Press Release

Whitley County Sheriff Dept.

Fight complaint leads to meth investigation, four arrests

Around 10:30 p.m, Monday, October 9, 2017, deputies Jonas Saunders and Joe Prewitt responded to a residence near Partin’s Grocery along Hwy 92E. Whitley County E911 had received a report of two men fighting in that area.

Upon arrival, the feuding parties had separated. While continuing his investigation, Dep. Saunders made contact with Kenneth R. Branham, 35, at a nearby residence. Branham initially gave Dep. Saunders a false identifying information. Once his real name was determined, it was revealed that he was wanted for arrest after violating his parole.

After being taken into custody, Branham was searched. Inside a storage pack attached to his belt, Dep. Saunders located a large bag of what’s believed to be approximately 18 grams of crystal “ice” methamphetamine, two smaller bags containing what’s believed to be meth, digital weighing scales and unfilled bags. Around where Branham was seated was found another small bag containing what’s believed to be meth.

Williamsburg Police Department K9 Officer Elijah Hunter responded. After the K9 indicated on the vehicle, it was searched and inside was discovered a jar containing what’s believed to be meth, a box containing what’s believed to be marijuana, two pills and two other plastic bags containing what’s believed to be meth.

While continuing the investigation, a person at the scene, James C. Storer, 34, exhibited suspicious behavior. Upon a search of the place where he was seated, a small bag was found containing what’s believed to be meth.

Another male at the location, David Lancaster, 44, was determined to be wanted for arrest.

A female, Jessica Johnson, 31, was also determined to be wanted for arrest.

Branham was arrested for his warrant and charged with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (meth), giving an officer a false name, possession of drug paraphernalia, illegal possession of a legend drug, possession of a controlled substance not in its original container and possession of marijuana.

Storer was arrested and charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance (meth).

Lancaster was arrested for failure to appear and theft by unlawful taking warrants. Johnson was arrested for a failure to appear warrant.

Assistance requested in search for missing 16-year-old

The family of Taylor J. McVey, 16, of Collins Lane, Corbin, Kentucky, requests help locating her.
McVey (pictured below) has been missing since September 15, 2017. She is approximately five feet and two inches tall. She weighs approximately 110 pounds oand was last seen near the Corbin WalMart wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, black Nike tennis shoes and was carrying a backpack.
Anybody with information of McVey’s whereabouts is asked to please contact Whitley County E911 at (606) 549-6017. In case of emergency, dial 911. Detective Derek Eubanks is investigating.

Assistance sought in Tattersall robbery investigation

Around 9:15 p.m. October 2, 2017, the sheriff’s department was notified of a robbery at a Winner’s Circle residence in the Tattersall community. Deputies Joe Prewitt and Jonas Saunders, along with Constable Ron Bowling, responded.
According to the 23-year-old victim, he became acquainted with a female through the internet and invited her to the Winner’s Circle residence. Approximately 10-15 minutes after her arrival, three unknown persons entered the residence.
The victim ran from the residence but was caught. He was brought back inside the home and held at gunpoint while various items of value were taken.
The female who was invited into the home is described as a black woman, approximately five feet and six inches tall and 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. She was assisted by three black men approximately six feet tall and 200 pounds. The victim stated that he heard another female but could not provide any further description. All five are believed to have left in a small sedan.
The sheriff’s department is asking residents living on or near Winner’s Circle to please review any home surveillance video footage around the time of this crime. Anybody with information about this robbery should contact Whitley County E911 at (606) 549-6017; in case of emergency, always dial 911.

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.