News in Brief

More than 3,000 rape kits untested in Ky., report finds

FRANKFORT (AP) — More than 3,000 rape kits across Kentucky have never been tested, with some languishing in evidence lockers for more than 40 years because of a lack of funding and priority by law enforcement and state officials, Democratic Auditor Adam Edelen said Monday.

Rape Kits contain physical evidence from victims collected in the hours after a sexual assault. Testing the kits can identify DNA and other evidence that can help authorities identify and prosecute suspects. Yet a massive backlog of untested kits exists across the country for various reasons, with some estimates at more than 400,000 untested kits.

Kentucky is the 13th state to verify a definitive number of untested rape kits. Backlogs range from a high of 20,000 in Texas to 879 in Connecticut. Two of Kentucky’s neighbors, Ohio and Tennessee, have 10,134 and 9,062 untested kits, respectively, according to the national nonprofit organization End the Backlog.

“It would be tragic if we missed the human impact reflected in this small box,” Edelen said, holding up a sample rape kit at a news conference as he released a report with the statistics, and recommendations for improvement. “What we’ve got to make sure … is that we have a system in Kentucky that makes it easier to pursue justice for perpetrators and peace for victims.”

Kentucky has 391 law enforcement agencies. Of those, 87 reported having a total of 1,859 untested rape kits. The rest reside at the forensics laboratory run by the Kentucky State Police.

The Louisville Metro Police Department had the most untested kits, with 1,320. Of those, 923 were still in the department’s custody, some dating as far back as 1970. Edelen’s report found the department has had trouble keeping track of the kits since Jefferson County and the City of Louisville merged in 2003, but said the department is making strides to correct the problem.


Father of slain trooper asks Ky. to upgrade patrol cars

FRANKFORT (AP) — The father of a slain Kentucky State trooper has urged state lawmakers to retrofit the fleet of patrol cars with bullet resistant glass.

Cameron Ponder was shot and killed in his patrol car last week following a high speed chase in western Kentucky. The shooter, Joseph Johnson-Shanks, was later shot and killed after officials said he raised his weapon at another state trooper and ignored orders to lower it.

Joe Ponder, Cameron Ponder’s father, told reporters Tuesday he believed his son would still be alive had his patrol car been outfitted with bullet resistant glass. Kentucky Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo pledged to find money in the upcoming budget to retrofit all of the Kentucky State Police’s 600 front line patrol cars.

Stumbo said he hoped the program could also be extended to other law enforcement agencies.


Gay couples want clerk to reissue marriage licenses

FRANKFORT (AP) — Gay couples in Kentucky are questioning the validity of altered marriage licenses issued by a defiant county clerk, Kim Davis, and have asked a federal judge to order her to reissue the licenses or put the office in receivership and have someone else do it.

Davis’ office issued marriage licenses while she was in jail, but the licenses did not include her name. U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled those licenses were valid and released Davis on the condition that she not interfere with her employees.

When she returned to work last week, she confiscated the marriage licenses and replaced them. The new licenses say they were issued not under the authority of the county clerk, but “pursuant to federal court order.” Davis said this accommodation preserves her conscience while also granting licenses to same-sex couples.

But on Monday, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union wrote that the validity of the altered licenses is “questionable at best,” and that the new licenses bring “humiliation and stigma” to the gay couples who receive them. They asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to order Davis’ office to reissue the licenses. If Davis interferes, the lawyers say Bunning should place her office in a receivership for the purposes of issuing marriage licenses.


Former lawyer Chesley suing former clients over judgment

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A former Cincinnati lawyer who was disbarred in Kentucky over taking excessive fees in a $200 million settlement involving the diet drug fen-phen has sued five former clients seeking to collect their share of a $42 million judgment and their lawyer.

Carol Boggs, 72, of Ironton, Ohio, is one of the former clients. She told The Courier-Journal in Louisville that she was forced into bankruptcy and to sell her jewelry while she waits for her share of the judgment.

Boggs asked in a recent hearing why Chesley was suing her when he and other lawyers were found to have stolen money from her and other clients.

“I have done nothing personally to him, and we have a judgment against him in Kentucky,” Boggs testified Aug. 19.

Kentucky courts ordered Chesley and disbarred lawyers Shirley Cunningham, Melbourne Mills and William Gallion to pay more than 400 former clients in the case. Chesley sued Lexington lawyer Angela Ford, who now represents the former clients, to block her from trying to collect in Ohio.

A judge in Cincinnati has barred Ford from collecting against Chesley so far. Ford asked the Ohio Supreme Court to dismiss Chesley’s suit and remove the judge, Robert Ruehlman.


Ky. agencies receive law enforcement funding

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Kentucky will receive more than $1.5 million in federal hiring grants to pay for 13 law enforcement officers.

The funding is through a U.S. Justice Department program, Community Oriented Policing Services. Nationwide, grants this fiscal year total approximately $107 million.

The Justice Department said on its website that the funds go to Louisville police for 10 officers, Albany police for one officer, Todd County Sheriff’s Department for one officer and the city of Erlanger for one officer.

U.S. Attorney John Kuhn’s office in Louisville said in a news release the funding allows agencies to hire officers dedicated to areas such as community outreach, gun violence, school-based policing or homeland security.

The program provides salaries and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years.


Timelines set for considering species protection in 9 states

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Officials have agreed on timelines for determining whether seven aquatic species from nine states will be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The animals include six fish and a freshwater mussel. One or more of the species are found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Center for Biological Diversity says the animals are at risk of extinction due primarily to water pollution and dams.

The center says it reached an agreement this month with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make determinations on three of the species in 2017, with the others to come between 2018 and 2020.

The species are the ashy darter, frecklebelly madtom, longhead darter, sickle darter, trispot darter, candy darter and yellow lance mussel.


W.Ky.’s growth in population to trail state’s

PADUCAH (AP) — Officials predict that the population of the Jackson Purchase region in western Kentucky will steadily rise over the next 15 years but then fall over the subsequent 20 years because of an aging population.

The Paducah Sun reports that officials at the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville have used recent demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau to project the state’s population in five-year increments to the year 2050.

Data center Director Matt Ruther says the Purchase region has many Baby Boomers and will experience a population decline from 2030 to 2050.

Of the eight Purchase counties, only Calloway County shows projected population increases in each five-year increment estimate.

Overall, Kentucky’s population over the next 35 years is expected to steadily rise in each five-year increment.


U of L, UK receiving $3.7M grant for micro/nanotechnology

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A $3.7 million grant has been awarded to the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky to create a national center of excellence in micro/nanotechnology.

The National Science Foundation grant announced Monday is one of 16 awarded to universities across the U.S. out of more than 100 that competed.

The two Kentucky universities will make university facilities, tools and expertise available to outside users.

U of L interim provost Neville Pinto said in a news release that eight facilities at the universities will become a collaborative center to use the smallest materials to make the next wave of smart products.

Director J. Todd Hastings of UK’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering says the universities are working to build miniature solutions for applications such as health care and energy.


1st all-female Honor Flight takes veterans to Washington

CINCINNATI (AP) — A group that offers older veterans free flights to the nation’s capital to see war memorials says its first all-female trip was organized with help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

WCPO-TV reports more than 140 people were on the roster for Tuesday’s Honor Flight daytrip to Washington from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Honor Flight’s regional director, Cheryl Popp, says the organization long wanted to arrange an all-female flight but had difficulty tracking down participants. She says a VA office helped by mailing information, and 250 applications were submitted.

Ninety-one-year-old participant Dorothy Kist said she was a Navy radio operator during World War II and hoped to see the memorial for military women at Arlington National Cemetery. It was among several memorials on the agenda for the trip.


Authorities: Deadly Louisville apartment fire ruled arson

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Authorities say a deadly fire at an apartment building in the city’s Old Louisville neighborhood has been ruled arson.

WDRB-TV reports officials confirmed Monday that the cause of the fire on July 2 was arson. Authorities say Flo Filatreau and Theresa Shultz, who lived inside the building, were killed in the fire. Another resident, John Bullock, died days later.

Officials say the deaths are now being investigated as homicides. Maj. Henry Ott, who has since retired from the Louisville Fire Department, told WDRB-TV in July that the fire started in the first floor hallway area and spread upward.

Along with the three deaths, four other people were injured in the blaze.

Authorities are asking the public for help in their investigation, which remains ongoing.

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