Cold cases to election upsets – Top 10 stories of 2018

Another year has come and gone. Join us as we take a look back at some of Knox County’s top stories from 2018.

  1. Redhead murder victim identified

A North Carolina family found closure this year after Knox County’s redheaded Jane Doe was identified as their mother, Espy Regina Black-Pilgrim. Pilgrim was found murdered in an old refrigerator in the Gray area in 1985. Her family contacted Kentucky State Police in October 2017 to conduct a DNA test. Nearly one year later in October 2018, the results came back and confirmed Pilgrim was their long-lost mother. Pilgrim will remain buried in Knox County. The family started a GoFundMe campaign to purchase a new headstone with Pilgrim’s name. Currently, a simple headstone which reads “Unknown” marks her grave. KSP is continuing an active murder investigation.

2. Stivers Center closed, bought by Union College

A malfunctioning sprinkle system wreaked havoc on the Stivers Center earlier this year, causing thousands of dollars in damages and a prolonged closure. In late February, a sprinkler head in the electrical room opened up for an unknown reason, causing water damage and flooding of electrical equipment. The Center was already closed due to a lack of qualified management when the incident happened. The center’s insurance made the necessary repairs to the building. Union College then purchased the building, made a few repairs and cosmetic changes and reopened in late summer. Since then, the Stivers Board has tied up all loose ends and will officially dissolve as of December 31.

3. General Election upsets

While everyone knew this would be a big election year, there were some upsets that no one saw coming. Bob Blevins beat longstanding PVA Bill Oxendine and officially took office in early December. The Knox County Fiscal Court also saw major changes, replacing four of five magistrates, and a new Judge-Executive, Mike Mitchell, following JM Hall’s announcement to retire. Jailer Mary Hammons held off challenger C.J. Trent. Coroner Mike Blevins, Knox Co. Attorney Gilbert Holland, County Clerk Mike Corey and Sheriff Mike Smith were all uncontested.

4. Senior Citizens Center takeover

With no money to cover operating costs, the HELP Board which runs Barbourville’s Senior Citizens Center voted in November to close the doors. They did this in light of KCEOC’s interest in the center. After a month of deliberation, KCOEC officially announced its intention to take the center over beginning January 1. This means there will not be an interruption of services, including meal delivery and homemaking. While it will take a few months to settle into this new venture, KCEOC hopes to expand services at the center in the upcoming year, making it bigger and better than ever before.

5. Teachers protest state budget

Teachers across Knox County held several marches and walk-ins in 2018 in protest of Kentucky’s unfunded pension crisis. Governor Matt Bevin brought the pension crisis to the forefront last year, proposing sweeping changes that left many educators and their union representatives unsettled. Teachers remained adamant during their protests that they only wanted what was promised to them. Knox educators went as far as Frankfort to protest and make their voices heard.

6. Mail woes plague Cannon area

Those on mail route HO83 in the Cannon community reported issues with their mail service during the summer. While some were just inconvenienced, others entire lives were about to come undone due to lost rent checks, utility and credit card bills and even medications and government support. After over three months of issues, those in the community reported they are once again receiving their mail. The Mountain Advocate continues to follow this case.

7. Schools increase security

A series of tragic national events led local schools to take a closer look at their own security measures in 2018. Both Barbourville Independent and Knox County Public Schools received donated metal detectors thanks to Attorney Shane Romines. They also added security vestibules to schools and now require every person pass through a metal detector before gaining entrance to a school. Security officers were also added to ensure every child receives an education without fearing for their safety.

8. TLC films ‘Long Lost Family’ at Oven Mitt

Barbourville kicked 2018 off with some celebrities in town. TLC stopped by The Oven Mitt in January to film a segment of “Long Lost Family.” The crew, which looks for local spots to shoot at, ended up in Barbourville thanks to a quick Google search that landed them at The Oven Mitt restaurant. A handful of Barbourville natives were even able to stand in as extras during the shoot. The episode titled ‘You Have Been Loved Your Whole Life’ aired in April.

9. BUC brings Blink to residents

While Barbourville Utilities began rolling out fiber lines in 2017, businesses and residents did not gain access to Blink, a 1 gigabit internet service, until 2018. The new internet service replaced BUC’s old, unreliable internet with state of the art technology and an infrastructure to last for years to come. In comparison, a two-hour HD movie on BUC’s old five meg internet service took one hour and 12 minutes to download. With Blink, it can take as little as 25 seconds.

10. BIS begins construction for expansion/remodel project

Construction officially began for Barbourville Independent’s school expansion project in February this year. This multi-million-dollar project was over a year in the making before ground ever broke. Once complete, the middle/high and elementary school buildings will be connected, the lunchroom will be completely revamped and a new, sleek receptionist area will greet visitors at one central location for the entire campus. The board held an official groundbreaking ceremony at the end of September. The project is set to conclude before the beginning of the 19-20 school year.