2018-07-18 / Front Page

Va. driver is indicted on 8 charges by jury here

A Virginia man has been indicted on two counts of manslaughter and multiple other charges related to a motor vehicle collision at Payne Gap that left two people dead and a third seriously injured.

Travis F. Helbert, 38, of Appalachia, Va., faces eight charges in the May 5 collision. Kentucky State Police in Hazard said Helbert was driving north on US 119 North in a 1999 Chevy Silverado, pulling a horse trailer, when a tire blew out on the trailer and he lost control of the of the truck in heavy rain in the curve north of the Fishpond Lake entrance.

The trailer crossed the centerline and collided with a 2008 Toyota Yaris driven by Judy Kiser, 66, of Pikeville .

Kiser, along with two passengers in her vehicle, 90-year-old Kathleen Tackett and 61-year-old Barbara Newsome of Pikeville, were transported by Neon Fire/ Rescue to Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital with what responders at first believed were “nonlife threatening injuries.” Barbara Newsome, who was seated in the rear seat and was not wearing a seatbelt, died at the hospital. Helbert refused medical treatment.

Tackett, of Belcher in Pike County, died May 9 at Pikeville Medical Center.

Witnesses at the scene said Helbert did not appear to be impaired, but one saw him throw something into the ditch after the accident Police searched that area and say they found a package containing a small quantity of marijuana. Det. Scott Caudill said further investigation showed Helbert had been smoking marijuana.

Helbert is charged in the indictment handed up last Thursday with two counts of second-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (second offense), possession of less than eight ounces of marijuana, tampering with physical evidence, illegal use or possession of possession of drug paraphernalia, and first-degree criminal mischief.

Detective Caudill testified in the case.

Other cases in which indictments were returned are:

• Samantha Collins, 28, of 433 Collins Branch, Pinetop, was charged in connection with a car crash in which she was allegedly driving drunk, passed out while driving and struck a bridge at Colson.

According to a citation, Collins had her boyfriend, her 6-month-old daughter and her 2-year-old daughter in the car when she hit the bridge.

Collins is charged with two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (greater than .08 percent blood alcohol), no operator’s license, no license in possession, failure to maintain liability insurance, failure to wear seatbelt and failure to issue insurance card when she failed to give her license and insurance car to Deputy Sidney Fields when he asked for it.

Fields testified before the grand jury.

• Monica A. Lester, 32, of 8016 HWY 160 W. Jenkins, is charged with multiple drug and traffic offenses, after police allegedly found her sitting in her car on the side of US 23 near Joes Branch on May 24.

According to the citation and the indictment, Jenkins Police Officer Michael Garner saw the car as he drove past, and then saw it again on his way back. Garner said he stopped to help, and found a quantity of drugs.

Lester is charged with first-degree complicity to possession of a controlled substance (first offense) (methamphetamine), buy/ possess drug paraphernalia, first-offense, driving on a DUI suspended license, first-degree failure of non-owner operator to maintain required insurance, display of illegal/altered registration plate, failure to issue insurance card, no/expired Kentucky registration receipt, no or expired Kentucky registration plates.

According to the citation, Lester and Curtis M. Hall were sitting in the car when Stephens approached. Both gave him their Social Security numbers, and he found that there were outstanding warrants for them.

The citation says Garner found a small brown case between the car seats that contained a glass pipe, five syringes with an unknown substance believed to be meth inside, seven plastic baggies with suspected meth residue and a small white container with a cotton ball inside. Cotton balls are often used to filter drugs as they are drawn into a syringe.

The citation also says Garner noticed a needle cap under Lester’s leg, and when she moved her leg he found an uncapped syringe in the floor.

Jenkins Police Officer Jim Stephens testified before the grand jury in the case.

• David Paul Johnson, 44, of 146 Libby Lane, Jenkins, is facing several charges related to drugs and drug trafficking.

According to the indictment, Jenkins Police received a complaint of a suspicious vehicle sitting at 146 Libby Lane, and on arrival found Johnson in the back seat of the car, and Amber Dale Ratliff, 34, also seated in the car. Police say they searched the vehicle and found a straw containing a white, powdery resident and a glass pipe. After arresting them, police say they found a small baggie containing less than two grams of a substance believed to be meth in Johnson’s boot when he was searched at the Letcher County Jail.

He was charged with complicity to first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (less than 2 grams of methamphetamine) first offense, complicity to firstdegree possession of a controlled substance (meth) first offense, two counts of buy/possess drug paraphernalia, and one count of first-degree promoting contraband.

Jenkins Police Department Officer Stephens testified in the case.

• Amber Dale Ratliff, 34, of 11 Ginseng Drive, was charged along with Johnson. Police said Ratliff also had two baggies containing a crystal-like substance, two hollow ink pen tubes, and an electronic scale. When Ratliff was asked about rehab, police quoted her as saying “Rehab is for quitters, and I’m not quitting.”

Ratliff was charged with complicity to first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance less than 2 grams of meth first offense, firstdegree possession of a controlled substance (meth) first offense, and buy/possess drug paraphernalia.

Officer Stephens also testified in that case.

• Stanley Caudill, 42, of 601 Burton Hill, Letcher, is charged with second degree burglary and theft by unlawful taking over $500, but less than $10,000. Caudill is accused of stealing $751 in assorted tools belonging to Sam Adams from an unoccupied house at Isom on the night of December 30, 2017.

Adams testified in the case.

• Clint Collins, 41, of 3593 Hwy 1148, Isom, is charged in two separate indictments with first-degree bail jumping. Collins is accused of self-discharging against clinical advice from West Care Rehabilitation on May 7.

He is also charged with failing to appear in court for a bond reduction hearing on June 6.

Deputy Circuit Clerk Sandra Wright testified.

• Bradley K. Fugate, 60, of 158 Box Rock Rd., Mayking, is charged with first-degree bail jumping for allegedly failing to appear for pretrial conference on June 6. Deputy Circuit Clerk Wright testified.

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