(Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three part series about crime in Ledbetter. A story at the bottom of the below feature will better explain how this special series became a reality.)
In April of this year Pam Salazar, above, was shocked by the sexual assault of a five-year-old girl just a short distance from her Ledbetter home. The incident has caused her to change the way she lives and to look for ways of making her community safer.
Sexual assault of 5-year-old girl spurs action
By Loyd Ford
(Feature originally ran in The Lake News 7-4-12)
LEDBETTER- Spotlights cutting through the darkness scanning the fields next to Pam Salazar’s Ledbetter home was the first indication that something was wrong. She was outside feeding her animals in early April of this year when she saw two Livingston County patrol cars panning their spotlights across her fields adjacent to Rudy Spees Road. When she asked what they were searching for they said they were looking for a woman and a child. Later she learned they were looking for a woman and a car.
The next morning Salazar learned from a relative that the incident the night before concerned a five-year-old child that had been sexually assaulted, beaten and left in a secluded area less than a mile from Salazar’s home. She called the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department and asked for information about what had happened. She was directed to call the Kentucky State Police and she did.
Salazar said that she felt she had not only a right but an obligation to find out what had happened because she operates a daycare center on Rudy Spees Road in the immediate area where the incident took place. She was told by Kentucky State Police that someone was in custody. She said her first concern was whether there was someone still out there. She was shocked to learn the alleged perpetrator of the attack on the five-year-old girl was a 12-year-old boy. She said both children ride the same bus to school.
The assault has caused Salazar to have an increased awareness of violence in her community. Salazar said, “It is my responsibility to keep my children in day care safe as well as my own children.” She said she was shocked to learn of the number of violent incidences in Ledbetter over the past several years.
Salazar’s family has felt the loss from murder for many years. The unsolved 1984 murder of her Uncle, Livingston County Deputy Carnie Hopkins saddens her family to this day.
Salazar said, “We’ve got a really messed up judicial system. I believe we do not have enough resources in the county to keep up with the need.” “Our deputies responded quickly and they have a lot of heart, but they have their hands tied.”
She continued by saying that she didn’t want anyone to think she was running down the local sheriff’s department. She said she didn’t understand why the investigation of the assault was turned over to the state police.
Salazar said she grew up in Ledbetter and when she was 12 she would ride her bicycle all over the community but now knowing about so many occurrences of violence she isn’t comfortable having any of her five children out of sight any time. She explains that for 12 years in her adult life she lived in Illinois and in Texas so she wasn’t aware of several of the violent events that occurred in Ledbetter during that time. Yet she says that she thinks most people in Ledbetter don’t think there is that much crime because she said, “We don’t hear about it.” She said you have to make it a priority to find out what’s going on. One of the incidents that occurred while she wasn’t living in Ledbetter was the second death of a Livingston County Deputy. Deputy Roger Lynch was shot and killed in a home on the edge of Ledbetter when he responded to a domestic disturbance call in 2006. Deputy Lynch also shot and killed his assailant.
Juvenile court proceedings in Kentucky are closed matters. The Lake News has filed an open records request with the Kentucky State Police to get official confirmation the incident took place. The names of juveniles charged with crimes in Kentucky are kept secret and as a matter of policy The Lake News does not publish names of sexual assault victims.
A freedom of information request made by The Lake News to the Kentucky State Police headquarters in Frankfort for copies of the incident reports filed by KSP or Livingston County Sheriff’s Department was denied. KSP denied the request by saying the information is part of an investigation that is still open and because state law exempts juvenile law enforcement records from disclosure.
It has been a tough year for Ledbetter. In less than a year there has been a murder/suicide, an armed robbery of the local convenience store in January, the sexual assault in April and a lingering unsolved murder from 2006.
Salazar says she wants people in Ledbetter to be more aware of what has happened and what can happen. She said she felt people were just carrying on with their daily lives and just trusted that the appropriate agency would take care of things.
Salazar has three very young daughters. They are not permitted to walk or ride their bikes out of sight. Salazar says she tries to keep them close and in her sight all of the time and when they aren’t where she can see them she worries. For Salazar Ledbetter isn’t the same place it was when she was 12.
(Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three part series about crime in Ledbetter. The story below will better explain how this special series became a reality.)
Resident’s concerns sparks story on crime in Ledbetter
By Loyd Ford
The Lake News
What prompted this three part investigation into crime and how it is affecting the lives of the 1,700 or so people in Ledbetter? The answer is telephone calls from people who live there and think things should be better.
A year filled with tragedy that began last July with the murder suicide of two brothers in a Ledbetter trailer park, and armed robbery of the local convenience store in January, the sexual assault of a kindergarten age girl allegedly by a 12-year-old boy in April and a bloody and unsolved 2006 murder of an elderly woman who was stabbed to death in her Ledbetter home continues to hang like a pallor over this small Livingston County community.
This newspaper was confronted by people who claimed that Livingston County and their community Ledbetter had a serious problem with drugs and crime in general and they didn’t feel there was enough being done about the problem. The most recent case involving an alleged sexual assault by a pre-teen boy on a kindergarten age girl has shaken people in the community and fueled questions about how that issue is being handled and if their children and their community is safe.
Crime, particularly crimes involving drugs and alcohol certainly are not occurring only in Ledbetter and Livingston County. No community, city or county in the United States is immune to those crimes. So we turned to the official sources to take a look at the crime statistics for Livingston County since those numbers are not broken down for small communities like Ledbetter.
In 2010, according to crime statistics collected by the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Livingston County with a population less than 9,000 persons had a total of 138 serious crimes that were reported. Livingston County’s nearest similar size neighbor with a smaller population Lyon County had a total of 119 serious offenses reported. These serious offenses included murders, rapes, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft, and arson.
During 2010 the most recent year these figures are available Livingston had one murder case, three rape cases, a robbery and four assaults while Lyon County had none of those more serious offenses. The bulk of the serious crimes in Lyon County were burglaries and larcenies which amounted to 108 of that county’s 119 serious offenses.
Numbers complied by the KSP in 2009 were thankfully far less violent but Livingston still had eight aggravated assaults to four in Lyon County. Lyon County had a higher rate of larceny in 2009 than did Livingston, but clearly Livingston County had a higher rate of violent crimes than did Lyon County in both 2009 and 2010.
One of the other claims made by those persons who were interviewed for these stories was they felt there was a higher than normal amount of drug activity in Ledbetter and Livingston County. Livingston certainly has a high rate of drug use there were 164 drug arrests there in 2009 but Lyon County had nearly as many at 159 drug arrest.
The KSP also maintains an updated sex offender registry and while Lyon County has more total sex offenders than Livingston the overwhelming bulk of those offenders are housed in the state prison located in Eddyville. Livingston County with 14 sex offenders who are registered with the KSP list has nearly three times the number of known sex offenders living in its communities. Lyon County only has five known sex offenders living in that county outside the reformatory.
This investigative series was begun with the knowledge that few of the people living in Ledbetter checked statistical data to determine how things were in their communities. The people who live there can only tell their stories about how the most recent events have affected them and their families. Those stories will be published in a three part series beginning in this week’s issue of The Lake News.