WILLIAMSON — The editorial staff of the Williamson Daily News have chosen the top ten news stories for the Tug Valley area in the 2012 year that were covered by our news reporters, who are dedicated to delivering breaking news stories to our readers in a timely and efficient manner.
The top story of the year for Mingo and Pike County, Ky. was the highly-anticipated release of the Hatfield and McCoy History Channel mini-series starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton. The series was viewed by an audience of 13.9 viewers, the second largest ever for a cable television program that didn’t involve sports. A premiere was held at the Keith-Albee Theater in Huntington that was attended by the show’s producer and several of the actors.
The series created an influx of tourism for the Tug Valley area, as people flocked from across the United States to view sites specific to the feud. The popular hosts of the television show “American Pickers” also visited Mingo County, much to the enjoyment of their fans. Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz traveled to an area on the outskirts of Matewan and purchased a court document relating to events with “Devil-Anse” Hatfield that was then authenticated by WVU Extension Professor Bill Richardson, and is now displayed in a case housed inside the Historical Coal House. A documentary about the feud also appeared on the History Channel, as well as a segment of the series, “How the States Got Their Shapes”, that was filmed during the Hatfield and McCoy Festival.’
The number 2 slot goes to the tragic story of the EF-2 tornado that touched down in Martin County, Ky. that completely destroyed 24 homes and damaged 120. The hardest hit areas were in the communities of Lovely, Middle Fork and Beauty. Electrical service was out for weeks in the areas that experienced the worst of the devastation. Shelters were in place to accommodate those who lost their homes, supplying food and water to countless families. To date, a few homes have still not been replaced, partly due to homeowners having no insurance in place to provide reimbursement for their losses.
The number 3 news story goes to the powerful straight-line winds that severely damaged numerous locations in Mingo County, creating electrical outages during the hottest days of the summer that for some, superseded a 10 day period.
The areas that suffered the most damage were Gilbert Creek, Ben Creek, Kermit and Breeden, which are ironically, on opposite ends of the county. Numerous homes received wind damage and several trees fell on houses, vehicles, power lines and across roadways. A state of emergency was declared and the WV National Guard was called in to assist with distributing needed supplies and with the aftermath cleanup. More than half of the residences in Mingo and Pike Counties were without electric.
A bizarre incident that left 2 people dead claims our number 4 story of the year, when an Elk Creek resident apparently snapped and killed the brother of Mingo County Commissioner David Baisden and then lost his own life during an altercation with law enforcement.
Phillip Gilman, a convicted felon and sex offender, is said to have attacked 75 year-old Alfred Curry with a claw hammer. Curry was able to get away from his attacker and ran a short distance before collapsing in the roadway. A neighbor had contacted Commissioner Baisden and he rushed to the scene. Baisden and another individual were attempting to load his brother into his vehicle when Giman appeared from his hiding place and attacked the commissioner, and gained possession of the truck. The attacker then proceeded to run over Curry, who was still sitting in the middle of the road. Gilman returned back to the scene in a matter of moments and ran over Curry a second time. A Delbarton volunteer fireman shot at Gilman, striking him twice. Even the gunshots were not enough to deter Gilman from further aggressive behavior, as he later attempted to assault a Delbarton Police Officer with the hammer and was then shot and killed.
The WDN’s number 5 story encompasses all those that were written about the numerous mine lay-offs and closures that brought financial devastation to coal miners who depend on the black gold to support their families.
Alpha Natural Resources idled 8 mines in West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania and laid off approximately 1,200 miners (400 in the Tug Valley area, 80 lost their jobs and others reassigned) in a company plan to create a “reshaping of mine operations and establishing a core set of durable, cost-competitive assets. Many of the layoffs are scheduled to take place during the month of January, 2013. WV Coal Association President Bill Raney said the layoffs were partially a result of what had been termed as the “Obama Administration’s War on Coal.” Arch Coal also laid off 750 miners, as well as other coal companies.
Number 6 is dedicated to the articles penned on the subject of prescription drug abuse and the arrests and conviction that have taken place during the last few months of 2012.
Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks appointed Sheriff-elect Eugene Crum to head up a drug task force team. Crum, with the assistance of Williamson Police Chief C.D. Rockel and others, began a successful run of arrests that included approximately 30 drug traffickers, some of whom traveled to Mingo County from other states. Investigations were opened in every community in the county, and local residents were overjoyed to know that drug dealers were falling like dominoes, giving them a sense of security they had not experienced in years. The arrests that occurred included a Gilbert resident that was found to be in possession of over 100 firearms and a multitude of prescription medication; a Columbus, Ohio resident that was bringing load after load of drugs to sell into the county; 3 individuals from the Matewan area that was operating a very lucrative drug operation; a couple from Goodman Hollow who even kept a ledger documenting their sales and 6 defendants from Dingess that included a grandfather, father and son, forming a 3 generation drug enterprise. Several of those arrested were repeat offenders.
Our number 7 top story goes to Dr. Diane Shaffer, a former physician in a Mingo County pain clinic that is accused of writing a staggering 118,445 controlled substance prescriptions within an 8 year time span and is said to have signed blank prescriptions that were placed inside of her cash-only patient’s charts that were filled out by her staff without her actually examining the patient. The daily intake for one 13 day period that was documented by the WVSP shows the cash profit to be $89,000 which broke down on a daily basis, totals $6,800. Using those numbers and basing their investigation on a 4 day work week and 50 weeks a year, a staggering $1.36 million dollar yearly was made, and that is not including payments from the insurance companies.
Shafer was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison, which was far less than what the majority of Mingo Countians thought was appropriate for the crime she committed.
Number 8 goes to the successful 2012 campaign of former Magistrate Eugene Crum, who resigned from his judicial position to run for the office of Sheriff. Crum was challenged by Chief Field Deputy James Smith and Private Investigator Don Stevens. Crum received the victory with a total of 3,621 votes in the primary election and was unopposed in the general. He was sworn in on New Year’s Eve and immediately began his duties serving the public.
Our number 9 story is the still unsolved bank robbery that left the Tug Valley in shock, after two masked men on an ATV entered the U.S. Bank at Goody, Ky. armed with guns, making off with an undisclosed amount of cash that is rumored to have been in access of $200,000. Information and tips are being requested by the Pikeville Post 9 of the KSP, and may be reported by calling 606-433-7711.
Our final story of the year is the tragic death of Adam York, a young man employed by NS Railroad that lost his life during a traffic accident that was attributed to a DUI. Zachary Smith also received life-threatening injuries and spent many weeks in the hospital. Joshua Bly Miller, a former corrections officer with the Southwestern Regional Jail was arrested and charged with DUI causing death. What makes this case stand out; however, are the allegations that another individual partying with the group, Paul David Howard, Jr. was the driver. Howard fled the scene but was never charged. Miller was found guilty by a jury of his peers but the conviction was overturned because of an incident with a juror that Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury felt tainted the trial. The case will be retried.