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Three plead guilty in BG home invasion

Three people charged in a home invasion robbery last year have pleaded guilty.

Blake Cabral, 21, Dara Chin, 29, and Dalton Morrow III, 24, pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery.

The guilty pleas came during a series of hearings Monday and Tuesday in Warren Circuit Court.

Each admitted involvement in a Sept. 10 home invasion that took place at an apartment on Harlow Way and was investigated by the Bowling Green Police Department.

Police who responded to the call at the apartment learned three people wearing masks forced their way into the apartment and restrained the five occupants.

“The suspects allegedly brandished knives and forced the victims to surrender a large sum of cash,” BGPD Officer Ethan Decker said in an arrest citation.

Victims told police one robber had blond hair sticking out of his mask, and they identified Chin as a possible suspect, informing police that he drove a white Honda Accord, police records said.

Police located Chin at his Stubbins Street residence, where a white Honda Accord was parked outside. After being detained and read his rights, Chin agreed to be interviewed at BGPD headquarters.

“While at BGPD, Chin stated he picked up a heavyset White male and Black male on Old Morgantown Road,” Decker said in the arrest citation. “They drove to the home on Harlow Way and forced their way inside the residence where physical force was both threatened and used to commit a theft.”

Police recovered two knives from the Accord that matched knives described by the victims, and Chin admitted that $300 found in his wallet was from the incident, according to court records.

Chin named Cabral as one of the other participants, leading to Cabral’s arrest.

Further investigation led police to identify Morrow as another suspect, and he was taken into custody Sept. 18 in Horse Cave.

Cabral also pleaded guilty to a count of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon along with charges of first-degree strangulation and fourth-degree assault, which stemmed from a fight with another inmate at the Warren County Regional Jail.

Cabral was given a 15-year prison sentence. Prosecutors recommended a 12-year sentence for Morrow and a 10-year sentence for Chin.

A fourth person, Muzafar Berisa, 20, of Bowling Green, has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree robbery by complicity, first-degree burglary by complicity and five counts of kidnapping by complicity.

Berisa is due in court Aug. 3 for a pretrial conference.

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

Re-branded Grand Hotel restaurant set to open

A new name, new menu, new outdoor dining and Gov. Andy Beshear’s new lifting of COVID-19 restrictions add up to what Dan Murph hopes will be a recipe for success at his Kentucky Grand Hotel and its restaurant.

Like most public-facing businesses, the boutique hotel on College Street and the restaurant called The Bluegrass took heavy hits during the pandemic.

The eight-suite hotel, which has traditionally catered to entertainers and business executives, kept its doors open during the pandemic but operated on a limited basis. The Bluegrass, on the other hand, was shut down by the pandemic and resulting restrictions.

Funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program helped keep the businesses afloat during the pandemic, and Murph plans to emerge from that 15-month ordeal with a new plan.

On Friday, Murph will unveil what is now called the Kentucky Grand Restaurant, located on the ground floor of the four-story hotel. He’s hoping the changes and the public’s pent-up hunger for eating out will bring a crowd to the property next door to the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.

“We were closed completely for over a year due to COVID,” Murph said of the restaurant that had barely been open a year. “At the time, we had no outdoor seating and our rooms inside were smaller, so social distancing wasn’t feasible.”

He said most of the staff of about 20 who ran The Bluegrass are back at the rebranded eatery, but Murph isn’t just reopening.

He’s reinventing.

The name change, Murph said, grew out of an effort to create a consistent brand for the property he opened in 2016.

“We’re building a national brand with the hotel, which has been recognized as one of the best boutique hotels in the country,” Murph said. “We’re trying to simplify into one brand.”

Murph plans to keep the Derby Piano and Dessert Bar inside the hotel, but the Kentucky Grand Restaurant will open with a new menu and new management.

Zack Strachan, who had been general manager of the hotel and The Bluegrass, has moved to Texas and is being replaced by New Yorker Stephen Flynn, who Murph said has plenty of restaurant experience.

“We fielded over 150 applicants for general manager,” Murph said. “We went through a long process to find the best fit.

“He (Flynn) has vast restaurant experience and is excellent with food and kitchen preparation. He’s bringing some new things, including a completely new menu.”

The Kentucky Grand will offer such entrees as Charleston Shrimp & Grits, Cast Iron Filet Mignon and Lemon Thyme Chicken along with salads, appetizers and side items.

And the menu isn’t all that has been expanded. The restaurant will still have seating inside for as many as 125 people, but now it will also have a courtyard outside with seating for another 40.

“We’re taking what was a barren piece of concrete and turning it into a fun place,” Murph said. “We have an outdoor courtyard that never would’ve existed if not for COVID. Our customers are coming back to a better experience.”

The outdoor seating should also help raise awareness of the restaurant, Murph said.

“Before we had outdoor seating, many people probably didn’t know we had a restaurant inside the hotel,” he said.

Murph said the Kentucky Grand Restaurant will open at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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

Kentucky's high court reviews case testing executive powers

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s highest court heard clashing views Thursday on the scope of executive powers as it reviewed laws that are meant to limit the governor’s authority to respond to long-running public emergencies.

The Supreme Court hearing came a day before Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus-related capacity limits on Kentucky businesses are being lifted. But the case tests the balance of power between the state’s executive and legislative branches and will have far-reaching implications for future governors confronted by public emergencies.

The constitutional showdown pits Beshear against Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who appealed a lower court ruling that temporarily blocked the new laws.

The case centers on measures passed this year by the GOP-dominated legislature to curb the governor’s emergency powers in response to Beshear’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Beshear immediately filed a lawsuit after his vetoes of the bills were overridden. The new laws were temporarily blocked by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd in Frankfort.

Amy Cubbage, Beshear’s general counsel, argued at Thursday’s hearing that the legislature was “micromanaging the pandemic and giving itself a veto” over his use of emergency powers.

State Solicitor General Chad Meredith, representing Cameron, said it was the legislature that established those gubernatorial powers in times of emergencies.

“They gave it; they can take it away,” Meredith told the high court.

Republican lawmakers said the challenged measures were meant to put checks on what they viewed as Beshear’s overreach in ordering a series of restrictions amid the pandemic. The governor maintained the steps he took to limit activity have saved lives.

Kentucky has had more than 7,120 virus-related deaths.

One of the contested laws would limit the governor’s executive orders in times of emergency to 30 days unless extended by lawmakers. Under another measure, businesses and schools would have to comply either with COVID-19 guidelines from the governor or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They could follow whichever standard is least restrictive.

Last year, the state Supreme Court upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Both lawyers Thursday tried to gain an advantage from last year’s ruling. Meredith said the justices indicated that lawmakers had the authority to change the executive powers law.

“The General Assembly did exactly what this court said it could do,” he said.

Cubbage countered that the prior ruling recognized that the state’s response to an emergency is “inherently an executive function.”

Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes noted the case’s far-reaching ramifications, saying it could apply to a future governor perhaps now in grade school who someday faces a public emergency.

“We’re looking at an apparatus to deal with emergencies that applies now, in the future and that every single governor ever since it’s been in existence has used,” she said.

Cameron, in a statement after the hearing, said the governor challenged the new laws “simply because he did not like them.”

“The General Assembly is a separate, co-equal branch of government and legislators must be able to make changes to state law and alter the governor’s authority without the threat of lawsuits that have no cause or validity,” Cameron said.

The Supreme Court also heard arguments Thursday in a second pandemic-related case.

In that Scott County case, Circuit Judge Brian Privett temporarily blocked applying some pandemic-related restrictions to several restaurants and breweries challenging the governor’s actions. The state Court of Appeals stayed Privett’s temporary injunction.

Much of that case becomes moot Friday when virus-related restrictions are lifted, Cubbage said. But she asked the justices to invalidate the judge’s order because the plaintiffs challenged the governor’s overarching emergency declaration issued at the outset of the public health crisis.

“That emergency declaration needs to stay in place for much of the federal funding that we are getting as well as to enable the continuing vaccine effort,” Cubbage said.

Oliver Dunford, an attorney representing the businesses, said the continued state of emergency could lead to renewed restrictions if COVID-19 cases spiked again.

“My clients shouldn’t have to go back to court every time when we’ve already got the relief we asked for and the law clearly precludes him from doing so,” Dunford said.

Bowling Green's Bell releasing 13th novel

Bowling Green’s David Bell will release his 13th novel, “Kill All Your Darlings,” on July 6.

The USA Today best-selling author’s latest suspense novel is described by publisher Berkley Publishing as a “proactive thriller for the #MeToo era.” It will explore the world of contemporary academia while focusing on subjects like sexual harassment, the publisher said.

Bell said the book was mostly written during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. He completed the story’s initial outline before March 2020.

“I hope people were able to spend more time reading during the pandemic,” Bell said. “That may have been a silver lining of the past year. A suspense novel may offer an adequate escape (from the pandemic).

“My hope for this book was to obviously make an entertaining story. But the best stories shed a light on important topics at the same time. This will in part look at the power dynamics in play with students who are sexually harassed,” he said.

Bell is a professor of English at Western Kentucky University, where he co-founded and directs the Master’s in Fine Arts program in creative writing.

He said the inspiration for the story came from his time both as a student and a professor at a number of universities.

The novel follows fictional English professor Connor Nye who, after years of struggling to write after the deaths of his wife and son, publishes his first novel – a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

Bell said “Kill All Your Darlings,” is told from multiple points of view and with a non-chronological sequence of events.

“It’s a complex story, and the reader is experiencing the process of piecing the story together while the characters are as well,” Bell said. “I had never written a novel like that before, so that was a big challenge for me. I think it worked pretty well.”

At what Bell said will be about 400 pages, “Kill All Your Darlings” will “hopefully” feel just four pages long for readers who will be swept up in the story, he said.

“I think the suspense novel is clearly meant to grab a reader right away, and make sure a reader cannot put the book down,” Bell said. “The mark of success for a suspense novel is when a reader can’t stop reading it. I’m looking forward to everyone having a chance to read this book.”

– To learn more about Bell, his previous works and “Kill All Your Darlings,” visit www.davidbellnovels.com.

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