and I want to be on TV,” Brown told his class at Mackville Elementary School.
Well, he’s done both, and he’s become a turtle catchin’ sensation.
Brown, 47, caught his first turtle when he was 7 years old. It’s a talent he has mastered over the last 40 years, as evidenced by numerous Youtube videos and now his television show on Animal Planet, “Call of the Wildman.”
But the road to celebrity hasn’t been an easy one for Brown.
For decades, he has been removing and relocating snapping turtles from ponds throughout central Kentucky, but that wasn’t always enough to pay bills or put food on the table. Brown has worked a variety of odd jobs, including farm and factory work, but he decided about seven years ago that he needed to be the Turtleman full-time.
A few years ago, Brown started speaking to schools and making appearances at local events like the Great Outhouse Blowout at Penn’s Store and the Heart of Kentucky Farm, Home and Garden Show. Eventually, he got the attention of Kentucky Afield, an outdoor show that airs on Kentucky Educational Television.
After that piece aired, it was posted on Youtube in February of 2008, and it went viral. Brown gained the attention of Sharp Entertainment, and that led to a deal with Animal Planet.
Dawn Sinsel, executive producer of “Call of the Wildman,” said she first learned about Brown by watching the Kentucky Afield video. She said she was amazed and fascinated by the way he was catching turtles and his personality. After sending out a crew to shoot a demo, Animal Planet was hooked, Sinsel said.
“We just fell in love with him,” she said. “We went straight to series with him.”
Sinsel added that Brown is one of the most genuine people that she’s ever met.
“He is what you see on camera,” Sinsel said.
According to Animal Planet, “Call of the Wildman” is one of their five highest rated shows.
5. Jury convicts Tonya Ford of killing husband
A jury found Tonya Ford, 39, guilty on Aug. 24 of shooting and killing her husband, David Ford, 40, who worked as a police officer in Lebanon.
Ford’s trial began Aug. 20 in Taylor Circuit Court. After hearing opening and closing statements and from several witnesses, jurors spent 12 hours deliberating Ford’s guilt. After finding her guilty, jurors took about five minutes to agree to recommend that Ford should spend 20 years in prison for her crime. Taylor Circuit Court Judge Dan Kelly followed that recommendation and sentenced Ford to serve two decades in prison.
Ford was accused of shooting and killing her husband on Feb. 10, 2009. She pleaded not guilty in November 2010 and has maintained her innocence.
Officer Ford, 40, was found shot to death in his head at his Graham Road home in Campbellsville. Ford called the Campbellsville/Taylor County E-911 Center and said she had arrived at the home and found that her husband had been shot.
Taylor County Coroner Terry Dabney said in 2009 that an autopsy confirmed Officer Ford’s death as a homicide.
Ford’s story will be featured on an upcoming episode of “Snapped,” a true crime documentary television show that airs on the Oxygen network.
Her episode, which will feature interviews with several attorneys, investigators, friends and family members, is slated to air Jan. 20.
6. Chuck Helm indicted, accused of abuse of public trust while Raywick Fire Chief
Former Raywick Fire Chief Charles “Chuck” Helm has been indicted on charges of theft by unlawful taking over $10,000 and abuse of public trust.
The indictment against Helm, 52, of 1000 Hazy Downs Road in Raywick was handed down by a Marion County grand jury on Monday, Nov. 19.
He has pled not guilty.
According to the indictment, between May 1, 2004, and July 31, 2011, Helm took or exercised control over movable property of another with intent to deprive them of $10,000 or more, or he obtained interest in immovable property of another with intent to benefit himself when he was not entitled to.
The indictment also reads that Helm was a public servant entrusted with public money or property by reason of holding public office or employment, exercising the functions of a public officer or employee, or participating in a governmental function, is guilty of abuse of public trust when he obtained public money or property subject to a known legal obligation to make a specified payment or other disposition.
In July of 2011, Helm resigned from his position as Raywick fire chief, stating that his out-of-town job commitments caused him to be away from the community too much. However, following Helm’s resignation, the department began an internal investigation into possible misuse of funds.
Lebanon attorney Elmer George, who has been assisting the Raywick Fire Department with this matter, told the Enterprise in August of 2011 that the department’s funds were definitely misused. According to George, some of the funds that were in the Raywick Fire Department’s account came from local, state and federal sources.
In August of 2011, Herman Riggs was appointed to be Raywick’s new fire chief.
Helm had been Raywick’s fire chief since 2004.
In 2009, Helm was named the Outstanding Emergency Personnel by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce. He was credited with attaining the Raywick Fire Department more than $500,000 in Homeland Security grants, which helped the department buy new equipment, including a $180,000 truck.
“It’s about the job. It’s not about the individual,” Helm was quoted saying in the March 25, 2009, edition of The Lebanon Enterprise.
Editor’s note: An indictment is an accusation only, and the individual is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
7. Sisters of Loretto turn 200, and the county celebrates 100 years of Ursuline service
Two groups of nuns marked milestones in Marion County in 2012.
The Sisters of Loretto celebrated their 200th anniversary with a number of events at the Motherhouse. This order, which may be the first Catholic religious order founded in the United States, officially started on April 25, 1812, when Mary Rhoades, Christina Stuart and Ann Havern made their vows at the St. Charles Catholic Church in St. Mary.
Approximately 300 members of the Loretto Community (which includes nuns and co-members) attended the anniversary events. The order started as a teaching order. The nuns continue to work in education, but they have also expanded their mission to include environmental issues, peace work and social justice matters across the United States and around the globe.
During the bicentennial anniversary celebration, Sr. Agnes Ann Schum, 77, paused to take in the scene and told the Enterprise, “It takes my breath away. It’s just an awesome, exciting spirit open to what the faith is going to bring, with the spirit of history standing here at this point.”
Three bishops (two of whom were taught by Sisters of Loretto in Marion County schools) celebrated Masses to commemorate the work the Sisters of the Loretto have done and continue to do.
To honor that work, the Sisters of Loretto also opened a Heritage Center, which shares the order’s history, at the Motherhouse.
Eldon Shields, 73, who has been a co-member of the Loretto Community for 32 years described it as “visionary community who are looking for ways to live their faith and respond to contemporary needs.”
Also this year, the Ursuline Sisters of Mt. St. Joseph marked 100 years of service in Marion County, Starting in the 1911-12 academic year, Ursulines have had 1,583 assignments in Marion County.
They taught in St. Martha’s, St. Mary’s, Calvary Elementary, Holy Cross Elementary, Raywick Elementary, St. Charles Elementary, St. Charles High, School, St. Joe Elementary, St. Francis of Assisi Elementary, St. Francis High, St. Augustine and Marion County High School. The nuns have also held administrative and central office positions within the Marion County School District.
The Ursulines trace their origins to St. Angela Merici, who grew up in Desenzano, Italy. Merici founded the order in 1535. At that time, women in Italy were expected to either submit to the authority of their parents or their husband or to enter the convent. Neither option sounded good to Merici, so she started the “Company of St. Ursula” instead.
As the order grew, they spread throughout the world and into the United States. In 1874, five Ursulines went to Daviess County where they establish a school at Mt. St. Joseph. They became an autonomous community in 1912.
Sr. Mary Lois Speaks continues the Ursulines’ legacy of service in Marion County. She has an office in Lebanon and resides in Raywick.
Sr. Marie Bosco Wathen returned for the anniversary celebration in April. She was taught by Ursulines when she was growing up, and she later joined the order.
“They were always so cheerful most of the time, especially outside the classroom,” she said.
The county also commemorated the Ursulines’ service by dedicating a memorial in front of the David R. Hourigan Government Building. Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly even recalled the nuns who taught him in his younger days.
“There was something about that habit,” Mattingly said, referring to the outfits worn by nuns in those days. “You saw them at school and you were likely to see them Sunday at church.”
8. Dog dumping
Someone once said that a person’s character can be judged by the compassion they have for animals.
Kay Turpin and Sarah Gribbins at the Marion County Animal Shelter definitely believe that to be the case. On a daily basis, they see some of the most caring and some of the most callous individuals.
Unfortunately, during the early part of 2012, a rash of “dog dumpings” were occurring at the Marion County/Taylor County line. In fact, Jan. 24, 23 dogs were dumped, as if they were unwanted pieces of trash. Three of the dogs died, one of the dogs actually froze to death.
Following the dog dumpings, a media storm ensued. The Enterprise, along with the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville, and three different television stations reported the story, and $3,500 in reward money was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for dumping the dogs.
Christina Gribbins, 36, of 173 Spurlington Road in Campbellsville confessed to the crime, and she was charged with 23 counts of second-degree cruelty to animals. She was arrested Tuesday, Feb. 7, and lodged in the Marion County Detention Center.
Gribbins told Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Clements that she became overwhelmed with too many animals and abandoned 23 dogs on Highway 412 in Marion County.
“Instead of asking for help, she opted to go that route,” Clements said.
While Gribbins is not licensed to operate a kennel or animal rescue, that’s what she was attempting to do at her home. Gribbins claimed to be the operator of “A New Leash Animal Rescue” and she collected dogs from surrounding shelters and rescue programs.
According to the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville, Gribbins called the Taylor County Animal Shelter around 2 p.m. Thursday and asked that someone come remove some dogs she had at her home, which included 19 dogs living in outdoor kennels and five dogs inside her residence.
The dogs were removed from Gribbins’ home and taken to London by Stephanie Fields who operates “Homeward Bound,” a rescue and rehabilitation center for dogs.
Clements said he assumed Gribbins chose to drop the dogs off in Marion County because of the ongoing issues at the Taylor County Animal Shelter, which include allegations of burying dogs alive. State officials have dismissed those allegations.
“She actually put two piles of dog food out when she dropped them off,” Clements said.
Gribbins is very remorseful for what happened, he said.
“She feels bad about it,” Clements said.
Gribbins was sentenced to 24 months probation and was ordered to pay $1,856.87 in restitution to the Marion County Animal Shelter. She was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service at the shelter.
Editor’s note: Christina Gribbins is not related to Sarah Gribbins, Marion County animal control official.
9. Fired up! ... Warrior Dash 2012
Approximately 6,100 people from 28 states participated in the first Warrior Dash obstacle race ever held in Kentucky, and it was held at Pope’s Creek Ranch in Marion County.
The race featured more than three miles of cross country running interspersed with obstacles that forced participants to climb, crawl, and swim before completing the course. Racers finished by jumping over fire and crawling through a mud put.
After the race, most participants expressed how much fun they had.
“I loved it. It’s been a blast,” Steve Robinson of Glasgow said. “Everybody’s been hospitable.”
Unfortunately, off-site parking, too few buses and a pair of accidents, including one that involved a local farmer who is facing a DUI charge after having a wreck while driving a tractor that was pulling a wagon full of people, created some transportation problems getting back and forth from the Fairgrounds (where runners got on the buses) and the race site. According to messages posted on social media sites, some runners waited for up to six hours that day getting to and from the race site.
Other than the delays and a few injuries, no problems were reported from the participants, according to Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Clements
“Everybody was on good behavior,” he said.
David Neville, the manager of Pope’s Creek Ranch, and county officials held a teleconference with representatives of Red Frog (the company that puts on the Warrior Dash series) in the aftermath of the race to discuss how the race went, including how parking might be handled differently if the race returned.
Recently, Red Frog announced that the Warrior Dash will be returning to Kentucky in 2013, but it will be held at the Life Adventure Center in Versailles.
Nevertheless, it’s still possible obstacle racing could return to Marion County next year. Neville told the Enterprise that he has been in discussions with a few organizations that put on races similar to the Warrior Dash.
“I can’t mention a name at this point, but we are in negotiations with another event,” he said.
10. Marion County wins Kentucky Distinguished Young Woman competition two years in a row
Paige Wilson hadn’t heard of Distinguished Young Woman (formerly Junior Miss) before her family moved from Florida to Marion County, but she knows a lot about it now.
After winning the 2012 Marion County Distinguished Young Woman title, she was named the 2012 Kentucky Distinguished Young Woman in January. Her accomplishment was made all the more special because she was the second consecutive Marion Countian to win the state title. Christine Mattingly was the 2011 Distinguished Young Woman of Kentucky.
“So far, it’s been kind of a daze,” Wilson told the Enterprise a few days after winning the state crown. “I’m very exhausted. But, I still feel like me.”
Buddy Hoskinson, state chair of the Kentucky Distinguished Young Woman program, said 2012 would be an exciting year for Wilson.
“I hope that nationals is ready for another Marion County invasion,” he said. “Having back-to-back winners from Marion County says so much about that community and that program.”
In addition to rehearsing for the national program in Mobile, Ala., Wilson and the other participants signed autographs at a local mall, had the chance to participate in an oyster eating contest and took part in team-building activities. Those activities were the subject of a piece Wilson wrote that was published in The Press-Register ((Mobile, Ala.) prior to the national program.
She wrote about working as a team with her fellow Distinguished Young Women to complete a ropes course 40 feet off the ground.
“What any observer could have clearly seen, as we hugged in triumph despite the fear, the heat, and the sweat, was the true bond that comes with the Distinguished Young Women sisterhood,” she wrote.
“We are seen as lights among women, among our fellow citizens; among those who dream and those who do; our collective light serves as a brilliant beam for the nation and the world to know that young women are capable of overcoming any obstacle.”