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Barnes makes formal plea to charges
  • Updated

Jason Barnes

Former Trigg County Sheriff Jason Barnes pleaded guilty to two charges during a virtual appearance on Monday morning before Trigg County Circuit Judge C.A. Woodall.

Barnes’ formal plea agreement on the first count of tampering with a witness was for three years and 12 months on the second charge of unlawful transaction with a minor.

A sentencing hearing has been set for 1:15 p.m. Feb. 8 before Woodall.

Trigg County Circuit Clerk Stephen Washer said Special Commonwealth’s Attorney Alexander Garcia opposed probation but asked for no contact with the victim if probation is granted.

The plea agreement was conducted via Zoom, with only Woodall and his bench clerk actually in the courtroom. Everyone else appeared in the courtroom virtually, according to Washer.

Under a plea agreement, the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a reduction in the sentence, online sources including noted.

Barnes, who was elected sheriff of Trigg County in 2018, tendered his resignation last August.

The sheriff’s office at the time had been the subject of a criminal misconduct investigation involving both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kentucky State Police.

Barnes was served an arrest warrant on Aug. 21, 2020, and was indicted by a grand jury that same month on charges that were related to his providing alcohol for a minor.

That indictment charged Barnes with knowingly making a false statement, or practicing any fraud or deceit with intent to affect witness testimony, the former sheriff having known that a person might be called as a witness in an official proceeding.

The second count of the indictment stated that Barnes committed the offense of unlawful transaction with a minor third degree when he “knowingly gave or procured any alcohol or malt beverage in any form to or for a minor” while acting in a capacity other than a retail licensee.

In addition to Barnes’ criminal charges, a lawsuit was filed last December against the Trigg County Sheriff’s Office, alleging that the sheriff’s office discriminated against a Trigg County High School senior, Layla Kunkle, who began an internship in the office when she was 17.

Kunkle’s lawsuit alleges that Barnes groomed her for sex during her internship.

The young girl continued to intern for the office, and according to the lawsuit, the environment around her changed and she was subjected t o sexual advances after turning 18.

The sexual advances involved not only Barnes but sheriff’s deputies and a Cadiz police officer, the lawsuit said. According to the lawsuit, the sexual advances eventually escalated to include sexual encounters with the former sheriff and others in the sheriff’s office.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or

Therapy dogs visit with district's students, staff
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The students were gentle with the dogs — Roxy, a purebred boxer, and Athena, a rescue dog — and they seemed to really enjoy petting the animals and learning about their jobs.

In what was a trial run for Trigg County Public Schools, the two therapy dogs visited with the youth and their teachers on Dec. 17 just before classes let out for the holidays.

The dogs and their handlers visited Trigg County High and Middle schools, Trigg County Intermediate and Primary schools, the Trigg Tots daycare and Horizons Academy, the local school system’s alternative school.

In all, some 1,800 youth saw the dogs.

“It was just a chance for the students and our staff to learn a little bit about therapy dogs and interact with them and hopefully relieve a little bit of stress and anxiety at the same time,” noted Sarah Elliott, who is the community education coordinator and assistant to Superintendent Bill Thorpe.

Elliott said the visit earlier this month was a practice run for later in the school year, when the two therapy dogs hopefully will be invited back during state testing week.

Jake Elliott brought Roxy, and Joe Hull accompanied Athena, spending the whole day interacting with students across the district.

In the spring, the dogs’ visit probably will stretch across several days, according to Sarah Elliott, who noted that the dogs were exhausted from their recent time at school while the youth didn’t get to spend as much time as they needed with Roxy and Athena.

During their visit this month, Jake Elliott and Hull spent time with students in each grade level, they talked about what the animals do in their role as therapy dogs, and the youth had an opportunity to pet the dogs.

The youngsters asked good questions about the animals and the differences between therapy dogs and service dogs, Sarah Elliott said.

She noted that teachers also got to pet the dogs, while all the staff were able to interact with the animals if they wanted to do so.

Elliott said the therapy dogs are something she’s been talking to Thorpe about since she first began working with the school system.

Her daughter has utilized the animals at home, and Elliott says it’s interesting to see how therapy dogs can benefit people.

“It’s a cool experience with the dogs to see how they can feel those things that you’re feeling and know how to take care of those things for you,” Sarah Elliott observed.

She said school officials appreciated the visit from Jake Elliott and Hull and their willingness to bring the dogs to see the youth and staff.

The two men volunteered, she said, noting that they were patient and great with the kids.

“Everybody seemed to really enjoy it,” said Sarah Elliott of the therapy dogs’ visit.

She said the superintendent also received some great feedback about the dogs, and Elliott noted that hopefully the district can host visits with the therapy dogs again.

Jake Elliott is a therapist in Clarksville, Tennessee, while Hull is with Seasons Behavioral Health at Trigg County Hospital.

Elliott’s dog, Roxy, is 7 years old and has been a therapy dog for two years.

She’s been a service dog for four years.

Athena, 3, has been a therapy dog for six months and a service dog for a year.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or

Supporters donate 5K proceeds to senior center
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Despite the cancellation of the 2021 Jingle Bell Jog, sponsors and participants alike were generous with their funds for this year’s holiday race.

The $1,091 in entry fees and sponsorships was donated to the Trigg County Senior Center during a presentation that took place Dec. 21 at Cadiz City Hall.

Senior Citizens Director Cissy Lawrence said she was speechless.

It was the second time for the agency that serves the seniors of Trigg County to receive the funds. The center split the proceeds with Helping Hands Food Bank in a previous year, and other recipients have included the 7 Friends Memorial, an organization that commemorates seven young friends who died in a car wreck 28 years ago, and Beta Nu, which coordinates the local Angel Tree program.

Lawrence said she doesn’t know how the center will utilize the funds, but she noted that “we were just so appreciative of” being selected the recipient.

Now in its 12th year of operation, the center on Joy Lane serves residents of Trigg County who are at least 60 years old. The center provides 50 to 60 congregant meals daily at its facilities and delivers around 30 meals.

Meals are provided through Pennyrile Allied Community Services.

Additionally, the center offers homemaking services and has exercise equipment, a card room and meeting room its older clients can use.

The annual 3.2-mile race begins and ends at the senior center.

“It’s just a good spot,” Lawrence noted.

This year’s Jingle Bell Jog 5K attracted some 37 runners and walkers and was initially slated for Dec. 11. It was postponed because of the recent tornado that ravaged western Kentucky and rescheduled the following weekend, on Dec. 18.

However, with heavy amounts of rain in the forecast, organizers decided to cancel the 2021 event, Renaissance on Main Director Darlene Butts said.

She noted that the senior center was hit hard by the coronavirus, and she said donating the race funds helped show how much the city cares for the center.

“This is a way to give back to them and let them know the community supports them and hasn’t forgotten them,” Butts said following the presentation.

Cadiz Mayor Todd King noted that the 5K was begun four years ago with a desire and the intent to support agencies in the local community.

“We wanted to donate to the different organizations,” he said.

Last year’s 5K continued even in the midst of COVID-19.

The race is organized each year by the City of Cadiz.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or

New cafe offers 'meal prep' items, more
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Seated at a table at her new business just off Main Street, Cadiz resident Tonya Johnson considers the future success of the venture.

“We would love to see the business prosper and get bigger, but really, touching lives and changing people’s lives is really important to me,” says Johnson, whose new restaurant was introduced to the public during a grand opening and ribbon cutting on Dec. 20.

Owned by Johnson and partners Joan Paulter and Stephanie Paulter, the Main Street Cafe and Bakery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and features such menu favorites as soups, salads and paninis. Breakfast includes familiar items like sausage, gravy and eggs.

There are no fried foods on the menu; instead the three women want to focus on healthy options, according to Johnson.

Specialty coffees are also served, along with a host of bakery items such as fresh-baked bread, muffins, cookies, pies and cakes.

Additionally, the Main Street Cafe has “meal prep” items, i.e., items that are already prepared and which people can take home and “pop in the oven,” Johnson said.

A tater tot casserole is among the “meal prep” choices, and Johnson said the cafe also makes its own spaghetti sauce and will offer that as part of its “meal prep” options.

She noted that both she and the Paulters, who met on the online Trigg Cares benevolent site, had been wanting to feed people.

They decided to open their restaurant and offer the “meal prep” items, and Johnson said they’ve gotten great support from the public.

Right now, they’re working out the kinks of a new business, but Johnson notes that once they get things set up they plan to offer specials, with part of the day’s proceeds supporting another one of her ventures.

Johnson is starting Hope’s Connection, a nonprofit that will benefit people in need, and proceeds from the cafe will help that effort.

She also is the owner of a cleaning business that is called Fare Price Cleaning.

She, Joan Paulter and Stephanie Paulter opened the Main Street Cafe on Dec.1.

Located at 1939-C Main Street, the cafe is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. The cafe is closed Sundays.

Prospective customers may find more information on the cafe’s website at

The website includes a menu of options for the “meal-prep” items, and people may place their orders for the items on the page.

The new cafe is a member of the Trigg County Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the recent grand opening and ribbon-cutting.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or