- Special Sections
- Public Notices
In selecting Hardin County’s Story of the Year for 2012, the end of two long journeys topped all others.
In voting by members of The News-Enterprise newsroom staff, the murder conviction in a general court-martial of former U.S. Army Sgt. Brent Burke — nearly five years after his estranged wife and her former mother-in-law were found slain in their Rineyville home — and the much anticipated opening of the Elizabethtown Sports Park were selected as the top stories in the county last year.
Stories of the year were nominated by newsroom employees and once a list of 45 stories was compiled, voting was held on a 1-10 scale with a top story receiving 10 points.
The Burke case has been a hot topic in Hardin County for years. Dropping local charges was the No. 2 story in Hardin County in 2011.
Here’s a look at our Top 10 stories for 2012:
1. In May, the nearly five-year case against Burke came to an end after a military jury at Fort Campbell, where he once was stationed, found him guilty of the shooting deaths of Tracy Burke and Karen Comer at a Rineyville home on Sept. 11, 2007.
Burke, estranged husband of Tracy Burke, was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. Following two mistrials and two hung juries in Hardin County, he was convicted May 8 of premeditated murder, felony murder, burglary, child endangerment and obstruction of justice.
“Justice is finally done,” said Carey Aldridge, an Elizabethtown attorney for the deceased’s family.
Burke left Fort Campbell the next day to begin his sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
2. The July 25 opening of the Elizabethtown Sports Park with baseball games in the Ohio Valley Regional Tournament capped a lengthy start-to-finish project of about six years that brought controversy over its nearly $30 million price tag and a 2 percent restaurant tax to pay for it.
The regionals for 11 and 12-year-olds started a nearly six-month run of baseball, softball and soccer tournaments as well as football events at the multi-purpose complex.
Mayor Tim Walker said the park’s construction was a long process but the reward is a state-of-the-art facility for children doubling as an economic development tool for restaurants, hotels and other businesses to take advantage of as teams travel to Elizabethtown. This success, he said, will impact the bottom line for the restaurant tax as the city attracts more patrons and occupational taxes as new jobs are created.
“It may not always show up on a line item in the city’s budget, but it will help restaurants and other local businesses,” Walker said.
3. Leap year provided plenty of weather activity in Hardin and surrounding counties with Feb. 29 tornadoes that zipped through Glendale, along the Lincoln Parkway and into LaRue County, leaving a trail of destruction.
Only one injury was reported from the tornadoes that destroyed trailers, stripped roofs and turned lives upside down.
The National Weather Service ruled Hardin County had one EF2 — winds between 113–157 miles per hour — tornado, and LaRue County had one EF1 — winds between 73–112 miles per hour — tornado that increased to an EF2 before shifting back to an EF1.
Days after the tornado, Doug Finlay, deputy director of Hardin County Emergency Management, estimated at least 50 houses in Hardin County were damaged.
Taylor Ratliff, who lives on Hodgenville Road near Elizabethtown, said the tornado was over in about 15 seconds.
Ratliff’s family sought safety in a bathroom after he went to a side door to look at what was going on outside.
“It looked like an invisible giant was picking everything up and putting it down somewhere else,” he said.
4. Layla Marie Johnson was just 2 when she died Jan. 29 from injuries suffered at the hands of babysitter Ashley N. Chapman in Vine Grove.
Chapman was sentenced in December to 35 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to charges of murder and second-degree persistent felony offense. She is required to serve 20 years before she is eligible for parole consideration.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Carr said, “This was not an accident. It was a brutal crime.”
At Chapman’s sentencing, several members of Layla’s family and their supporters wore T-shirts bearing the 2-year-old’s smiling face and carried photographs of her.
5. Appropriately, the Hardin County Veterans Tribute was unveiled with a Veterans Day dedication at Elizabethtown Nature Park.
The bronze statues, sculpted by Elizabethtown artist Rich Griendling, represent each branch of the military with a flag from each branch flying overhead. It also honors civil servants and remembers those missing in action and prisoners of war who have not returned.
Maj. Gen. David Mann, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, was guest speaker at the dedication which also featured members of the tribute committee and local officials.
Elizabethtown and Hardin County are proud communities full of veterans, Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker said.
6. A Sept. 16 police chase on Ky. 210 in LaRue County turned fatal for a Hodgenville police officer who was a former Cecilia resident.
The chase led to a wanton murder charge against Jason L. Avis of Vine Grove who is alleged to have led officer Mark Allen Taulbee on the chase.
The indictment alleges Avis committed wanton murder by “operating a motor vehicle in excess of posted speed limits and in a reckless manner and thereby causing the death of Mark Allen Taulbee.”
According to KSP, Avis led Taulbee on a vehicle pursuit during which the Hodgenville officer lost control of his cruiser and later died from injuries sustained in the crash. Avis fled but turned himself in several hours later at LaRue County Detention Center, police said.
Taulbee was buried Sept. 21 in his family’s cemetery in Cecilia.
7. A train derailment in late October in southwest Jefferson County turned into an unsettling few weeks for many residents of West Point.
Thirteen cars of a 57-car Paducah & Louisville Railway train left railroad tracks Oct. 29 near the Ohio Valley Dragway. Forty-eight of the cars carried chemicals as the train made its way from Paducah to Louisville.
West Point residents were evacuated or given shelter-place order several times in the following weeks.
A fire two days after the derailment forced residents to evacuate to Muldraugh Elementary School and Colvin Community Center in Radcliff, for instance.
Five people received injuries from the derailment and fire. The explosion occurred as crews were attempting to stabilize other cars for removal.
8. Erik Buggeland, who admits he killed his parents in their Shepherdsville Road home in September 2010, was sentenced Jan. 24.
Late in 2011 Buggeland accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 20 years for two murder charges, 15 years for two counts of robbery, and three years on a theft charge. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Buggeland pleaded guilty but mentally ill in December 2011 to charges of killing his parents, Terje and Margaret Buggeland. The couple were retired physicians.
Kentucky State Police said the Elizabethtown man bludgeoned his parents with a dumbbell before fleeing in their vehicle. He later was arrested in Adamsville, Tenn.
9. A push to take a first step toward a possible unified government in Hardin County ended in August.
Hardin County United eyed one government as an umbrella over the county, but local officials opted to not go forward with creating a unification review commission.
Hardin Fiscal Court voted down a first reading in August of an ordinance creating a unification review commission with a 7-2 vote. Only Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry and Magistrate Lisa Williams favored creating the commission.
Magistrate E.G. Thompson said, “Early on I said we’re likely 10 years ahead of ourselves. I’m sitting here thinking we’re 15 years ahead of ourselves now.”
10. At the first council meeting of the year on Jan. 4, Elizabethtown City Council nixed an “economic hardship” designation for downtown which would have allowed restaurants to garner up to 50 percent of sales from alcohol. Currently, restaurants in Elizabethtown that sell alcohol must collect at least 70 percent of sales from food and have seating capacity for at least 100 patrons.
The motion to declare the hardship was supported by Councilmen Larry Ashlock and Kenny Lewis.
In other alcohol news, Elizabethtown residents will weigh in on the possibility of full wet status next week, but an effort for a countywide alcohol vote failed.
Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb verified a petition by Yes for Economic Success that allows voters in Elizabethtown precincts to vote on the accessibility of retail liquor licenses, which would authorize liquor by the drink without sales limitations or seating requirements and make room for bars if voters say yes.
A vote is Jan. 8.
Another local group, Hardin County Residents for Equal Opportunity, circulated a petition to force a countywide alcohol election.
The group failed to reach the 4,688 signatures needed.
A countywide alcohol vote would have authorized alcohol sales throughout Hardin County and removed its dry status had a majority of voters said yes.
Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at (270) 505-1757 or email@example.com.
Top headlines of 2012 based on online views on The News-Enterprise's website: www.thenewsenterprise.com.
1. Feb. 1: Friends and family hold vigil for Kori Skaggs
2. Aug. 7: Police believe man brought gun in HMH suicide
3. June 16: E'town man charged with murder
4. Jan. 5: Two charged with murder attempt following E'town shooting
5. July 1: Teenage girl dies in Meade County crash
6. Jan. 27: Babysitter charged with abusing 2-year-old
7. Nov. 15: Three injured in crash on Ky. 313
8. Sept. 9: E'town man killed in Friday wreck
9. Dec. 4: Elizabethtown police officer removed from duty
10. June 9: Man shot and killed in E'town