Part III

The burnt out home on Rudy Spees Road in Ledbetter adjacent to the new senior citizens and community center in is almost a mirror image of the contrast in the community between the crimes of violence that have occurred there set against a back ground that looks calm and tranquil.

Sheriff cites “flow” from McCracken

By Loyd Ford
(Feature originally ran in The Lake News 7-18-12)

SMITHLAND- Crime says Livingston County Sheriff Bobby Davidson is everywhere. “Life in general has become more difficult.” He said. “Does that push the crime rate up?” He asked. And then he answered his own question by saying, “I think it does.”

Sheriff Davidson is only in his 16th month of his first term in office as Livingston County’s chief law enforcement officer he and four deputies are in charge of policing a county with a land mass that encompasses 316 square miles. A fifth deputy is in training and will go on the road when his training is completed at the academy.

Davidson talked about crime not just in Ledbetter but across Livingston County. He said the number one problem in Livingston County was prescription drug abuse and he said prescription drug abuse there was the precursor to using meth which he said is the second largest problem in the county.

Early this spring Davidson pointed out that his deputies had shut down three meth making operations in the Salem area and they had solved a burglary in Ledbetter in June.

When he turned his thoughts to Ledbetter he said, “I think we get a lot of flow over from McCracken.” He said he didn’t want anyone to think he was blaming McCracken for problems in Ledbetter. But he continued to say, “If I am a criminal I’m not going to be where there are a lot of police.”

Davidson said he is allocated to have six deputies and he said he needed more deputies but he qualified his statement by pointing out that you have to be able to pay those deputies. One of the things that Davidson emphasized was the good relationship his department had with the Kentucky State Police and that they worked together very well.

In the short period of time Davidson has been in office he has tried to update the department and he said he had met all of the goals he set early, but he is working on a new plan to make individual communities in Livingston County, like Ledbetter safer. He said the main thing he wanted people in Ledbetter to know was the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department was committed to doing the very best they could with the staff they had.

Sheriff Davidson said he wanted everyone to know they needed to have emergency numbers close at hand and to never hesitate to call. He said valuable items like guns should be photographed and the serial numbers recorded so if they were stolen they could be identified.

Another key thing the Sheriff asked people to do was to have good relationships with their neighbors and to watch each other’s homes. He said know if something was out of the ordinary in the neighborhood was key to reducing crime.

One of the programs Davidson has high hopes for is having two deputies working part time as school resource officers in Livingston County Schools. He explained that both deputies will be full time officers that will spend time each week in the schools.
Davidson said another initiative is to put one deputy on doctor shopping cases full time. He said he believes that will cut prescription drug abuse cases in the county.

Bill Downs has lived in Livingston County all of his life and while he doesn’t live in Ledbetter he spends the majority of his time there. He is a water treatment operator at Ledbetter Water District and he drives a Livingston County school bus on a route that traverses most of Ledbetter. The route his bus travels passes in front of the house where Margret Anderson was murdered in July of 2006 and the house on the same road where Howard Ferrell was beaten to death by Michael W. Thweatt in 2003.

Downs spends most of his day with the people who live in Ledbetter and with their children. He says there are lots of transient people in Ledbetter who come and go. He said lots of the transients come from McCracken County and other places as well. Downs said he had thought at times the large number of transients in the community was partly because they may be trying to escape law enforcement over there. But he also said he had never considered the thought that Ledbetter may have a higher level of violent crime than other places. But he said he wasn’t surprised either.

Downs said he had an opinion of why people were different now. He said, “I think the generation that raised me respected values, manners and morals and they taught their kids what was right and what was wrong.” He continued by saying, “I don’t think people teach that to their kids now.”

Downs said, “Kids don’t show other people respect like people use to have.” He continued to say that now school bus drivers and the people in school have to teach respect and manners, things he says they should have already been taught.

Downs didn’t stop there, “I think they (children) are exposed to way too much violence and sex on TV and the internet,” then he paused and said, “It’s pitiful.”


2003 Ledbetter murder moves total to four in nine years

LEDBETTER- The community of Ledbetter is like a patchwork quilt of nice homes that are many times bounded by vacant and run down properties. Since Ledbetter is an unincorporated community There is no city government and almost no or little enforcement of subdivision rules. Some streets have stretches of very nice homes with manicured lawn that are suddenly broken by vacant, or run down homes with overgrown lawns. This leads to frustration.

Recently one young home owner recounted the difficulty she and her husband had while trying to get an adjoining house and lot cleaned up. They were spurred into action when a snake slithered out of the grass and showed up at their child’s birthday party. She explained she assumed the neighbor’s overgrown lawn was where the snake came from because that is where it retreated after it left the birthday party.

She said they finally were able to get the waist deep grass mowed and the property cleaned up after they made all of the rounds and contacted everyone they could get to talk to them. It was a frustrating experience for them.

Perhaps there is no better example of the contrast in the up keep of some Ledbetter properties than the new Ledbetter senior center on Rudy Spees Road. The spanking new building with it large paved parking lot is adjoined on one side by a burnt out house and another tottery older unoccupied home across the street.

The BB&T Bank, Dollar General and the Minit Mart are the newest additions to the business district along U.S. Hwy. 60 that is the main thoroughfare of the community and they are proof of a healthy group of consumers that make their home in Ledbetter.
How people keep their homes and what they do or don’t do on their property results in problems in neighborhoods across America. Disputes between unhappy neighbors is a common occurrence every where.

But in Ledbetter it is clear some members of the community have serious trouble getting along. Last week in this series about crime in Ledbetter a history of some of the most recent violent crimes were detailed. That timeline began with the still unsolved murder of Margaret Anderson that occurred in July of 2006. At least three Ledbetter residents ask why the June 2003 murder of Howard Ferrell was not included in that story. Ferrell was beaten to death in his home on Clark’s Ferry Road not far from Margaret Anderson’s home.

Michael W. Thweatt was convicted of Ferrell’s murder in December of 2004 in Livingston Circuit Court. Thweatt is serving a 20 year sentence at Kentucky’s maximum security prison in Eddyville.

While the original timeline of violent crimes reviewed by this series was anchored by the unsolved murder of Margaret Anderson, the beating death of a man three years earlier on the same street she lived on can not be overlooked. When Mr. Ferrell’s death is added to the crimes that includes the Anderson murder, the murder of Garret Neihoff by his brother Gerrid Neihoff and the murder of Deputy Roger Lynch this comes to a total of four murders in less than 10 years in a community of less than 1700 people.

It isn’t that people in Ledbetter don’t care about what happens in their community. They do or this series of stories about Ledbetter and the level of violence there might not have been written. A small number of people have been willing to talk about what they see as problems in their community, now the question is what will happen next? Will enough concerned people in Ledbetter step up and become advocates for their community? Only time will tell.