SCOTTSVILLE – An Allen County couple admitted in court Friday to multiple acts of abuse that left an 18-month-old toddler in their care critically injured.
Shiaanne Leslie Davenport, 21, and Nicholas Austin Mesker, 21, both of Scottsville, pleaded guilty in Allen Circuit Court to a count of first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree criminal abuse.
The victim in the case is identified as Davenport’s son.
Each defendant accepted a plea agreement that recommends a 15-year prison sentence. Davenport and Mesker will return to court Dec. 17 to be sentenced by Allen Circuit Judge Janet Crocker.
Their cases had been set for trial next month, when they could have received up to 40 years in prison after a conviction.
Davenport and Mesker came under investigation after police were called in the early morning hours of Oct. 8, 2018, to The Medical Center at Scottsville regarding possible child abuse.
Law enforcement received information that the toddler had gotten into the bathtub four days earlier and received facial burns from scalding water after turning on the shower.
“The child reportedly had not eaten or drank anything since the incident,” Detective William Francis of the Allen County Sheriff’s Office wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant.
Detectives observed the burn injury to the child’s face that caused the skin to peel off and also saw apparent circular burn marks on the child’s legs, torso, back and arms.
A number of bruises were also located on the child’s body, court records show.
“I was also advised that the child may have a skull fracture and a possible arm fracture,” Francis said in the affidavit. “There was another injury to the back of the child’s head near the skull and spine intersection.”
Doctors believed the child’s airway had been singed, according to court records.
The critically injured toddler was transported to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville for additional treatment.
The case was turned over to Kentucky State Police. During an interview with KSP, Davenport showed investigators a picture on her phone of the child’s injuries on the day they occurred, according to court records.
Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney Corey Morgan disclosed in a court filing that a medical expert was expected to testify at trial that the burns on the child’s body may have been chemical in nature.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson praised the work the Housing Authority of Bowling Green is doing with its EnVision Center during a tour Friday.
The Housing Authority of Bowling Green was one of the first in the country to establish an EnVision Center last year.
EnVision Centers are hubs in or near public housing that aim to support four pillars of self-sufficiency: economic empowerment, educational advancement, health and wellness and character and leadership through a variety of programs, according to a HUD news release that also touted the Housing Authority of Bowling Green as a model of how housing authorities across the country should be operated.
“I am exceedingly impressed,” said Carson. “It is so important to give our young people a vision of what is possible. America is full of people with big hearts and there’s a lot of facilities and resources in virtually every community that are there specifically to help other people. It is just that a lot of times they are not connected. People don’t know they’re there.”
Programs featured at the Housing Authority of Bowling Green include Reach Higher, a six-month program providing 30 hours of paid work experience per week with a wage of $7.25 per hour. Other programs Carson observed Friday included a mobile grocery store that serves a food desert in the Gordon Avenue and Summit View area in a bus donated by the Warren County Public School system.
“EnVision centers help to bring those resources together,” Carson said. “The whole idea is to make people independent because that’s what America is. America is a society of can-do people. We need unity in this country right now and our young people are really our most precious resource. They can go one of two directions and if we can make that an upward direction in which they become contributors, where they become innovative and they think about how they solve problems instead of creating problems, think of how much faster we could go.”
Carson said he was thrilled with what was going on at Bowling Green’s EnVision Center.
“This is just what you need for people to get exposed to people of accomplishment,” he said, adding that centers have begun popping up across the country including most recently in Newport News, Va.; Phoenix; Meridian, Miss., and LaGrange, Ga.
“People are beginning to recognize the importance of giving people the resources they need so they can begin to climb out of dependency. It not only strengthens them, it strengthens the community and the nation.”
Moving forward, Carson said he believes the next problem to tackle is divisiveness.
“It never leads to a good place when a society becomes divided,” Carson said. “It is frequently the precursor to that society’s downfall. This society we live in, we live in a great place. I’ve visited 68 countries and I’ve lived overseas. There is no place like our country and we should be very grateful that we were born here.”
“You talk about people all over the country and all over the world but I want to talk about the people in Bowling Green, Kentucky,” said Abraham Williams, the executive director of the Housing Authority of Bowling Green. “We have the best of the best in this room and they come here to support our kids. You are looking at people who care not just on one side of the town but the entire town. ... God has really blessed this housing authority to have such a wonderful community.”
If traffic into Beech Bend Park’s high-profile events moves next year as smoothly as a Beech Bend Road widening plan moved Friday through Warren County Fiscal Court, Josh Moore will be a happy man.
Moore, Warren County public works director, played a key role in developing a plan to widen a 1,650-foot section of Beech Bend Road as a way to ease traffic congestion during popular events such as the Holley LS Fest held each September.
That plan moved forward Friday when all six magistrates voted to accept the $351,820 bid from Scotty’s Contracting and Stone to add 5.5 feet to each side of the road from Garvin Lane to Beech Bend Park Road, creating two lanes into the park and a dedicated way out on Garvin Lane.
“Those 1,650 feet will make a very large impact on those very large events at Beech Bend,” Moore said. “This will eliminate the backup for 80 percent of the events held at the park.
“My hope is that by coordinating with law enforcement, we’ll see a reduction in wait times from five hours or so down to about two hours for the big events. I expect a backup, but I don’t want to see it for hours.”
Neither does Bill Tichenor, marketing director for Holley Performance Products.
Speaking at the fiscal court meeting, Tichenor pointed out that the Holley LS Fest grew from 25,000 visitors to 35,000 in a single year.
“It was mayhem this year,” Tichenor said. “Some people went home (because of the traffic issues). It gave Holley and Beech Bend a black eye.”
With help from the professional traffic and safety personnel he has hired in the past, Tichenor believes the road-widening plan will ease congestion.
“I think this is the most cost-effective way to do it,” he said. “You’re effectively doubling the amount of cars you can get into Beech Bend.”
And that’s important, said Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sherry Murphy, because Beech Bend is an important engine powering Bowling Green’s tourism industry.
“The impact Beech Bend has on our community is huge,” Murphy said. “Millions of dollars are spent in our community as a result of the events held there.
“Right now, the park’s reputation is very favorable; but if we can’t solve the traffic problems, we will lose that. This plan is the least obtrusive and the least expensive.”
The road-widening plan isn’t popular with all residents along the road, but the magistrates and Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon see it as the most cost-effective plan for easing congestion.
“To do nothing is not prudent,” said Sixth District Magistrate Ron Cummings, who made the motion to accept the bid.
Buchanon, who said improvements to the 2.75-mile-long Beech Bend Road have been talked about for years, admitted that he had a different plan in mind originally.
“My idea was to widen Beech Bend Road from start to finish,” he said. “Originally, I didn’t think this particular plan would work, but now I think it provides for the greatest amount of traffic flow and the least intrusion into people’s lives.”
The widening, which Moore hopes to see completed by next spring, will come at a modest cost to the county budget, although it’s more than original estimates.
Moore first thought the $252,500 Warren County is receiving in state discretionary road funding would be enough to pay for the project, but the Scotty’s bid leaves $99,320 to be picked up by the county’s general fund.
He said that amount could be reduced by $30,000 or so because utility costs aren’t expected to be as high as what was projected in the bid. The bottom line of less than $70,000 out of the county budget looks like a bargain to Moore.
“Where else can you make a road improvement for that kind of money?” he said.
Some people living along Beech Bend Road don’t agree.
Characterizing the widening plan as “ill-advised” and “a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Beech Bend Road resident Kenneth Deputy believes the plan to improve the road needs more study.
“I don’t think this will solve the problem,” Deputy said. “It’s backed up on one lane and now you’re adding a second lane that will also be backed up. It doesn’t make sense that it will solve anything.”
Moore and Buchanon met earlier this week with Beech Bend-area residents who had concerns, and one of those came away feeling better about the plan that was approved Friday.
“I appreciate Judge Buchanon giving us an opportunity to express our concerns,” Tad Donnelly said. “I think they have a good plan. I feel good that all the stakeholders involved are communicating and coordinating.
“Beech Bend has done an incredible job in the community, and I want them to be successful.”
Another resident of the Beech Bend area, Tom Reynolds, said improvements to Beech Bend Road aren’t what’s needed.
“I don’t know what the full details are,” Reynolds said, “but the problem, I think, is inside the park.”
Moore has heard that argument and said Friday: “It’s possible to still make some improvements inside the park, but this is a first step that had to happen. We will continue to plan and talk.”
In other action taken at Friday’s meeting, the magistrates approved spending $3,875 (covered by insurance) to C & P Construction Company for stonework and drywall repair at the Warren County Justice Center that was needed after a car ran into the building.
They also approved spending $1,525 to Patterson & Westbrook for electrical power installation at the new outdoor warning siren at Mt. Pleasant Church on Ky. 185.
Warren County Drug Task Force Director Tommy Loving reported that the task force is using federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking program funds to purchase two camcorders at a total cost of $2,040.