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Bac Totrong / Bac Totrong/Daily News 

Lost River Elementary School principal Beth Croslin hugs a student Wednesday, August 7, 2019, during the first day of school. (Bac Totrong/

Bac Totrong / Bac Totrong/Daily News 

Renee Rutheford (right) kisses her son Nathaniel Rutheford, 5, Wednesday, August 7, 2019, during the first day of school at Lost River Elementary School. (Bac Totrong/

Bac Totrong / Bac Totrong/Daily News 

Lost River Elementary School kindergarten teacher Theresa Trosper (center) lines up her students Wednesday, August 7, 2019, during the first day of school. (Bac Totrong/

Judge: Arrest of man suspected in fatal overdose was lawful
 Justin Story  / 

Damone Bell

Police had reasonable suspicion to arrest a man suspected in the fatal overdose of a Bowling Green woman, a federal judge has determined.

Damone Bell, 23, is charged with distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.

Federal prosecutors are seeking to hold Bell responsible for the July 30, 2018, death of Kaitlin McKinney, 23, of Bowling Green, who suffered an overdose.

Investigators were led to Bell when McKinney’s boyfriend, Logan Cesler, told police he purchased the drugs that led to the overdose, provided officers with a cellphone number tied to Bell and identified him in a photo lineup of six people.

Law enforcement had Cesler arrange a second drug deal with Bell through text messages, resulting in Bell’s arrest the day after McKinney’s overdose.

Attorney Patrick Bouldin, the federal public defender representing Bell, moved to suppress the evidence that police seized from Bell’s car and the statements he provided to police in custody.

In a ruling Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brent Brennenstuhl found that police had reasonable suspicion to arrest Bell, citing the investigation that included reviewing security footage of the convenience store parking lot where the drug deal took place and text exchanges between Cesler and Bell.

Special Agent David Hayes of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified at a June hearing that police at the traffic stop detected an odor of marijuana from Bell’s car, and a police K-9 alerted on the presence of suspected marijuana and heroin in the vehicle.

Brennenstuhl found that police had probable cause to search the vehicle, and the arrest was justified.

Bouldin argued in his motion that the photo lineup violated Bell’s due process rights, but Brennenstuhl found that the lineup presented to Cesler did not unduly steer him toward identifying Bell as the suspect.

“The totality of the circumstances indicate that Cesler’s identification of Bell was reliable,” Brennenstuhl said in his written opinion. “Cesler was in close proximity to Bell twice on July 30: once when he was allegedly approached by Bell and received his phone number and again when he purchased the heroin in the passenger seat of Bell’s car. Such close proximity provided ample opportunity for Cesler to obtain a clear view of Bell.”

Brennenstuhl did recommend that a portion of Bell’s police interview be suppressed, determining that Bell invoked his right to remain silent in response to a question from Hayes about who he intended to sell heroin to that day.

Hayes continued to interview Bell until he invoked his right to remain silent a second time, court records show.

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit

Slaying suspect in local custody after capture in Philippines
 Justin Story  / 

A man tied to a Bowling Green homicide was brought to custody in Warren County after reportedly attempting to evade capture abroad.

Antonio Marsonel Wilson, 40, of Smiths Grove, was booked Sunday into the Warren County Regional Jail.

Wilson and Jeffery Smith, 46, of Bowling Green, are charged in an alleged murder-for-hire plot that resulted in the death of Smajo Miropija, 49, of Bowling Green, whose body was found Feb. 8 at Mega Transport at 263 Porter Pike.

Wilson is scheduled to appear Friday in Warren District Court for a preliminary hearing on a count of complicity to commit murder.

Indictments returned this year charged Wilson with complicity to commit murder, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse.

Smith is charged with murder, tampering with physical evidence and receiving stolen property.

An arrest warrant sworn by Detective Eric Stroud of the Bowling Green Police Department said Wilson solicited, commanded or conspired with Smith to kill Miropija.

Smith’s girlfriend, Angel Cook, was present during a conversation Feb. 8 between Wilson and Smith in which she heard Wilson solicit Smith to “get someone out of their life,” the warrant said, referring to Wilson and his girlfriend.

“Jeffery Smith later admitted to Angel Cook, the afternoon of the murder, that he in fact had caused the death of Smajo Miropija that morning in exchange for payment from Antonio Wilson,” Stroud said in the warrant, adding that Miropija was strangled.

The warrant was signed March 22 by Warren District Judge Brent Potter and executed Sunday when Wilson was booked locally after being extradited from the Philippines and brought to the U.S. He initially spent time in custody in Atlanta.

Court documents detail a murder-for-hire plot, with law enforcement alleging that Wilson paid Smith to kill the father of Wilson’s girlfriend in retribution for a physical altercation between Wilson and that man.

On Feb. 9, the day after Miropija’s body was discovered, city police made contact with Wilson, who declined to speak with officers but said he would come in later that day for questioning.

After several unsuccessful attempts to contact Wilson, police learned Feb. 11 that he made an unplanned trip to Chicago the previous day and flew from there to the Philippines, with a scheduled return date of March 1, court records show.

A news release from the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration said Wilson was arrested March 27 and described him as a “hardened and incorrigible criminal whose presence here poses a serious threat to the lives and well-being of Filipinos.”

Smith has pleaded not guilty in Warren Circuit Court to the charges against him and is scheduled to appear in court Monday for a pretrial conference.

Kentucky State Police arrested Smith on Feb. 26 at a traffic safety checkpoint on Ky. 185 after troopers detected an odor of marijuana coming from his vehicle.

Smith pulled away from troopers and reached into his jacket when law enforcement attempted to handcuff him, according to an arrest citation said.

Smith was struck in his right arm with a police baton in order to loosen the grip on his steering wheel and troopers found a loaded handgun in his jacket, his arrest citation said.

A search warrant executed at his Girkin Road residence led to the seizure of three additional firearms, one of which was reported stolen, leading to additional charges against Smith.

During an interview with BGPD investigators, Smith implicated himself and Wilson in Miropija’s death, court records show.

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit

Downtown development getting two commercial tenants
 Don Sergent  / 

Developers of The Vue and Lenox Place residential complexes have already brought more than 100 apartment dwellers into downtown Bowling Green. Now they’re bringing a couple new businesses as well.

Michael Vitale, a partner in the New Millennium Real Estate group largely responsible for developing both projects, said Monday that The Vue has leased all 73 of its residential units along State Street and that the 41 units at Lenox Place on Chestnut Street are spoken for as well.

Retailers Shop Local Kentucky and Local Underground Access are now ready to set up shop on the ground floor of the three-story, $8.5 million The Vue project, joining the Hickory & Oak restaurant as commercial tenants.

It’s welcome news for proponents of downtown development.

“It’s a great sign for downtown,” said Doug Gorman, chairman of the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority. “It’s exciting to have retail businesses locating in downtown. When you have more density and more people living downtown, it brings in more retail.”

Both of The Vue’s new tenants said residential growth led them to locate downtown.

Shop Local Kentucky, which started in Georgetown six years ago, is opening a 1,200-square-foot shop facing State Street that specializes in Kentucky-themed T-shirts and other apparel.

Co-owner Rick Paynter said Shop Local Kentucky has a 15,000-square-foot production plant and warehouse in Lexington along with a store in Covington. He said the business has been growing by “50 to 60 percent” per year and looking to expand into other parts of the state.

“We knew we wanted a presence in western Kentucky,” Paynter said. “Bowling Green is a strong college town. It made sense that it would be the next place for us to lay down our footprint.”

Paynter said his store will offer Western Kentucky University-themed apparel and merchandise along with custom apparel.

Shop Local Kentucky also forms partnerships to help raise funds for nonprofit organizations, Payner said.

“We started with a giving heart,” he said. “Over the last five years we have donated around half a million dollars.”

The Vue’s other new retail tenant will cater more to local artists and musicians, according to Local Underground Access owner Matthew Wilson.

“We’ll have apparel, art supplies and functional art,” said Wilson, who expects the store to open in late October. “We’ll do community outreach and try to uplift the local art and music scene.”

Wilson said the 1,800-square-foot store will carry apparel and sneakers with designs by local artists.

Vitale, whose partners include Mary Vitale and Steve Sutton on The Vue and Rodney Rogers and Buster Stewart on Lenox Place, said it has been rewarding to see the projects come together and attract residents to downtown.

“We are very pleased with the manner in which The Vue and Lenox Place have leased up,” he said. “Sky Property Management has done an excellent job for us, and Neal Turner Realty did a great job locating our two new retail tenants. The proximity of the apartments and retail space to ... Hickory & Oak certainly helps. There clearly appears to be a healthy demand for downtown living and a need for more amenities and retail within walking distance.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdaily

Warren Schools welcome eight new principals as schools open
 Aaron Mudd  / 

As students filed through the doors of Lost River Elementary School for the start of classes Wednesday, new Principal Beth Croslin hoped to lift spirits with a smile and some kind words.

After the morning assembly, she quickly stepped out of the gym and into the hallway to FaceTime her husband and check on her son Reed, who was also having a big day.

“He is starting kindergarten,” Croslin said.

Her son and daughter, who was starting the fourth grade, were settling into their classes at Natcher Elementary School on Wednesday.

“He’s excited,” Croslin said. “Kindergarten won’t hold him down.”

All told, Lost River Elementary is expecting 550 to 600 students to start school this week. Before Jennings Creek Elementary opened its doors last year, Lost River used to be larger, at one point reaching an enrollment of more than 800 students, Croslin said.

A large portion of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and the school offers free breakfast and lunch to all students.

For Croslin, her new job as Lost River’s principal marks a return to working with elementary students. Croslin has 16 years of teaching experience under her belt but was previously an assistant principal at Henry F. Moss Middle School. She was hired to her current job in May.

On Wednesday, she spent the morning welcoming parents and students in the school’s main hall. Introducing herself to students during morning assembly, Croslin touted the school’s students and teachers and said that both would lead to “the best school year ever.”

“The first day of school is the most exciting day of the whole school year,” Croslin said. “The parents are a little nervous. The kids are excited, and so our goal today was to get everybody in, get them really excited for a new school year, a new principal and get the parents reassured that we’re going to take good care of their children.”

For Chastity London, the parent of new kindergarten student McKenna London, the day marked a milestone as she sent her last child off to start school.

“I’m kind of freaked out,” London said, anticipating “empty nest syndrome.”

London said Croslin helped put her mind at ease.

“We went to open house, and she was very welcoming and good with the kids. We should have a good year,” London said.

Raven Bunton came to see her son Tyshawn Slaughter off to first grade. She started the school year with fewer doubts.

“I’m excited to see him go,” she joked. “I know he’ll be great in first grade.”

After starting her teaching career at Warren Elementary, Croslin spent her career serving in various roles throughout the Warren Central feeder system. After teaching at Warren Elementary for nine years, she moved up to become the school’s intervention coordinator. She then served as the intervention coordinator and later curriculum coordinator at Moss Middle School. She spent three years as the school’s assistant principal.

Croslin is just one of eight new principals in the school district hired to fill positions vacated by either retirements or employees leaving for new opportunities.

Along with Croslin, they include Joey Norman at Warren Central High School, Michael Wix at South Warren Middle School, Jonathan Williams at Warren East High School, Jennifer Jenkins at Warren Elementary, Leslie Shultz at Jody Richards Elementary, Wes Cottongim at Cumberland Trace Elementary and Jeanie Hopkins at Oakland Elementary.

Describing the school’s vision, Croslin said staff strive to build relationships with students to help them unlock their potential.

“We try really hard to form relationships with our students and understand them ... get to know where they come from so that we can bring out the best in them,” Croslin said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit

Damone Bell