News in Brief

Ky. considering roadside driver drug tests

FRANKFORT (AP) — The state Office of Highway Safety is working with local county officials to evaluate a roadside drug test that could help police address the growing number of drivers who are high behind the wheel.

The agency and authorities in Louisville, Paducah and Madison County are partnering to test portable kits police officers could eventually carry into the field to test drivers for controlled substances, The Courier-Journal reported.

Kits include a mouth swab and screen device that can analyze saliva sample for up to 10 drugs.

If the tests prove reliable, lawmakers say they will consider legislation next year to expand their use.

Mike Schwendau, assistant director of Highway Safety Programs, said police might soon use the swab kits in the same way they rely on roadside breath tests to identify drunken drivers.

“We just want to find another tool for law enforcement to help make better decisions and more accurate decisions … and to remove hazards off the road,” said Schwendau.

However, Larry Forman, a Louisville defense attorney who specializes in impaired driving cases, said the tests could lead to invasive searches or give officers false pretense for arrests.

“They are chipping away at our rights — I just don’t know how else to put it,” Forman said.

According to Kentucky State Police, authorities suspected that drugs were a factor in nearly 1,600 traffic collisions across the state last year, resulting in 939 injuries and 214 deaths.


Miner crushed to death in underground W.Ky. mine

SEBREE (AP) — A coal miner has died after a heavy piece of mining machinery fell on him in an underground mine in western Kentucky.

Rickey Thorpe of Dawson Springs was working on a continuous mining machine early Wednesday morning in the Sebree Mine in Webster County when he was crushed. The mining machine is a broad, flat vehicle that uses cutting teeth to quickly dig into a coal seam.

Officials with the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet say the 29-year-old Thorpe was working on the equipment when the accident occurred at 2:20 a.m. CDT. No one else was hurt.

The mine, owned by Alliance Resource Partners, has been closed while officials investigate the incident.

It was the second mine-related death in Kentucky this year.


Alabama probate judge asks not to marry same-sex couples

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A probate judge has asked the Alabama Supreme Court for an order protecting him and other officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. reports that Washington County Probate Judge Nick Williams requested the protective order Wednesday afternoon.

Attorney Jack B. Hinton filed the petition on Williams’ behalf. Hinton says the action came after Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Lawmakers did not have enough votes Tuesday to pass a proposal to do away with state-issued marriage licenses.


Disability beneficiaries to have eligibility redetermined

PRESTONSBURG (AP) — The Social Security Administration is evaluating whether a Floyd County attorney’s former clients should keep their disability payments.

WYMT-TV reports starting Thursday, as many as 1,787 people who receive federal disability benefits will be required to participate in hearings to redetermine their eligibility.

The individuals were represented by attorney Eric Conn. Congressional investigators believe Conn used fraudulent information to help secure the benefits.

Conn has denied the allegations and hasn’t been charged.

Attorneys for the hundreds of people who had their benefits temporarily suspended earlier this year have sued the SSA, asking a federal judge to stop the hearings. There’s no timetable for the judge’s decision.

Attorney Ned Pillersdorf, who heads the legal team representing the beneficiaries, encourages anyone required to attend a redetermination hearing to seek legal representation.


Vandals paint anti-Islamic graffiti at Louisville mosque

LOUISVILLE (AP) — Vandals have spray-painted multiple anti-Islamic messages on the outside of the Louisville Islamic Center.

Muhammad Babar, a spokesman for the center, told media that members found the graffiti Wednesday evening when they arrived for prayer service. Vandals left phrases like “this is for France” and “Nazis speak Arabic.”

Babar said he filed a police report and has spoken to the FBI about the incident.

In response, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has asked the community to come out on Friday and help the center paint over the graffiti.

Media report Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad said on Thursday that the FBI is investigating the incident as a hate crime.


Caretaker charged with fraud after veteran found dead

DAYTON (AP) — Police in northern Kentucky have identified a man found dead in a vacant home and say they have charged the man’s caretaker with collecting his Air Force veteran benefits.

Media report the body discovered Saturday in a Dayton home was identified Wednesday by police as 55-year-old Steven Reis. Dayton Police Chief David Halfhill said it looked like Reis probably died in early January, but the cause of death hasn’t been determined.

Police charged 40-year-old Christy Russell of Dayton with tampering with evidence and fraud. She was being held in the Campbell County jail on $7,500 bond. Online jail records did not indicate whether she is represented by a lawyer.

Halfhill said Russell knew Reis was dead and used his credit card to steal between $24,000 and $30,000 in Reis’ veteran benefits.


Custody showdown looms for ‘off-grid’ couple, their 10 kids

GARFIELD (AP) — Joe and Nicole Naugler insist they are not neglecting their 10 children. They say, rather, that they are loving parents who have chosen to raise their children in an “off-grid” lifestyle, without public utilities including electricity, running water and a flushable toilet.

Child protection workers were concerned enough about the children to remove them from the family’s tumbledown shack in central Kentucky back in May. And even though the kids are now back with their parents, the state still retains legal custody of them at least until a hearing Thursday to try to resolve the dispute.

The Nauglers’ case, which has become a rallying cry for off-grid families, has exposed the tightrope state officials must walk between parents’ rights to raise their children as they choose and the state’s responsibility to keep them safe.

The child welfare workers who handled the Nauglers’ case declined to comment on the specifics of it.

Child protection workers “can’t win for losing,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. If state workers overreach, they’re accused of breaking up families; if they don’t examine each situation carefully, children might die. “It’s not being hyperbolic to say it’s life and death decisions,” Brooks said.

The case came to the state’s attention back in the spring after a neighbor refused Joe Naugler’s request for water. The neighbor called the sheriff and said Naugler told his son to get a pistol from his truck. Naugler said that never happened, but the sheriff cited him for menacing anyway. That case is pending.

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