SCOTTSVILLE – Nearly four years after the sudden disappearance of 7-year-old Gabriella “Gabbi” Doolin – and the reeling news that a local man would face charges for her kidnapping, rape and murder – the Scottsville community has been left with an indelible mark.
Kristi Woolbright, who lives and works in Scottsville, said the small Allen County community has, at times, felt conflicted and out of sync with its identity as a town where “everybody knows everyone.”
“It’s hard to trust. You’re constantly wanting to know where your kids are. You’re constantly wanting to make sure that they’re OK,” Woolbright said Monday.
Woolbright said that at other times, locals have rallied around Gabbi’s family, hoping to shoulder some of the loss and ultimately seek justice for the bubbly girl who “always had a smile,” loved the colors pink, purple and blue and who “liked to ‘mama’ her little brother.”
“Gabbi’s made such an impact on so many people,” said Woolbright, who identified herself as a friend of Gabbi’s parents, Brian and Amy Doolin. “The whole community has just come together completely, wanting to see justice, wanting to see that the right thing happens.”
Sitting outside a local diner he owns that bears his name, Sam Carter called the violence “unreal” and said he’d never seen a crime like it, even during the four years he served as Allen County sheriff.
“It just brought reality to our community … bad things really do happen in the world,” he said.
At 7:40 p.m. Nov. 14, 2015, Gabbi was reported missing by her parents at Allen County-Scottsville High School, where her then-11-year-old brother, Alec, was playing in a football game.
Not even a half-hour later, her body was discovered in a wooded area in a creek behind the school.
Six days later, Timothy Madden of Scottsville, then 38 years old, was arrested by Kentucky State Police and charged with kidnapping, first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and murder in the case. Police said at the time that DNA evidence linked Madden to Gabbi.
Hundreds of mourners attended Gabbi’s funeral in Scottsville, and her death affected many across the region and even nationally, with nearly 1,000 people contributing more than $40,000 to an online fundraising campaign for the family.
At the time, Woolbright recalled another community member decorating the town’s square with pink and blue bows to honor Gabbi. “New bows have gone up, you know, every single year to keep that going,” she said.
On Saturday, with the start of his long-anticipated trial expected to begin early next month, Madden reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, thereby avoiding a trial – and the potential for a death sentence.
On the charges of kidnapping and murder, which both carry a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Madden pleaded guilty, according to Allen County Commonwealth Attorney Corey Morgan.
On the charges of first-degree rape and sodomy, which both carry a sentence of 50 years, Madden agreed to take an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to deny guilt in those crimes while still acknowledging enough evidence exists for a jury to find the defendant guilty.
In an email to the Daily News on Monday, Morgan issued a statement that read in part:
“The only way the Commonwealth would agree to the Alford pleas on the rape and sodomy is if the Commonwealth was allowed to present the evidence we have regarding the rape and sodomy at the sentencing hearing,” Morgan wrote.
“We believe that because Madden will not accept responsibility for those two charges, the community of Scottsville and Allen County should know the details of his crime and the strength of the Commonwealth’s evidence.”
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23-24.
Morgan wrote further that Gabbi’s parents were present for the hearing Saturday and “agree with this result.”
“This will not only keep Gabbi’s murderer from ever getting out of prison, but will also give at least some closure to the family and avoid them having to go through many years of appeals in the judicial process. In addition, it was important for them to hear Madden accept responsibility for the (kidnapping) and murder. There was not a dry eye among the family while the plea was being received by the court,” Morgan wrote.
Responding to the surprise news, Woolbright said she was “thankful” that the Doolin family would be spared further pain from a difficult trial.
“They don’t need that. They’ve been through enough,” she said.
Still, Woolbright expressed frustration about the length of the case against Madden, describing the conclusion as “bittersweet.”
Carter, the county’s former sheriff, said that while he believes in the justice system and in due process, “sometimes I think it takes a while to get there.”
Regardless of the case’s outcome, the Doolin family has the community’s support, he said.
“They’re a great family and we love them and we support them,” he said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.
Attorneys in the Timothy Madden case were in negotiations for a couple of weeks before Madden’s unexpected change of plea Saturday that allowed him to avoid capital punishment.
The resolution, which entailed a guilty plea to charges of murder and kidnapping and an Alford plea on charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy, came with the approval of Gabriella “Gabbi” Doolin’s family.
Gabbi, 7, was found dead Nov. 14, 2015, in a creek located in a wooded area near Allen County-Scottsville High School on a night when a youth football league game was taking place.
A state medical examiner’s report listed strangulation by unspecified means and drowning as the causes of death and noted injuries that appeared to indicate Gabbi was raped and sodomized.
Madden’s trial had been set to begin Sept. 4 in Hardin County.
The plea agreement recommends that Madden, 42, of Scottsville, serve a life sentence with no possibility of parole.
“Gabriella’s parents have shown great mercy to both the defendant and the defendant’s family,” Allen Circuit Judge Janet Crocker said in video footage from Saturday’s change of plea hearing.
Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney Corey Morgan said Madden’s defense team extended the initial offer to settle the case.
The subsequent negotiations resulted in the crafting of a plea agreement that Madden accepted and that satisfied Gabbi’s family, who Morgan said preferred the finality of a guilty plea to the emotional extremes of the trial process and the prospect of lengthy appeals in the event of a jury sending Madden to death row.
“The family knew that there would be years of appeals (following a death penalty conviction) and (Madden) never would have admitted guilt,” Morgan said. “One of the things they wanted him to do was to admit that he had murdered their child. ... We wouldn’t do anything without the family being involved every step of the way in a case like this that is so incredibly personal.”
A witness list Morgan filed last week featured 32 names, including Gabbi’s parents, a number of people believed to be present in the area where she went missing and 15 members of Kentucky State Police, which led the investigation.
Court filings indicated Gabbi was last seen alive about 30 minutes before the discovery of her body, playing hide-and-seek with a friend, and that Madden was seen speaking with Gabbi just before her disappearance.
Evidence collected from the crime scene and from Madden’s residence was reviewed by forensic analysts at the KSP Central Crime Lab, and DNA matching a sample collected from Madden was found on multiple items, court records show.
During the course of the investigation, police also collected DNA samples from Madden’s son, Bradley Madden, and from a man who helped the Doolin family search for Gabbi who had been arrested recently on a sexual abuse charge.
Court records indicate Bradley Madden and the other person were eliminated as possible contributors to the DNA that matched the sample collected from Timothy Madden.
Morgan said the forensic analysis provided the most compelling evidence of Madden’s guilt.
“KSP did a superb job and went over and beyond a lot of investigations I’ve seen,” Morgan said. “The scientific proof made a very strong case that, without a question, the defendant was the one who committed these crimes.”
Crocker has set two days, Oct. 23-24, for final sentencing.
The first day is anticipated to be devoted to Morgan putting on evidence that proves Madden’s involvement in the sex offenses and that expounds on how Gabbi’s death has impacted her family.
Madden’s defense team, led by attorney Tom Griffiths of the state Department of Public Advocacy, is anticipated to use the second day to put on mitigating evidence.
Griffiths did not return a message seeking comment.
Under the Alford plea to the rape and sodomy charges, Madden denies committing those particular crimes but acknowledges that the prosecution has evidence to persuade a jury to convict on those counts.
“For all intents and purposes (an Alford plea) is exactly the same as if you pled guilty outright,” Morgan said. “Sometimes a defendant will make an Alford plea because they don’t want certain people to think they took responsibility for that particular charge.”
Morgan said sex offenses sometimes lend themselves to Alford pleas because defendants are too embarrassed to admit to the acts that led to the criminal charges.
Planning for the energy future, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities has two main options: maintain a short-term contract or join a 20-year “evergreen” contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency President Doug Buresh presented a third, less viable option – joining KYMEA – to the BGMU board Monday.
Following years of rate increases, blocked renewable projects and inefficient investments from Kentucky Utilities, small municipalities across the state disbanded from the state’s largest utility to create a more democratic utility agency, according to Buresh.
KYMEA’s goal is to reduce customers’ energy costs while providing transparency and “a voice in decision-making,” Buresh said.
Charles Musson, BGMU’s bond attorney and counsel for KYMEA, described the organization as a “project agency,” because members have the possibility to together fund new energy sources.
The most notable KYMEA-funded project is an 800-acre solar farm in eastern Kentucky that could be online by 2022. (The joint agency is still predominantly coal-based.)
KYMEA estimated BGMU would spend 6.2 cents per kilowatt-hour with its agency versus 7.5 cents per kWh with TVA.
For BGMU, one major issue with this proposal boils down to transmission: TVA owns the power lines that run through Bowling Green – so BGMU would have to construct about 30 miles of wires to connect to the nearest non-TVA transmission network, BGMU General Manager Mark Iverson said.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued rules in 1996 to equalize the power marketplace by reducing “undue discrimination in access to the monopoly-owned transmission wires that control whether and to whom electricity can be transported in interstate commerce.”
But TVA is exempt, so TVA transmission lines only carry TVA power.
“That’s a card they’re never going to let go of,” Iverson said.
Building the needed transmission to leave TVA could easily cost BGMU between $100 million and $200 million.
So, for now, BGMU will likely stick with TVA.
Ernie Peterson, TVA’s general manager for Kentucky, presented a pitch for TVA’s 20-year “evergreen,” automatic renewal contract, which would entail BGMU being bound to TVA for 20 years beyond the day the local utility announces it wants to terminate the contract.
With the new contract, TVA would offer a 3.1 percent “partnership credit” – basically a monthly rebate – to any of its customers that agree to sign.
On Monday, 15 of TVA’s 154 local power companies had signed up.
Several BGMU board members voiced concerns regarding the long-term commitment.
Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson, who is also a BGMU board member, expressed concerns about whether unforeseen expenses such as a dam failure would affect rates and whether BGMU could add generation, such as a community solar farm.
When TVA addresses its coal ash ponds, for example, it could spend $3 billion, or it could spend as much as $10 billion, according to Iverson. If it’s on the higher end, there could be a rate change that isn’t subject to the rate protections in the 20-year proposal.
Todd Davis, a BGMU board member, questioned whether a 20-year commitment would be the wisest decision – in case there’s a solution presented to the current transmission problem.
“If an arrangement is proposed during those 20 years … we can’t act on it,” Davis said.
But despite concerns, Iverson suggested this long-term plan might be the best available option, offering “stability.”
BGMU could vote on TVA’s proposed contract as early as the next meeting Sept. 9.
– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggersdailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.
Nov. 14, 2015, 7:40 p.m. — Seven-year-old Gabriella “Gabbi” Doolin is reported missing by her parents at Allen County-Scottsville High School, where her brother is playing in a football game.
Nov. 14, 2015, 8:05 p.m. — Gabbi’s body is discovered in a wooded area near a creek behind the school.
Nov. 20, 2015, 11:23 a.m. — Timothy Madden, then 38, of Scottsville, is arrested by Kentucky State Police and charged with kidnapping, first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and murder in the case. As Madden was leaving KSP Post 3 in Bowling Green to be processed, he told assembled media “I’m innocent.” He is lodged in the Barren County Detention Center in Glasgow on a $1 million cash bond (he was later moved to the Christian County Detention Center). His arrest citation reports that DNA evidence links Madden to Gabbi.
Nov. 23, 2015 — Madden enters a not guilty plea as the case draws national attention.
March 11, 2016 — The Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office files a notice that it will seek the death penalty against Madden.
Nov. 14, 2016 — More than 300 people fill Scottsville’s downtown square for a remembrance event in honor of Gabbi on the one-year anniversary of her death.
March 24, 2017 — Madden defense attorney Travis Lock files a petition to have the Madden trial moved out of Allen County, claiming that three out of every four people surveyed in the county believe Madden is guilty.
Aug. 31, 2017 — A judge grants the petition to move the Madden trial to a location to be determined.
Jan. 5, 2018 — The Madden trial is moved to Hardin County, and the start date, previously scheduled for Feb. 26, 2018, is postponed indefinitely.
Feb. 28, 2018 — The Madden trial is scheduled to start July 23, 2018.
May 22, 2018 — Lock is disqualified from further representation in the case after Allen Circuit Judge Janet Crocker finds Madden is unable to afford to pay for his legal defense and, by law, no longer entitled to the attorney of his choice due to being indigent. The Department of Public Advocacy is appointed to represent Madden. The ruling again postpones the trial indefinitely. Tom Griffiths, capital trial attorney with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, is later named to represent Madden.
Sept. 25, 2018 — Madden’s trial is set to start Sept. 4, 2019.
Nov. 6, 2018 — Incumbent 49th Judicial Circuit Commonwealth’s Attorney Clint Willis is defeated by Corey Morgan in the general election, meaning Morgan is now leading Madden’s prosecution. Crocker says at a pretrial conference that she does not want the trial delayed any further.
Aug. 7, 2019 — At a pretrial conference, attorneys on both sides of the case said they expect the trial to start as scheduled Sept. 4.
Aug. 24, 2019 — Madden enters an Alford plea on his rape and sodomy charges and pleads guilty on murder and kidnapping charges. A sentencing hearing is set for Oct. 23.