A Bowling Green man who pleaded guilty in the fatal shooting of a teenager was sentenced Monday to five years in prison.
Ronnie Alan Guess, 40, pleaded guilty in July to charges of reckless homicide and tampering with physical evidence.
Guess was handling a loaded .22-caliber handgun April 8, 2016, while sitting in a GMC Yukon in a parking lot on Russellville Road when it discharged.
A bullet stuck Justin Vaughn, 18, of Franklin, in the back of the neck. Vaughn, who was also sitting in the vehicle, was hospitalized for 19 days before dying April 27, 2016, at Tri-Star Skyline Medical Center in Nashville.
Guess was indicted on a count of second-degree manslaughter as well as the tampering charge, but he reached a plea agreement with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office that reduced the manslaughter charge to reckless homicide.
Guess confirmed for Warren Circuit Judge Steve Wilson that he read the pre-sentence investigation prepared in his case but made no other statement Monday.
His attorney, Christopher Davenport, made no argument for probation but suggested that he would later file a motion for shock probation, a form of early release available for people convicted of certain low-level felonies.
“We think that’s the best time and place to file that motion,” Davenport said.
When Guess pleaded guilty in July, Davenport said Guess should have reasonably known the gun was loaded and that he was handling the firearm in a reckless manner, leading to the shooting.
Afterward, Guess told someone in a vehicle parked behind the Yukon to hide the handgun somewhere in Pioneer Auto Sales, where the vehicles had been parked, according to police.
Vaughn was a teenager with special needs who competed in area Special Olympics events that included the shot put, standing long jump and 100-meter dash, Vaughn’s family said.
Relatives said Vaughn was friendly with everyone he met and enjoyed going to church.
To promote an active stewardship of trees, the Sierra Club Mammoth Cave Group and the Bowling Green Tree Advisory Board partnered to document the city’s tallest and fattest residents.
In June, volunteers measured the trunks, canopies and heights of the largest known trees. A pecan tree claimed the tallest and widest at 107 feet and 100 feet, respectively, and an Osage orange tree had the thickest trunk with a 20-foot circumference.
On Sunday, the group will hold a community celebration of the largest trees. It will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Warren County Public Library Bob Kirby Branch.
There will be details on the “Big Trees of BG,” a broader discussion on the importance of preserving urban forests and “tree-derivative” refreshments, which will include maple syrup, nuts, fruits, chocolate and chestnuts from one Sierra Club member’s home.
“The goal is to help the public better understand the benefit of trees,” said Jared Weaver, city arborist.
Later this week, there will be an online database posted to bgky.org/tree with the trees’ dimensions and quantifiable benefits, including the estimated amount of oxygen they produce, pollution they absorb and the dollars they give back to the community.
“It’s been well documented that exposure to trees and green spaces improves people’s health,” Weaver said.
And with increasing global temperatures, trees play an important role in sequestering carbon and producing shade.
“If we ever need the shade, it’s today,” said Eleanor Bower, chair of the Mammoth Cave Group.
Sunday’s event is free and open to the public. “I invite everyone to come out and share our love of trees,” Weaver said.
The Sierra Club also invited the “stewards” who share land with the trees.
“We don’t call them owners. The trees live longer,” Bower said.
Next year, the Sierra Club will measure a dozen more trees. They’ve already spotted several trees and encourage people to reach out about other big trees not included in the initial roundup. If interested in participating or sharing a potential big tree, call Weaver at 270-393-3111.
“We hope to continue it as an annual event,” Weaver said.
FRANKFORT – While impeachment drama swirls in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was back home in Kentucky on Monday talking about fighting opioid misuse and confirming conservative judges.
The Republican leader, a steadfast defender of President Donald Trump, made only momentary references to impeachment during his public appearances. McConnell left both events without speaking to reporters.
House Democrats are leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, but McConnell will assume a key role if the matter reaches the Senate. But the potentially monumental issue of whether the president should be removed from office barely came up during McConnell’s speeches Monday.
His only direct reference to impeachment came while speaking to members of the conservative Federalist Society about the Senate process of confirming judges.
“There’s no doubt that the confirmation process means whatever the Senate thinks at any given time,” McConnell said during the appearance at Kentucky’s Capitol in Frankfort. “It’s much like impeachment, which is in the news now. Some people think of it as a judicial-type proceeding. It’s a political decision.”
McConnell has led the push by the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm a slew of conservative judges nominated by Trump to the federal bench.
“My motto for the rest of the year is: Leave no vacancy behind,” the senator said.
McConnell explained at length why he’s made judicial appointments a top priority during the Trump era, even putting confirmations ahead of legislation.
“Why? It’s pretty obvious – lifetime appointments,” he said. “If you want to have an impact on the country, there are not many things that we do that can’t be undone by the next election. ... But there’s not much you can do about a young, strict constructionist who’s committed for a lifetime to the quaint notion that maybe the job of a judge is to follow the law.”
Earlier in the day, McConnell joined in celebrating an $87 million federal grant awarded to the University of Kentucky in the spring to combat opioid misuse. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also attended the event.
The goal of the university’s research team is to reduce opioid-related deaths by 40 percent in 16 Kentucky counties within the next three years. Kentucky has been among the states hardest hit by the deadly opioid misuse epidemic.
“The opportunity to advance causes like this is the kind of thing that gives my colleagues and I enormous job satisfaction,” McConnell said during the campus event in Lexington. “There are a few distractions, as you may have noticed. But if you sort of keep your head on straight and remember why you were sent there (to Washington), there are opportunities to do important things for the country and for the states that we represent.”
Last Friday, when McConnell appeared with Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the University of Louisville, reporters were told that no questions from them would be taken. McConnell and Esper spoke briefly about defense spending.
On Monday, as McConnell was in an elevator on his way out of Kentucky’s Capitol, a McConnell aide told a reporter: “We don’t have time, sorry.”
While McConnell has avoided talking about impeachment while back in Kentucky for the congressional recess, he released a social media campaign ad vowing to stop any Democratic push to remove Trump from office. He’s using the ad to raise campaign funds off the Trump inquiry. McConnell is running for reelection next year.
“All of you know your Constitution,” McConnell said in the video. “The way that impeachment stops is with a Senate majority with me as majority leader.”
McConnell weighed in on another issue Monday, offering a stern warning against abandoning Syrian Kurds who fought the Islamic State group with U.S. troops. It came after Trump said he intends to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria, drawing sharp criticism from some of the president’s closest allies.
“A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said in a statement. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”
Preparations for the upcoming muzzleloader and modern gun deer hunting seasons have taken a new twist for Kentucky hunters.
While being alert for that trophy buck, hunters must now also be alert for signs of a growing threat to their sport and to the health of the deer population.
Chronic wasting disease was discovered in Western states and has been moving eastward for decades. It has now been found in 26 states, including six that border Kentucky. Most recently, CWD-infected deer were found in Tennessee, prompting Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources officials to take action.
Forums have been held across the state in an effort to raise awareness about CWD, a fatal brain disease in deer caused by abnormal proteins called prions.
“Once CWD was detected in Tennessee, our department strengthened rules on import of carcasses,” said Kevin Kelly, chief communications officer for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “You can still bring in antlers, hides and deboned meat.”
Christine Casey, the state wildlife veterinarian, said the brain, spinal column and bones can have high concentrations of prions and could possibly lead to infection of deer in Kentucky if imported.
Casey said there is no known risk to humans from CWD, but she said preventing the disease’s spread to Kentucky is still important.
“We’re definitely concerned about CWD and want to prevent it,” Casey said. “The goal is to keep it from coming into Kentucky. Once it gets into the population of deer, it can have a pretty big impact.”
Although the disease can have a long incubation period during which a CWD-infected deer may not show symptoms, it is always fatal. Symptoms include weight loss, listlessness, lowered head, blank stare and staggering.
CWD can have a devastating impact on the deer population, Casey said. And that can have repercussions for hunters and for the state’s economy.
Gabe Jenkins, deer and elk program coordinator for the state, said deer hunting has an annual economic impact of $550 million in Kentucky. A decrease of only 10 percent in hunting or in the deer population can mean a cut of $55 million to the state’s economy.
There is no live test for CWD, so state officials will be relying on tests of deer harvested this fall. Such testing has been conducted in Kentucky since 2002, and so far the disease has not been detected. The presence of CWD in neighboring states has ramped up detection efforts.
“The department is increasing its efforts this fall and winter to monitor the state for the disease,” Kelly said. “Nobody wants it to come here, but if it does, early detection is important.”
Kelly encourages hunters to donate the head of Kentucky-harvested deer or elk to state officials for testing, and hunters who see deer showing symptoms of CWD can call 800-858-1549.
– For more information about CWD and efforts to prevent it, visit fw.ky.gov website.