Each week The River City News talks with Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders about his weekly e-newsletter that highlights who was sent to prison or got probation in the previous week. At the bottom of this post you can find a link to that newsletter. Here are this week's questions and answers:
RCN: Saturday was a very trying day for local authorities as another tip possibly related to the disappearance of Paige Johnson sent swarms of investigators to a property in Latonia to look for human remains. At RCN's Facebook page questions were raised that authorities do not act as diligently on every tip for this case. How are they prioritized and why was Saturday's tip deemed to be so significant that it attracted the attention that it did?
SANDERS: The search Saturday wasn't nearly as dramatic as it appeared in the media. If the location to be searched wasn't a confined, underground space, the search would have been conducted by a single detective Friday evening and probably never would have made the news. Confined underground spaces can contain dangerous gases and stability of the space is always a concern, so specialized equipment had to be brought in to deal with the potential hazards. Covington Police determined it would be easier to coordinate the response during daylight hours so the scene was secured until dawn.
All new leads are followed up on promptly. This tip got no more priority or significance than any other credible lead. As I've already mentioned it was just a more visible operation. Even after hearing that a bone had been spotted I was far from optimistic that it would actually be Paige because the tip did not jive with anything already learned from the investigation. Nevertheless, no stone will be left unturned, as I'm sure anyone would want if it was their child who was missing.
This case is a perfect example of why law enforcement usually doesn't tell the media every last detail of an investigation. When too much information is in the press, it dramatically increases the number of bad leads that sound credible because the tipster is able to provide so many details. Folks have to realize we aren't holding a press conference every time something is done on the Paige Johnson investigation. It's a high profile case but even still, 90% of the investigation isn't public. If a tip has been provided to police, it gets plenty of prompt attention, but if all goes well, no one but the detectives and myself will know about it. The only way a tip doesn't get investigated is if its repeating bad information or a lead that's already proven to be a dead end.
I still believe there are more than one person out there who knows where Paige is. I hope the continued media interest might pressure at least one of those people to do the right thing and help us bring Paige home to her family. The social media debates and complaints by people who basically don't know anything more than what they see on TV, however, do nothing to help the investigation.
RCN: Nathaniel Fritts faced up to ten years but was sentenced to five for theft of identity and second degree persisten felony offender. What's the nature of Fritts's case?
SANDERS: On April 15, 2012, Covington Police Officer Chris Dees was one of several officers sent to a robbery call at AE Carryout on Madison Ave. A description of the robber was broadcast by police dispatch. Dees spotted Fritts in the area and noticed he matched the description so Dees stopped him. Fritts told Dees he was "Cory A. Taylor" and provided a date of birth but claimed he didn't have ID on him. Dees warned Fritts about giving false ID to police but Fritts maintained he was Cory A. Taylor. Dees suspected Fritts was lying so he pulled up Corey A. Taylor on Jailtracker only to find a mugshot of someone who was definitely not Fritts. When Dees confronted Fritts with the mugshot, Fritts said "F*ck it, I got a warrant. Cory is my brother. I'm Nathaniel Fritts." So Fritts was not arrested for robbery but he was arrested for theft of identity. The warrant appears to be for a parole violation on escape and bailjumping convictions from 2008. Fritts did not get a plea offer from the Commonwealth; however, he pled guilty anyway and chose to take his chances with Judge Gregory Bartlett who sentenced him to eighteen months for theft of Identity, enhanced to 5 years by the persistent felony offender status. I'm not sure if they ever caught the actual robber.
Again, theft of Identity may seem like a petty crime but just last week we had a woman get booked thru the jail using an unsuspecting third party's name and identifiers. Of course the suspect bonded out of jail then didn't show up for court. Luckily for the would-be victim a federal probation officer from Ohio called to tell us she got a tip that one of her probationers had been arrested in Kentucky and gave a false name. The tip was anonymous but provided enough details that we figured out which case it was. Had we not gotten the call or been unable to determine which case it was about, an unsuspecting woman from Frankfort, KY would have been arrested and hauled up here for felony theft from a store she's never been inside.
RCN: Connie Blevins is going to prison for two and a half years for Trafficking in Controlled Substance (cocaine) and Trafficking in Marijuana within 1,000 ft of a School. What can you tell us about this one?
SANDERS: On February 28, 2012 Blevins sold $40 worth of crack cocaine to a confidential informant working for the Covington Police. On April 3, 2012, she sold $50 worth of powder cocaine to an informant also working for the Covington Police. On the same day about forty minutes later she then sold $20 worth of marijuana to another confidential informant working for the Covington Police and was within 1,000 feet of Holy Family School at the time of the sale. Not the world's biggest drug dealer but obviously a very active one who brings down the quality of life for everyone in her neighborhood.
See the full list and mugshots of those who were convicted of felonies in Kenton County Circuit Court, including the ones referenced above, at the link: This Week in Kenton Co. Circuit Court
Photo: The scene Saturday in Latonia as investigators searched a property on Decoursey Avenue/RCN