More animal-related mayhem along 24 miles of “quiet” country road than in many big cities
WHITELY CITY, Kentucky––Bad things involving animals happen along the 24-mile route from Slab Vanover Road, between Honeybee and Parker’s Lake in northern McCreary County, Kentucky, to Honest Abe’s cockpit at 303 Low Gap Road, two miles east of Pine Knot, which appears to own local law enforcement, such as it is.
On April 11, 2023, for instance, five pit bulls and a sixth dog of unidentified lineage, all running at large, killed Slab Vanover Road resident Wilma Lee “Polly” Ridner, 61, outside the home she had occupied almost all of her life.
Two pit bull pack killings in three days
Ridner was the first of two U.S. pit bull pack fatalities in three days. The second was Dezmond R. Thomas Trawick, 22, of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Trawick was killed on April 13, 2023 by four pit bulls he was reportedly watching for someone else.
Trawick was the 19th U.S. dog attack fatality of 2023, 15 of them killed by pit bulls.
Ridner was the 18th dog attack fatality and the 14th killed by pit bulls.
“Loved being with her grandbabies”
Ridner’s daughter-in-law and neighbor Crystal Jones told Bill Pendleton of WKYT that Ridner was just walking home, at about two a.m., apparently after helping another neighbor who had been injured by the same dogs.
Animal control officers killed four of the pit bulls and issued a warning to the community about the surviving dogs, who at most recent report were still at large.
“Polly was a homemaker,” said her Pine Knot Funeral Home obituary. “She loved nothing more than caring for her family, working in her garden, and doing yard work. She also enjoyed playing games, but above all, Polly loved being with her grandbabies.”
Wilma Lee “Polly” Ridner was born Wilma Lee Goins in Whitely City, the McCreary County seat. She appears to have had nothing to do with cockfighting. A relative is among the few outspoken local opponents of cockfighting.
Vinson Tucker, 79, of Stearns, about two miles south of Whitely City, also had no known involvement in cockfighting.
Tucker was killed on July 11, 2017 by four dogs, including at least one pit bull, while visiting a scrap yard in Whitely.
The unprovoked attack was caught by the scrap yard security camera.
Those dogs too were running at large, and although recently seen in the neighborhood, were unknown to residents.
Drugger set pit bull on deputies
About a mile west of where Tucker died, 40-year Stearns resident Michael Soard––one of several local men with that name––was on July 21, 2017 charged with “turning his aggressive pit bull loose while he was high on drugs,” reported WYMT of Hazard, Kentucky.
“Deputies say the pit bull attacked one deputy, leading him to shoot the animal,” WYMT continued. “The pit bull was later put down by another deputy.
Soard was charged with harboring a vicious animal, public intoxication, possession of marijuana and cultivating marijuana.
Soard had been charged in 2013 with two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance, second degree, first offense, for allegedly selling hydrocodone to a confidential informant, and in September 2014 was arrested for violating probation.
Cockfighters & dogfighters
Soard no longer lives in McCreary County.
Only 16,888 people do live in McCreary County, according to U.S. census data, but the frequent cockfights at Honest Abe’s draw riff-raff from elsewhere as well as locals.
Some of the riff-raff, perhaps also involved in dogfighting, may dump pit bulls they consider insufficiently “game” on side roads up the “hollers,” as the hollows between hills are locally called.
“That the pit is called Honest Abe’s,” Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi observed in December 2022, “is interesting, as there is nothing honest about cockfighting, or the criminals involved,” including the calumny often recited by cockfighters that Abraham Lincoln––who had a well-known lifelong aversion to blood sports––was ever either a cockfighter or a cockfighting judge.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] has kept Honest Abe’s under frequent surveillance since 2020.
Showing Animals Respect & Kindness has also been watching Kentucky State Trooper Post 11, which has long ignored complaints about Honest Abe’s and four other cockpits located within Post 11 jurisdiction.
These include the Laurel Creek Game Club, near Manchester in Clay County; CJ’s Pit and the Bald Rock Pit, also known as Big H, both near London in Laurel County; and the Steel Hollow Pit, in Corbin, Whitely County,
Kentucky State Police let suspects escape
On June 6, 2020, a SHARK hidden camera set up near Honest Abe’s captured two Kentucky State Police cars arriving at the scene of a cockfight. The Kentucky State Police cars then backed aside to allow 33 vehicles, mostly new-looking pickup trucks, to make their escape.
Even without frequent tip-offs from SHARK about cockfights underway, the Kentucky State Police must have suspected they were going on, long before the SHARK surveillance started.
This is because the shortest route to Honest Abe’s for southbound traffic arriving on U.S. Highway 27, the main-traveled road through McCreary County, is County Road 2792, which runs 200 feet from the 67 Johns Road home of 20-year Kentucky State Police trooper Philip Alan Hayes.
Unusually heavy traffic on County Road 2792, passing Hayes’ driveway, would have been conspicuous.
Hayes, who retired in 2013, died in a March 29, 2023 house fire.
Puppy mill just up the road
Hayes also had the opportunity, at least, to be aware of a puppy mill run by Patricia Z. Douglas on Bethel Road, forking off County Road 2792 at Christ the King Anglican Mission, about a mile east of Hayes’ home.
Located a mile up Bethel Road, a mile due north across Clear Creek from Honest Abe’s, the Douglas puppy mill was raided on November 21, 2013 by McCreary County deputy sheriff Jerry Meadows, deputy Tom Smith, and constable Donald Daugherty, with no reported involvement of the Kentucky State Troopers.
Patricia Z. Douglas was “charged with 19 counts of second-degree animal cruelty as well as resisting arrest and first-degree disorderly conduct,” McCreary County Record news editor Janie Slaven reported, “after authorities seized 19 small-breed dogs — primarily Yorkshire terriers, Dachshunds and Chihuahuas.
“The flea-ridden animals were kept in tight, unsanitary quarters at Douglas’ Bethel Road home,” Slaven added. “Many were reportedly malnourished and pregnant.”
McCreary District Court judge Fred White “convicted Douglas of six counts of animal cruelty as well as the disorderly conduct charge,” Slaven said, ordering her “to pay a $500 fine for the animal cruelty counts and $50 for disorderly conduct, in addition to $133 in court costs.
“The case was brought to the attention of local authorities,” Slaven explained, “by the
Corbin-based animal rights group Justice For Abused Animals.”
Justice For Abused Animals had in May 2013 helped to bring similar charges against Douglas, then using the name Patricia Burko, and her then-husband, Curt Burko, in Knox County. The raid on her Bethel Road property came only hours after Douglas/Burko pleaded no contest to second-degree animal cruelty in Knox County District Court, receiving a six-month jail sentence which was probated for two years.
160 cruelty counts became 90 days for one count of littering, suspended
McCreary County relies on the Knox/Whitely Animal Shelter in Corbin, 41 miles northeast of Whitely, for pound services. That arrangement ran into trouble in November 2015 when John Pratt, a Kentucky state trooper, found 160 dogs living on the premises of Stephanie E. Fields, of London in Laurel County, 30 of the dogs in Fields’ home and 130 outdoors.
As the Knox/Whitely Animal Shelter could not house all of the dogs, many were fostered temporarily by members of Laurel County Animal Rescue.
Fields was charged with 160 counts of second-degree animal cruelty, but in January 2017 was allowed to plead guilty to a single count of criminal littering.
Fields received a sentence of 90 days in jail, suspended on condition of no further violations for 18 months.