Press Release

Whitley County Sheriff Dept.

Driver arrested in fatal wreck

Around 2 a.m. September 3, 2017, Deputy Jonas Saunders responded to a wreck on Flat Creek Road in the Rockholds community.

A maroon pickup truck failed to navigate a curve and overturned multiple times. Wet roads is considered to be a contributing factor, and none of the occupants were believed to be wearing seat belts.

The front seat passenger, Laura Carter, 25, of the Rockholds community succumbed to injuries resulting from the wreck. Her father, James Carter, was seated in the rear passenger carea. With help from the Woodbine Fire Department, he was extricated from the truck.

The driver, Joshua Lee Woods, 37, of the Rockholds community, was arrested and lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center. Woods is charged with reckless homicide, DUI, operating a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license, leaving the scene of an accident/failure to render aid or assistance, failure to maintain insurance and no registration. Woods was also arrested for two warrants of failure to appear.

Investigations are continuing by Dep. Saunders and the Whitley County Coroner’s Office.

While a lot of people look forward to the three day weekend, dispatchers, EMS, firefighters and law enforcement hope to make it through without a tragedy. Sadly, that wasn’t the case for Whitley County this Labor Day weekend. Our thoughts go out to the victim’s friends and family.” – Sheriff Colan J. Harrell

*According to Kentucky State Police’s most recent Traffic Collision Facts report, Labor Day was the second highest ranking holiday for fatal wrecks.

Complaint leads to meth arrests

On August 26, 2017, the sheriff’s department received a complaint of suspicious activity around a New Zion Road residence. According to the complaint, items were being removed from the home by persons wearing rubber gloves.

Upon arrival, deputies Jonas Saunders and E.J. Miller made contact with two men and two women. Coming from a bathroom was Joshua A. Abrams, 28. Upon further investigation, a bag containing needles and a substance believed to be methamphetamine was located inside the toilet within the bathroom where Abrams had exited. Also, part of a pill was located in his wallet. The other male, Michael Lawson, 27, was found to have marijuana in his possession.

Natasha Archer, 32, was searched. Concealed within her chest area was a bottle containing a substance believed to be methamphetamine and six pills believed to be hydrocodone.

A blue/gray Pontiac G6 outside the residence was searched, which resulted in the discovery of needles, digital scales and plastic baggies. Within Archer’s purse, deputies found what’s believed to be methamphetamine and a glass pipe.

Archer was charged with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (meth), first-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a prescription controlled substance not in its original container.

Abrams was charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance (meth), tampering with physical evidence, second degree possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Lawson was arrested by Dep. Mike Lawson and charged with possession of marijuana and public intoxication.

All were lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center.


Burglary suspect returned to Kentucky

On August 9, 2017, Court Security Officer Donnie Witt, Jr. transported Dena Brooke Baird, 28, of Tennessee, from TN to the Whitley County Detention Center. Baird was in custody in Campbell County, TN relating to the theft of a vehicle.

In January of 2015, Baird was arrested by Whitley Co. deputies for second-degree burglary and first-degree cruelty to animals. She was indicted on those charges and also first-degree persistent felony offender. Baird is scheduled for arraignment in September relating to the indictment.

Driver in August 3 wreck succumbs to injuries

The sheriff’s department regrets to confirm that Mark Chambers, 63, of Knoxville, Tennessee succumbed to injuries sustained in an August 3, 2017 wreck.

Chambers was travelling northbound on US Hwy 25 when his car left the roadway, went airborne and crashed into an Emlyn community home. No other vehicles were involved and nobody in the home was injured. It was determined that the wreck was an accident.

Mr. Chambers was flown to the University of Kentucky Medical Center, where he passed away on August 8. Please join the sheriff’s department in keeping the family and friends of Mr. Chambers in your thoughts and prayers.

Car crashes into home

Around 5:30 p.m. August 3, 2017, Sergeant Dave Lennon received information from Whitley Co. E911 that a vehicle struck a home along US Hwy 25 in the Emlyn community.

It was determined that the vehicle, driven by Mark Chambers, 63, of Knoxville, Tennessee, was travelling North on Hwy 25 when it veered off the road, crossed the Emlyn Post Office parking lot, went airborne and travelled for approximately 48 feet and struck a home.

Chambers was treated at the scene and flown from Baptist Health Corbin to the University of Kentucky Medical Center. As of August 4, UK hospital officials stated he was in critical condition. Nobody in the residence was injured.

Sgt. Lennon is continuing the investigation into this single vehicle wreck.

Intruder held at gun point, arrested for burglary and thefts

Around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, July 30, 2017, sheriff deputies responded to a Bacon Creek Road residence, where the homeowner had a female intruder held at gun point. With the assistance of three Corbin Police Department officers, deputies Brian Hensley and Jonas Saunders went to the residence, where Gabrielle Malay, 22, of Farmer’s Trail in the Corinth community had unlawfully entered the residence through a window.

Malay matched the description of a woman who abandoned a Kubota UTV after being approached by persons near the old Woodbine school. The woman walked away, and the UTV left behind was determined to have been stolen from the same Bacon Creek Road residence days prior to the burglary.

Dep. Brian Hensley had been investigating the Kubota theft, and Malay became a suspect in a separate, auto theft investigation led by Dep. Joe Prewitt. A vehicle stolen from Carter Street in the Woodbine community was found abandoned in a parking lot at Corbin’s Exit 25.

Dep. Hensley arrested and charged Malay with theft by unlawful taking over $500 relating to the UTV, second-degree burglary and third-degree criminal mischief. Dep. Prewitt has Malay charged with theft by unlawful taking of an automobile valued at over $10,000.

“We hope this arrest provides some comfort to residents. Deputies Hensley and Prewitt are continuing their investigations and can be contacted by calling Whitley Co. E911 at (606) 549-6017, or during business hours you can contact the sheriff’s department at (606) 549-6006. Assistance from the public and vigilant neighbors looking out for one another contributed to this arrest.” – Sheriff Colan J. Harrell

Woman arrested for theft following fatal wreck

The Whitley County Sheriff’s Department regrets to confirm that a fatal motorcycle wreck was reported to Whitley Co. E911 around 11:45 a.m., July 26, 2017. Sergeants Todd Shelley and Dave Lennon were dispatched to KY 1064 in the Whetstone community, where a motorcycle occupied by one man lost control and struck a tree down an approximately 20 feet embankment.

Scott B. Bray, 36, of the Poplar Creek community was pronounced dead at the scene by Whitley Co. Coroner Andy J. Croley.

Witnesses stated that before Sergeants Shelley and Lennon could arrive, a female obtained Bray’s wallet and removed cash from it. The female, Alishia M. McElfresh, was arrested and charged with theft by unlawful taking under $500 and tampering with physical evidence. McElfresh was lodged in the Whitley Co. Detention Center.

Whitley Co. EMS and members of the Woodbine and Oak Grove fire departments responded to the scene. The investigation is continuing by the sheriff’s department and coroner’s office.

Hammer used in domestic dispute

Around 4:30 p.m. July 21, 2017, the sheriff’s department received information that a father and son were engaged in a domestic dispute at a Nicky Lane residence in the Hemlock community.

Upon investigation, it was determined that a verbal argument escalated into a physical confrontation. The son sustained injuries to his hand and head after the father reportedly struck him with a hammer.

The victim was transported by Whitley County EMS to Baptist Health Corbin. The accused, 57-year-old William Helbig, was arrested without incident. He was lodged in the Whitley Co. Detention Center and is charged with first-degree assault.

Deputy Johnny Miller is continuing the investigation. He was assisted at the scene by Sheriff Colan J. Harrell and deputies Mike Lawson and Cody Harrell.

Vehicle, foot pursuit results in arrest

Around 5 p.m. July 10, 2017, Deputy Jonas Saunders was patrolling in the Canadatown community when he observed a red Ford disregard a stop sign. The vehicle was turning from Log Cabin Road onto Hwy 90.
Dep. Saunders attempted to conduct a traffic stop. Instead of stopping, the vehicle increased its speed. The manner of driving was erratic and at times endangered others.
When the vehicle came to a stop, the driver, Darrell Jones, 24, of Pineville, fled on foot. Dep. Saunders was able to catch Jones and placed him under arrest. Jones had warrants for his arrest and was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center.
Before Saunders left the jail, he conducted a search of his cruiser and found drug paraphernalia in the backseat area.
Jones was charged with first-degree fleeing or evading police in a vehicle and a second count for fleeing on foot, DUI, operating a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license, possession of drug paraphernalia and tampering with physical evidence. He was also charged with disregarding a stop sign, reckless driving, improper passing and failure to signal. Jones also faces charges of contempt of court and had two warrants for failure to appear.
Dep. Saunders was assisted by Sergeant Jeff Anderson and Kentucky State Police Trooper Jeremy Elliott.

Firearms & marijuana plants seized, two arrested

Around 9 p.m. July 11, 2017, Deputy Jonas Saunders responded to a mental health petition. When he approached the Luther Collins Road residence in Williamsburg one male fled the residence on foot. Williamsburg Police Department K9 Officer Brandon Prewitt and Chief Wayne Bird assisted in the search for the man, but he was not located.
Deputy Johnny Miller also responded and located two marijuana plants growing behind the residence. In the area that the male fled, a 9 millimeter pistol was found. Records indicated the pistol was reported stolen out of Campbell County, Tennessee.
A search of the home revealed a sawed off shotgun, which Robert A. Cole, 49, of Whitley City, stated was his.. Tricia Croley, 42, was believed to be under the influence while in custody of grandchildren in the residence.
Cole was arrested and charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, receiving stolen property (firearm) and tampering with physical evidence. Croley was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor, cultivating marijuana and public intoxication. Both were lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center.