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Gas shortage fears cause local rush at the pump

Bowling Green gas station managers urged people to remain calm after a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline led to large-scale panic-buying of fuel across the Southeast.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the spike in fearful demand for gas contributed to more than 1,000 stations running out of fuel, despite officials insisting there is no national gasoline shortage.

Gas stations in Bowling Green are experiencing similar fallout from the sharp uptick in demand.

On Wednesday morning, the Kroger Fuel Center at 711 Campbell Lane posted signs on its pumps saying it was out of regular and mid-grade fuel.

Kroger Fuel Lead Lora Wilson said the station has seen increased traffic in recent days, and she has seen several people fill up smaller gas tanks and multiple vehicles at once.

Manager Norma Richardson of Huck’s Food and Fuel at 306 Morgantown Road shared Wilson’s observations.

“I’ve seen several people out here with gas jugs and containers filling them up,” Richardson said. “We have had fuel trucks coming in consistently, and there is nothing to worry about.”

Richardson said panicking could potentially lead to a similar situation widely seen with toilet paper shortages near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People need to sit back and look at the bigger picture,” Richardson said. “Just watch how things go. Things will slow down and be taken care of.”

AAA said Wednesday the national average price of regular gasoline climbed over $3 a gallon for the first time since 2014.

The large increase in demand caused North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to declare a state of emergency Monday after many stations ran out of fuel there.

“We will continue our efforts to help make sure there is an adequate supply of fuel,” Cooper wrote on Twitter.

Manager Jessica Manley of Shell Gas Station at 2447 Russellville Road said such problems were not being felt at her location.

“We actually just got a gas delivery that came in this morning,” Manley said. “We are usually always busy at this location, so I have not seen a significant increase in people coming through yet. Everyone needs to not panic and not hoard all the gas for everyone that needs it.”

Jacklyn Shaw of Smiths Grove was one of many people who took to the pumps in Bowling Green on Wednesday.

Shaw was filling up a container with gas separate from her vehicle. She said the extra tank was needed to fuel her lawnmower at home.

“Well, I live in Smiths Grove, and I usually get my gas there. But nobody had any today,” Shaw said. “The gas stations were empty, so I assumed there was no gas. I’m retired, so I don’t have to go anywhere. I don’t really know a lot about the (gas shortage) situation.”

The Daily News reached out to multiple stations in Smiths Grove, and none reported gas shortages as of Wednesday afternoon.

Late Wednesday, Colonial initiated the restart of pipeline operations, “which means that all lines, including those lateral lines that have been running manually, will return to normal operations,” the company said in a statement. But it will take several days for deliveries to return to normal, the company said.

The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on it. Other parts of the country have more sources to tap. For example, a substantial amount of fuel is delivered to states in the Northeast by massive tankers.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdaily news.com.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Houchens demolishing three Bypass properties

Normally known for expanding its various businesses and brands, Bowling Green’s Houchens Industries is doing some heavy-duty demolition this week, turning the area near U.S. 31-W By-Pass and East 10th Avenue into piles of rubble as three buildings described as “eyesores” are leveled.

The former Wiesemann Orthodontics building at 1030 U.S. 31-W By-Pass – which burned in January – and the former Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine at the 1022 address on the bypass had been demolished by Wednesday morning.

A third building scheduled to come down, the former Junior Foods convenience store at East 10th and the bypass, was still standing but has a $5,000 permit for its demolition on file with the city of Bowling Green.

Warren County property valuation administrator records show all three properties are owned by Houchens Properties Inc., leading to speculation about plans for the parcels along the heavily traveled bypass.

An employee-owned, multibillion-dollar conglomerate with such holdings as Crossroads IGA and IGA Express, Houchens apparently has no immediate plans for the property.

“This is purely cleaning up some eyesores,” Houchens CEO Dion Houchins said in an email.

But that could change as the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet moves forward with its plans for a “road diet” on a section of the bypass that could make development of the Houchens properties more palatable.

Houchins said the company “will not be doing anything” until traffic can turn left onto East 10th Avenue while heading south on the bypass.

That could happen soon.

The KYTC, acting on the recommendation of the Strand Associates consulting firm, last year approved a plan for a “road diet” on the bypass from Lehman Avenue to the roundabout at University Drive that should solve that left-turn problem.

Strand’s recommendation is designed to trim problem areas along the road simply by drawing new lines as part of regularly scheduled repaving.

In the case of the bypass, the plan calls for converting the existing four-lane road to a three-lane artery that includes a two-way left-turn lane in the middle.

Joe Plunk, chief engineer for the KYTC’s District 3 office in Bowling Green, said the project can be done for an estimated $350,000, the cost that would be incurred to resurface the road with or without a road diet.

“It is a cost-effective way to maximize the existing footprint of the road,” Plunk said last July when the plan was announced.

Plunk isn’t certain how soon the re-striping work could begin, saying: “It hasn’t gone to bid yet, but it’s scheduled to be bid later this year. It’s on our paving schedule for this year.”

A resolution of the left-turn problem and a resulting Houchens development on the property would no doubt be welcome by many residents of the area.

Wiesemann Orthodontics relocated to 1212 Ashley Circle after the fire, and the Junior Foods building has been vacant for months.

Houchins pointed out that the Natural Health Center for Integrative Medicine building has been vacant since its tenant, naturopathic doctor Juan Sanchez Gonzalez, was killed in March 2017.

Omer Ahmetovic was charged with murder in Gonzalez’s death, but he pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in March 2018 and was granted shock probation in December of that year and released from the Warren County Regional Jail.

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

FBI receives evidence in Crooks death
  • Updated

A local homicide that has remained unsolved for nearly 20 years is receiving renewed focus from the FBI and local law enforcement.

Jessie Marie Twilight Song Crooks disappeared from her home on Larmon Mill Road on Aug. 28, 2001.

Her body was found Sept. 10, 2001, near a dried-up pond in a wooded area near Matlock Old Union Road.

Law enforcement quickly ruled Twilight’s death a homicide, but authorities haven’t disclosed how she was killed.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has been leading the investigation into the 15-year-old girl’s death.

Over the past 18 months, the sheriff’s office has been actively reinvestigating the homicide, and Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower said the FBI has become involved in an effort to develop a suspect or suspects.

“With the recent assistance of the FBI’s forensic team and newer technology, we are hopeful that we will be able to identify the DNA of anyone associated with Twilight Crooks’ death or the disposal of her body,” Hightower said in a video recorded for South Central Kentucky Crime Stoppers.

Hightower said physical evidence in the case has been re-examined and submitted to the FBI’s forensic laboratory for analysis. Leads recently received in the investigation have also been helpful, he said.

Investigation has revealed that on the night Twilight disappeared, the Greenwood High School student received a phone call originating from a pay phone outside Plano Country Store.

When Twilight’s fully clothed body was found, she was wearing an Edmonson County baseball jersey that her family and friends hadn’t seen before.

The sheriff is urging anyone with knowledge of what happened to come forward.

“As we prepare this case for prosecution, any additional help will further substantiate the physical evidence obtained,” Hightower said. “If you have any knowledge of this case, now is the time to come forward. ... Your knowledge of those involved in the homicide or the disposal of the body of Twilight Crooks can bring those responsible to justice.”

– Anyone with information about the case can contact the sheriff’s office at 270-842-1633.

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

Attorneys make opening statements in drug trial

Jurors heard opening statements Wednesday at the trial of Tracy Boyd, who is charged in two drug-related deaths.

Boyd, 53, is on trial in Warren Circuit Court on two counts of second-degree manslaughter, three counts of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and engaging in organized crime.

Prosecutors are seeking to hold him responsible for the deaths of Joshua Kinkade, 32, and Matthew Dobring, 38.

Kinkade was found dead Nov. 22, 2019, at a Parkhurst Drive residence. Dobring was found dead Nov. 24, 2019, at a Louisville residence.

Warren County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Adam Turner said during his opening statement that the evidence will show Boyd sold drugs with the help of co-defendants Stephanie Silvano and Scott Bernauer.

Turner said Silvano told detectives investigating Kinkade’s death that she bought heroin from a man she knew as “C,” who police later identified as Boyd.

“She also identifies Bernauer as basically being ‘C’s’ errand boy,” Turner said.

Turner said jurors were likely to hear testimony from people involved in drug use who the prosecutor said could be tied to Boyd, as well as from law enforcement officers whose investigation, based in part on information from Silvano, led them to arrest Boyd.

Silvano reportedly told police that she was aware “C” dealt drugs out of an apartment on Old Morgantown Road.

Boyd denied knowledge of any drug trafficking during a police interview, Turner said.

“(Boyd) took precautions to avoid being caught and he was moving substantial quantities of drugs from (the) apartment and brought others into his operation,” Turner said.

Boyd’s attorney, Alan Simpson, said in his opening statement that jurors should question the credibility of the testimony from Silvano and Bernauer.

Both co-defendants pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in Kinkade’s death, and Silvano pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance. Bernauer also pleaded guilty to first-degree possession of a controlled substance.

They await sentencing in their cases.

“Both of them will say and do anything to try to deflect the blame and get themselves out of trouble,” Simpson said.

Boyd was identified as a suspect by police who “got in a hurry” to find out who was behind the deaths of Kinkade and Dobring, said Simpson, who told jurors that police did not make any undercover drug purchases involving Boyd or have any recordings of Boyd mentioning drug activity.

“There is no smoking gun that the commonwealth so desperately needs,” Simpson said.

Five months before the two deaths, Silvano was arrested on drug trafficking charges after police acted on tips they received and performed surveillance outside her residence.

Large quantities of drugs and several guns were found at Silvano’s residence after police executed a search warrant, and Simpson said police performed a “textbook” investigation in arresting Silvano.

The day after Dobring’s death, police received a tip through South Central Kentucky Crime Stoppers implicating another person, Ben Deboer, in the overdoses, but police did not interview him until March, 2020, and he denied involvement, Simpson said.

Evidence will also reveal conflicting information in which another source is named as the supply for Silvano’s fentanyl and that Boyd reportedly “never touched” the drug, according to Simpson.

“The evidence will be clear, these two families (of the victims) suffered a great loss, and it’s sad because they’re never going to know where the drugs came from,” Simpson said.

The first witnesses to testify Wednesday morning were Dr. Darius Arabadjief and Dr. Ashley Mathew, forensic pathologists with the Kentucky Office of the Medical Examiner.

Arabadjief performed Kinkade’s autopsy and testified that Kinkade died of acute drug intoxication from the combined effects of fentanyl, opiates and methamphetamine.

A toxicology report showed the presence of lethal amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Kinkade’s system.

Mathew, who performed Dobring’s autopsy, said his death was caused by methamphetamine/amphetamine/fentanyl intoxication.

Toxicology showed lethal doses of meth and fentanyl in Dobring’s system, including a reported 1,234 nanograms per milliliter of meth, more than 10 times the amount found in Kinkade’s system, which also represented a lethal dose.

Mathew said Dobring’s autopsy showed evidence of a heart attack, but she testified she did not believe that the heart attack caused his death.

Morphine, which could have been metabolized heroin, was found in Dobring’s urine, Mathew said.

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