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Murder indictment returned in deadly ATV crash

A man arrested after a fatal ATV crash in Warren County has been formally charged with murder.

A Warren County grand jury last week indicted McKinley Brown, 22, of Burkesville, on charges of murder and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (second offense within 10 years).

Brown was arrested after an ATV rolled into a creek early Jan. 3 near Eden Road, trapping passenger Hope E. Turner, 22, of Bowling Green, underwater.

The sheriff’s office received a call about the crash about 3 a.m. Jan. 3, an arrest citation said.

Deputy Sam Scarborough said in the arrest citation that he was met at the scene by a person on another ATV who pointed out the site of the overturned vehicle. The person said he thought everyone had gotten out of the water, and he left to get blankets, the citation said.

Scarborough then drove until he reached a wooded area at the end of a field, then followed a trail until he reached the bank of a creek where two ATVs were parked with their lights on.

“I made my way down the water and I ran into McKinley Brown,” Scarborough said in the citation. “Brown was wet all over and very upset.”

The deputy asked Brown where the overturned ATV was located, and he pointed toward the creek bank, saying he drove the vehicle and that Turner was in the water.

Scarborough made his way to the site and saw lights shining under the water.

There, he spoke to a witness, Thomas Slaughter.

“Slaughter advised (Turner) had been under the water for at least 15-20 minutes,” Scarborough said in the arrest citation. “Slaughter stated Brown was driving the ATV and the female was the passenger. Slaughter stated he did not see them drive into the water, but heard Brown screaming for help.”

Scarborough went back to his cruiser and encountered Brown, who said he was cold and wanted inside the vehicle, the citation said.

The deputy drove Brown toward emergency personnel who had arrived and returned to the crash site.

Turner was unresponsive when she was freed from the ATV. She and Brown were taken to The Medical Center.

Empty beer cans were found in the ATV and floating in the water, the citation said.

At the hospital, a blood sample was taken from Brown and he gave a statement to law enforcement.

Brown was arrested initially on a less serious charge of second-degree manslaughter and DUI. He was booked into Warren County Regional Jail on Jan. 4 and posted a $25,000 cash bond the same day, court records show.

An arraignment is set for June 22 in Warren Circuit Court.

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

Contractors donate work to help nonprofit center

Often a beehive of activity stemming from the eight nonprofit organizations that call it home, the Higgins Center for Nonprofits on Collett Avenue has reached a whole new level of busy-ness in recent days.

A crane, a concrete mixer and nearly a dozen hardhats have been on site, helping address a longstanding need at the 10,950-square-foot building.

And doing it at no cost.

While it has provided a good home for a number of nonprofit organizations since its opening in 2015, the Higgins Center has always presented a quandary: how best to renovate and fully utilize the interior courtyard of the rectangular building.

“With that courtyard being in the middle of that building, you can’t get anything to it,” said Mike Murphy, CEO of Bowling Green’s Scott & Murphy Inc. construction company. “Everything in there was built before they added the fourth side to the building.”

Murphy should know.

He and many of his employees have been onsite at the Higgins Center, doing the work to address a need identified by the center’s directors.

Approached by Higgins Center Committee members Ashley Reynolds and John Kelly about adding a better wheelchair ramp in the courtyard, Murphy and his employees have taken the project to a new level.

“I didn’t think it would be such a big project,” said Reynolds, executive director of the South Central Kentucky Kids on the Block organization. “They’re totally renovating the courtyard, adding a patio and wheelchair ramp and re-doing the steps.

“This is a huge donation. They’ve saved us tens of thousands of dollars.”

Murphy said his company was able to work on the project simply because the timing was right.

“John (Kelly) said they were wanting to improve the courtyard so it would be more usable,” Murphy said. “But he didn’t know how to get it done.

“We had a bridge crew that had just finished work on a bridge and were waiting to start another project. They had a big crane with a boom that could reach over the building into the courtyard.”

Using that crane, the workers have been able to pour concrete for an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp, a new patio and new steps in the courtyard of a building that once was the corporate headquarters for Minit Mart before that company’s founder, Fred Higgins, allowed the building to be used to facilitate the work of the nonprofits he supported.

“The old ramp really wasn’t functional,” Murphy said, “so we are building a new one. A portion of it can be used as a puppet stage, so it will serve two purposes.

“The steps going into the building were out of code, so we’re correcting that. That courtyard will become a usable space for all the tenants.”

That’s welcome news for Jennifer Capps, executive director of American Red Cross of South Central Kentucky.

“Our board members are wanting to get back together in person, so I hope we can utilize that space and have an outdoor meeting,” Capps said. “ ... We appreciate that it’s being done and that we’ll benefit from it.”

Murphy estimated that he and his crew will spend about three weeks on the job, and he pointed out that Reynolds Concrete Service and Bowling Green Concrete have both donated materials to the project.

“It’s not just me,” he said. “My employees allow me to do it. We have so many good local and regional customers who allow us to do things like this.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

FCC program to help with internet access

From homework for youngsters to telehealth for seniors, internet access is quickly becoming as important as traditional utilities like water and electric service.

The coronavirus pandemic heightened the need to be connected, but access and affordability continue to be obstacles for many to joining the online world.

Now federal dollars are being used to address the affordability barrier.

The Federal Comm-unications Commission has launched its $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to help qualifying applicants pay for internet service.

The program provides a temporary discount of up to $50 a month toward broadband service for eligible households. The benefit also provides discounts up to $100 per household toward a one-time purchase of a computer, laptop or tablet, if the household contributes more than $10 but less than $50 toward its purchase from a participating broadband provider.

Those eligible for the EBB program include, among others, anyone who experienced a substantial loss of income in 2020, those who currently receive or qualify for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other federal programs such as free or reduced school lunch, and households with incomes at or below 135% of U.S. poverty guidelines.

At least one local internet service provider is embracing the federal help.

Connecticut-based Charter Communications, which does business locally as Spectrum, issued a news release saying it is participating in the program across its 41-state operating area.

“Through our participation in the EBB program, we are ... breaking down barriers to connectivity for American families,” Charter Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Catherine Bohigian said in a news release.

Charter is also benefitting from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and announced in February that it will use $1.2 million in federal support to expand its broadband service in Warren County.

Spectrum’s current service area is limited largely to the urbanized part of the county. Charter Senior Director of Government Affairs Jason Keller said the expansion will reach about 1,588 more homes in rural areas.

Likewise, Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. and two partner internet providers announced in March that they are receiving about $2.3 million in RDOF funds.

That money will be used to help WRECC and partners North Central Telephone Cooperative of Lafayette, Tenn., and the Franklin Electric Plant Board reach 13,600 potential new customers in Warren, Simpson, Grayson and Edmonson counties who don’t now have access to high-speed internet.

The rush to utilize the federal funding to bring broadband service to rural areas of Warren County looks to be heating up, with Warren Fiscal Court calling a meeting for Monday to consider granting Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon authority to advertise for proposals to construct fiber to underserved areas of the county.

That could help NCTC, which is also listed on the FCC website as a participant in the EBB program, along with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and others.

Connected Nation, a Bowling Green-based national nonprofit organization whose goal is to expand internet access, hailed the EBB initiative.

“As a national nonprofit that has been working for 20 years to help close the digital divide, we believe this program is one step closer to helping our most vulnerable and at-risk populations access resources they need to improve their quality of life,” said Heather Gate, Connected Nation’s vice president for digital inclusion.

Connected Nation is offering information about the EBB program at connected nation.org/ebbprogram.

More information can also be found at fcc.gov/broad bandbenefit or by calling 833-511-0311.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Child advocates warn of dangers posed by Instagram for kids

Apart from drawing opposition from more than 40 attorneys general across the nation, Facebook’s plan to develop a version of Instagram for children younger than 13 is also eliciting concern from child advocates.

Among them, Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks issued a recent warning of the potential consequences the platform could pose, including fertile ground for online bullying and possible sexual grooming by predators.

“Research demonstrates that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional and mental well-being of children. There are rapidly worsening concerns about cyberbullying on Instagram. Child and sex predators use the platform to target children, and children are too young to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online – including inappropriate content and relationships with strangers,” Brooks said.

In March, Buzzfeed News reported that an internal communique it had obtained – made by Instagram Vice President of Product Vishal Shah – called an Instagram for kids a “priority.”

However, after strong pushback from 44 attorneys general across the country, Facebook softened its stance.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has also urged Facebook to halt its development efforts for the platform.

“Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account. Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms,” the attorneys general wrote in a joint letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on May 10.

Another of Facebook’s platforms aimed at a younger audience, Messenger Kids, was set up for a similar purpose and was revealed to allow in strangers via group chats, though Facebook said it has now fixed that issue.

For its part, Facebook has said it’s better to have a platform for children to stop them from lying to get onto websites where there is no parental supervision.

In a statement to CNBC, a Facebook spokesperson said the company had “just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids” and is committed to not show ads “in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”

“We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health and privacy advocates to inform it. We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general,” the spokesperson said, according to CNBC.

The latest Kentucky Incentives for Prevention survey reveals some troubling findings, according to Kentucky Youth Advocates, with 13% of sixth graders experiencing bullying online. Further, the survey found that more than 9,000 Kentucky students had attempted suicide, making youth mental health as important as ever.

“The reality is that for children and youth across the commonwealth and the nation, learning, finding entertainment and socially interacting online has become the norm, especially through the course of the pandemic,” Brooks said. “The continued leadership of Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron on cyber safety for our children are needed to hold Facebook accountable as conversations on this new social media platform progress.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.