RUSSELLVILLE – The trial of a Bowling Green man accused of shooting and killing a woman in her Logan County apartment will begin Monday after a judge denied a motion from the defense team to continue the matter.
Demetrius Roberson, 25, is charged with murder, attempted murder, first-degree robbery and nine counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. He is accused of firing the shot that killed Lexus Bell, 21, during a home invasion robbery Aug. 21, 2016, at her residence at Robinwood Apartments in Russellville.
Four co-defendants have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and are anticipated to testify against Roberson at the trial in Logan Circuit Court. Roberson faces a maximum sentence of life without parole if he is convicted.
On Wednesday, Logan Circuit Judge Tyler Gill denied a motion from Roberson’s defense team to continue the trial.
Filed shortly before Wednesday’s hearing, the motion from attorney Audrey Woosnam of the state Department of Public Advocacy contended that a review Tuesday of evidence held by Logan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Neil Kerr turned up some discrepancies between what the prosecution said it provided to the defense and what the defense said it had seen.
Woosnam’s motion said CDs provided to the defense purportedly containing recordings of police interviews with three people – including a co-defendant, and two phone conversations – turned out to be blank.
“We will not have an adequate opportunity to incorporate whatever is (in the CDs) ... into our presentation at trial,” Woosnam said Wednesday.
Roberson’s attorneys previously raised concerns about having an incomplete file of evidence from the prosecution. Russellville Police Department Detective Kenneth Edmonds, the lead investigator, said he provided everything in his case file to the prosecution.
The motion also contended that Kerr’s predecessor in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, Justin Crocker, denied a request from Roberson’s defense team to personally view evidence in Crocker’s possession relating to the case.
Gill pressed Woosnam and attorney Michael Bufkin, who also represents Roberson, on this claim, asking them to specify when and where Crocker refused the request.
Bufkin said it was at some point last year while conferencing with Crocker in the courtroom.
Gill said that denial would have been an “inexplicable” reversal of the prosecution’s open discovery policy and asked what Bufkin did about it, to which Bufkin said “nothing.”
“Wouldn’t that (refusal) strike you as odd?” Gill asked Bufkin. “Wouldn’t you bring that to the court’s attention?”
During the hearing, Gill called Crocker, now an assistant prosecutor in another judicial circuit after losing to Kerr in last year’s election, to ask about the incident.
Crocker said he did not remember denying Roberson’s defense team access to his files, adding that he felt he and Bufkin worked well with each other.
Gill asked Roberson’s attorneys for further clarification on their contention that they were not given access to all the prosecution’s evidence and, if so, why they did nothing in response.
“We believed that if we filed a motion to inspect the file, you would not address it because it would not be your place to do so,” Woosnam said.
“The reason you didn’t file a motion is the judge’s fault, did I hear that right?” Gill said in response.
The judge asked Roberson’s attorneys when they received the CDs that turned out to be blank, and Bufkin said they began getting copies of CDs last year.
Gill followed up by asking when they first noticed the blank CDs, and Woosnam said during a review of the evidence within the past few weeks.
Kerr said he had worked with the defense attorneys to make sure that they had access to the same evidence as his office, and sought to avoid any evidentiary issues that could potentially cause a conviction to be overturned on appeal.
“My only concern is I want to try this case once,” Kerr said. “I don’t want Lexus’ parents to go through with this more than once. ... I’ve done everything I can to put everything out there.”
Saying that the case was important to Roberson and Bell’s family, Gill denied the motion to continue the trial.
“If I were to believe the defense attorneys, they are confessing to absolute incompetence,” Gill said in court, addressing the defense team. “They are provided with a CD last year and don’t find out until a few weeks before the trial that there’s nothing on it. ... You’ve got four days, and I expect you to be prepared.”
The judge had some pointed remarks for Bufkin.
“You’re licensed to practice in the state of Kentucky, and I think your license is on the line because you’ve put on the record what you’ve done and what you haven’t done,” Gill said. “I owe it to the people of Kentucky that this case gets resolved one way or the other.”
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.
Mammoth Cave National Park is postponing the closure of the Green River Ferry until July 15 or later because of construction delays.
Two years ago, the removal of Lock and Dam 6 lowered the Green River about 18 inches and subsequently caused more frequent ferry closures. The park hired a contractor to extend the vehicular access ramps by 30 feet. But the contractor will be unable to begin work before mid-July, a month behind the original schedule.
“We’re not going to close down operations unless we know they’re going to be on site, ready to start their work,” park spokeswoman Molly Schroer said.
That’s partially because most of the 250 daily passengers crossing the Green River Ferry are local residents who are commuting.
To cross the park during construction, visitors coming from the park visitor center will need to travel through Brownsville and over the Nolin River Dam. From the north, visitors should use Exit 65 from Interstate 65 toward Munfordville.
The park began planning this project shortly after removing the dam, but “there’s a lot of things to put in place and get coordinated before we put the shovels in the ground,” Schroer said.
Part of that preparation involved moving mussels living near the ferry to a safe location. In late May, scientists and conservationists helped transport nearly 2,600 mussels to a mussel bed upstream.
This number surprised the scientists, since they just relocated about 1,100 mussels from the same spot a few years ago in anticipation of the project.
But it appeared the mussels moved back in greater numbers.
“They got a lot more than they thought they would,” Schroer said. “They thought the population number would be down.”
The scientists found 28 species – including several endangered sheepnose mussels and 18 endangered fanshells – during the five-day undertaking.
This work was critical because mussels act as a filter and help clean the biodiverse river. Mussels also provide a good indication of river health.
“The healthier the (mussel) population, the healthier the river is,” Schroer said.
As of now, the contractor has indicated the work will be able to be completed on schedule by Nov. 15.
Once the project is completed, the park will launch a retrofitted ferry boat that will sit higher on the water, carry up to 12 tons of weight, including seating and bike storage, and will have ramps that reach further up the shoreline.
– For more information and for updates, visit nps.gov/maca/green-river-ferry- improvement-projects.htm.
– Follow reporter Caroline Eggers on Twitter @eggers dailynews or visit bgdaily news.com.
FRANKFORT (AP) – The fire that destroyed a Jim Beam warehouse filled with aging bourbon continued to burn Thursday as officials said the decision on whether to extinguish was still a day or two away.
Woodford County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler said the only thing left burning was ethanol fumes. Officials believe letting the fumes burn will have less environmental impact than spraying the fire with water, which could wash the bourbon into a nearby creek that flows into the Kentucky River.
An unknown amount of bourbon had already entered the water and was clearly visible Wednesday on the Kentucky River.
Environmental Protection Agency officials have been on the scene since Thursday to help assess and contain the damage.
No one was injured in the blaze that erupted Tuesday in the warehouse near the Woodford-Franklin county line, where about 45,000 barrels of bourbon were stored.
It sent flames that could be seen for miles shooting into the night sky and generating so much heat that firetruck lights melted.
Lightning might have been a factor, but fire investigators haven’t been able to start looking for the cause.
Chandler said Thursday that all the barrels have burned and the liquid has pooled in the foundation.
“But there’s so much debris, we can’t see how much liquid is left,” he said.
The debris includes bricks, cinder blocks and metal, including the bands that held the barrels together.
Chandler said heavy equipment is being brought in to move the debris, but so far the fire is too hot for the equipment to get near the site. A fire crew was standing by, and law enforcement agents were at the site to prevent trespassing, he said.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said in a news release that runoff from the fire is expected to create low dissolved oxygen levels in the Kentucky River and its tributary, Glenns Creek, which could result in substantial fish kills.
Beam Suntory officials said they are working with authorities to assess environmental effects.
The distilling company said the warehouse contained “relatively young whiskey,” meaning it had not reached maturity for bottling for consumers. Bourbon acquires its color and flavor while aging for years in charred oak barrels.
“Given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers,” the spirits company said in a statement. The destroyed whiskey amounted to about 1 percent of Beam’s bourbon inventory, it said.
Jim Beam is the world’s best-selling bourbon brand. The classic American whiskey brand is owned by Suntory Holdings Ltd., a Japanese company.
Working with refugee youths at the Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky, Jessie Meier said they face challenges native-born American youths never experience.
In the eyes of their refugee parents, Meier said, the youths are expected to have a job immediately after graduating high school to help support their family – and go to college.
That’s why Meier is excited about a new refugee youth mentorship program for which the center is seeking volunteers.
“We found that the needs of child and youth refugees aren’t being met by adult programs,” Meier said.
The program will help refugee youths navigate their higher education options and job opportunities after they collect their high school diplomas, Meier said.
“We still need about 40 more mentors,” said Albert Mbanfu, the International Center’s executive director.
The center’s goal is to have about 60 adult mentors who can commit two hours each week to spend time with their mentees, helping them integrate into American life. Mentor candidates must be willing to submit to a background check and training provided by the center, Mbanfu said.
After they’re trained on the center’s “do’s and don’ts,” Mbanfu said mentors will be matched with families and that the center hopes to help 60 to 80 young people. The program targets middle school and high school students, and even high school graduates up to 19 years old, Mbanfu said.
The project is funded through the Kentucky Office for Refugees in Louisville and aims to expand the center’s programming beyond support services for adult refugees resettling in Bowling Green.
“We’ve been doing quite a good job of attending to the needs of adults,” Mbanfu said, adding that “We’ve not paid perfect attention” to young refugees.
Previously, Mbanfu told the Daily News that mentors could help young refugees with their English and study skills, take them on museum visits and offer guidance on how to navigate college and career options after high school.
Young refugees also have to adjust to a new culture after spending years in refugee camps, Mbanfu said.
“When they come in they will need to know how to carry out activities and operate in the community,” he said.
– Those interested in becoming a mentor should contact the International Center at 270-781-8336 or go online at icofky.org/volunteer.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.