Sarah Teague has won another battle in her effort to find out what happened to her daughter, Heather Teague, more than 22 years ago.
On Friday, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip J. Shepherd ordered the Kentucky State Police to pay Sarah Teague's attorney's fees, costs and penalties totaling $23,710. The judge found that KSP acted "willfully" in withholding records of and related to an Aug. 26, 1995, 911 call.
Heather Danyelle Teague was last seen on that day at Newburgh Beach in Henderson County. At the time, witness Tim Wathall, who was across the river in Newburgh, Indiana, told police he saw Heather Teague dragged into the woods. Her body has never been found and she was declared legally dead in 2007.
Sarah Teague and her attorney, Chip Adams of Madisonville, have maintained that there are discrepancies in the 911 tapes that were played for them 2008 and again in 2016. The tapes, both apparently containing Wathall's voice, are different, Adams and Sarah Teague say. Teague believes the first call was fake and that the truth behind her daughter's disappearance is being covered up.
Teague filed an open records request in 2016 with the KSP seeking all records of the 1995 911 call, as well as dates, times and any records showing the chain of custody. The KSP denied Teague's request, and the case eventually wound up in Franklin Circuit Court. In October 2017, Shepherd ordered the KSP to turn over the records, saying that the agency's reasons for denying the request were "vague, speculative, and extremely remote."
Under state law, the winning plaintiff in an open records suit may ask the court for attorney's fees, costs and penalties, which may be awarded if the agency denying the request acted willfully. Shepherd wrote in his ruling that the KSP "lacked a plausible justification for withholding the documents" and "acted in conscious disregard" of Teague's right to access the records.
The ruling awards $9,406.25 in attorney's fees, $203.92 in costs and $14,100 in penalties, which were figured at $25 per day for each day Teague was denied access to the records.
Adams said the judge's decision lends credence to his and Teague's suspicions.
"(KSP is) willfully withholding information. They're willfully mistreating her," Adams said. "So Sarah got validation that there's a good chance what she's been saying is accurate. Why did they do this? It doesn't make sense."
The KSP attorney involved in the case was not in his Frankfort office Tuesday afternoon. A person who answered the phone said KSP policy is to refer all calls from the media to the public affairs office. There was no answer at that office Tuesday afternoon.
The only person identified as a suspect in the case, Marty Dill of Henderson County, shot and killed himself as authorities were preparing to serve a search warrant days after Heather Teague's disappearance.
Sarah Teague believes her daughter, who was 23, was involved with illegal drugs and may have been about to expose powerful people. She has said the case involved drugs, prostitution and public corruption, and that Heather met with a Henderson police officer the night before she was abducted.
Heather Teague was a 1990 graduate of Webster County High School and was a student at Western Kentucky University.