News Around the State

Woman’s body found in ditch by river behind church

BARBOURVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A woman’s body has been found by a river behind a church in Kentucky.

Knox County Coroner Mike Blevins confirmed to news outlets that 33-year-old Stacy Hobbs was found dead behind Swan Pond Baptist Church. A church member found her lying in a drainage ditch that flows in the Cumberland River on Sunday morning.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Shane Jacobs says the cause of death is currently unknown. A Kentucky State Police says authorities do not believe her death was related to the widespread flooding in the county this weekend.

An autopsy will be conducted in Frankfort.

Hobbs was from Barbourville, where the church is located. It’s unclear whether she had any connection to the church.

Police seek clues in shootings that left 5 dead

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Detectives are trying to piece together why a Kentucky man fatally shot his parents and two other people before taking his own life last weekend.

Kentucky State Police said 45-year-old Joseph Nickell shot his parents at their home Saturday afternoon, then drove to his girlfriend’s house and killed her and her mother before taking his own life in Johnson County, an Appalachian county in eastern Kentucky.

State Police Trooper William Petry said investigators on Monday were interviewing family members and neighbors.

“At this point, I don’t see an indication of any problems he had with the family, of course we’re still early in it,” said Petry, a spokesman for the Pikeville state police post.

Petry said Nickell had some misdemeanor drug charges in his past, but investigators have not determined a motive for the slayings. A note written by Nickell was found at one of the crime scenes, he added, but police are not releasing its contents.

The family’s pastor said Joseph Nickell had long struggled with drug problems and he saw the family in church earlier this month. Pastor James Kelly Caudill told The Lexington Herald-Leader that Nickell blurted out something during a service at Tom’s Branch Free Will Baptist Church, but his mother calmed him.

Caudill said Joseph Nickell seemed to suffer a setback after the death of his sister.

Police said Nickell shot his parents, James and Arlene Nickell, both in their 70s, before driving to an apartment in Paintsville and shooting 41-year-old Lindsey Vanhoose and her mother, Patricia Vanhoose, 57. He used the same handgun in all the shootings, Petry said.

Nickell’s teenage son was at the house where the first shootings happened but fled and called 911, police said.

1800s covered bridge damaged by flooding getting fixes

FLEMINGSBURG, Ky. (AP) — A 19th century bridge in northeastern Kentucky is getting much-needed repairs after being damaged by flooding last year.

The project will temporarily stabilize the Dover Covered Bridge in Mason County.

The bridge that dates back to 1835 was damaged seven months ago by record-level flooding along Lee Creek. The waters tore away two 12,000-pound (5,440-kilogram) steel support beams. The bridge has been closed ever since.

Construction crews will begin temporary stabilization efforts this week.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says the work will not return the covered bridge back to its original condition. But the work will stabilize it until a long-term restoration plan can be developed.

The bridge originally opened as a toll bridge and was renovated in 1926 and 1966. The steel support beams were added in the 1980s.

Governor: Company shouldn’t have to make gay pride shirts

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Republican governor is urging the state’s highest court to rule in favor of a company whose owner refused to print T-shirts for a gay rights festival because of his Christian beliefs.

Attorneys for Gov. Matt Bevin have asked to file a brief with the Kentucky Supreme Court in the case involving Hands-On Originals. The company refused an order in 2012 from Lexington’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization for T-shirts in advance of the city’s Gay Pride Festival.

The Lexington Human Rights Commission ruled the company violated a city ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. A state judge and the Court of Appeals both reversed those rulings. The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

Bevin argues Kentucky should protect the right of citizens to act according to their conscience.

Ford boosts production of 2 big SUVS at plant

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. is boosting production of its two largest SUVs.

The company says demand for the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition is so strong that it now expects to make 25 percent more of them than initially planned.

The two SUVs went on sale last fall. Last month, Ford said U.S. sales of the Navigator to individual buyers were well over double from January 2017, while Expedition sales were up 57 percent.

Ford is investing $25 million in the Louisville, Kentucky, plant that makes the SUVs. The upgrade includes 400 new robots to increase manufacturing speed.

The Expedition and Navigator are among Ford’s most profitable vehicles. Ford says buyers are paying an average of $77,400 for a Navigator, or $21,300 more than the outgoing model.

Megachurch lake offers the chance to repent, fish

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky megachurch is opening up its lake, with the intention of providing both salvation and fish.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports the 2.6-acre (1-hectare) lake used for baptisms on the Nicholasville campus of Southland Christian Church has been added to Kentucky’s Fishing in Neighborhoods program, focused on providing quality fishing opportunities. Last week, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocked the lake with trout, and channel catfish and sunfish will be stocked throughout the year.

Lake owners in the program agree to cover 25 percent of stocking costs. Fishing in Neighborhoods coordinator Dane Balsam says Southland’s lake is the first of the program’s 44 lakes that is not owned by a government entity.

The church’s campus operations director, Jim Cox, asked that people not fish on Sunday mornings.