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November 20, 2012

Chief Deputy not forthcoming with information

Wanda English Burnett

A Ripley County jailer (service provider) has been charged with Sexual Misconduct Between a Service Provider and a Detained Person, which is a Class C Felony.

According to documents filed in the Ripley County Circuit Court on Nov. 13, Katheryn Starkey performed or submitted to sexual intercourse or deviate sexual conduct with Kevin Elza, who was an inmate at the Ripley County Jail at the time. Elza is described as a "victor", which means he is an inmate with special privileges.

The Probable Cause Affidavit reveals a lot more about the case.

Jail Commander Bill McDonald approached Det. Abe Hildebrand concerning an investigation into a jail employee. McDonald said Starkey was acting suspiciously around Elza and despite repeated warnings she would regularly enter restricted areas, such as the work release cellblock and the hallway between the jail booking room and the work release area.

McDonald said he was concerned because these areas were not covered by jail security. He believed Starkey was "exploiting known ‘blind spots' within the jail's video survelliance grid to covertly engage in an inappropriate relationship with an inmate", according to information in the affidavit.

After McDonald saw the behavior of Starkey for a while, he placed an audio recording device in the work release area. After listening to the recording, there were sounds that were consistent with people engaging in sexual activity in the work release area.

McDonald noted that he and Ripley County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Dave Pippin interviewed Starkey regarding the audio recording.

The affidavit says that Pippin read Starkey her Miranda rights and informed her that criminal charges could be filed as a result of her conduct. Starkey waived her Miranda rights and signed the waiver.

Chief Deputy Pippin began the interview by telling Starkey that he liked her as a person…but alluded to having prior discussions with Starkey about her history of "female on male contact" and that Starkey continued to engage in such conduct.

The affidavit reads that Starkey admitted to knowing Elza and that they were family friends. She admitted to meeting the inmate nightly, saying it was mostly just to talk, but later said she had a mutual attraction to him. Pippin reassured her that her statements would remain confidential. Then Starkey admitted that she and Elza had kissed and agreed there was a bit more going on, but no complete intercourse.

After warning Starkey that he (Pippin) could file charges against her, which would be public, he went on to say he didn't want to forward the evidence to the prosecutor (Ric Hertel) because "the prosecutor and the newspaper in this small little area love to come down on police officers and loves to come down on corrections officers."

Pippin went on to cite the "smearing" of his brother, former jail commander Dennis Pippin, who pled guilty to Domestic Battery and has since been arrested on another domestic type charge. He also told her about Zeb Hildebrand, citing officers who had been "smeared". Hildebrand was found guilty by a jury of Aggravated Battery after he battered his own baby.

Starkey was then told she could be charged with a Class C Felony, and that she was going to be terminated or allowed to resign, potentially preserving her ability to collect unemployment.

"If I didn't like you so much I would consider criminal charges," Pippin told Starkey. He went on to say that he thought "that the sheriff's office as a whole, including jail and reserve officers has been drug through the mud enough the last couple of years and that I just can't stomach another employee being drug through the mud."

Chief Deputy Pippin did not bring charges before the prosecutor for review. Instead, the prosecutor was made aware of the situation by Det. Abe Hildebrand who conducted the investigation.

On October 16 Hildebrand spoke to Elza who admitted to knowing Starkey and that they were good friends. He initially denied any sexual contact with Starkey. When confronted with a follow-up interview, he did admit to some sexual misconduct.

Det. Hildebrand signed the probable cause affidavit outlining what had taken place at the jail. There is also an audio taped investigation with Chief Deputy Pippin's comments included on it.

An intial hearing was held Nov. 15 for Starkey with a trial date set for April 23. Bail was set for Starkey at $1,000. She could face from 2-8 years in prison if found guilty of the crime she has been charged with.

Starkey has retained Attorney Gary Sorge of Lawrenceburg, to represent her in the case.

When asked about the charges, Sheriff Tom Grills released this statement, "The sheriff's office not only polices the streets, but police ourselves. We are committed to holding everyone accountable, even our own, with good judgment and what is in the best interest of all parties involved."

He went on to say, "It is a shame that an employee here would make such poor judgment, however, we do not know what type of social factors played in her decision on this issue."

The sheriff concluded, "On a greater scale, issues arrive in all facets of the workplace, government or private. It only takes on the highest level of integrity to see the issue, and address it, instead of trying to hide it or sweep it under the carpet as some do. As the sheriff, I am committed to that type of integrity."

Cathy May honored for 20 years of services

Wanda English Burnett

The Ripley County Chamber of Commerce celebrated 20 years at their annual meeting and awards dinner Nov. 15 to the tunes of Keith Swinney and Lora Iceberg Parks. The local duo provided blended talent to take the event to a level of fun and excitement as people were honored.

Marsha Brinson was named the 2012 Educator of the Year. She has taught elementary school for more than 16 years, with most of those at South Ripley.

Brinson completed her undergraduate work at Hanover College in 1990 and earned her Master's degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.

"Marsha is loved by her students," noted Cathy May, who introduced the award winners. "She goes over and above to make each student feel special. She takes time with each child to help them understand what tools to use to help them learn," May continued. May said that Brinson "gives her all – every day – to serve her kids. She makes learning fun!"

Brinson also serves as the 4-H leader of the Olean Volunteers Club where she is known to give the same level of care to the members of the club. She lives on their family farm in Olean with husband, Tad, and three children, Jacob, Kelsey and Abby.

Brinson thanked those who nominated her. She said there was a special teacher in her high school years who inspired her to get into education. The crowd was not surprised to hear her name Mary Margaret Moorhead, who was a long time teacher at South Ripley.

The 2012 Business Person of the Year award went to Marc Rulli, owner of Gold Star Chili in Versailles.

As May introduced Rulli, she said he has proven to be a great partner in the community. She noted that a new business has never made such a positive impact on the community so quickly. She noted that in the history of the chamber, no one has been nominated as many times as Rulli, he received 14 nominations in all.

"His contributions toward non-profit organizations and fundraising for special needs, as well as donations, has been outstanding," May noted. "Since Marc has opened his restaurant he has been everywhere when there has been a need." Rulli and his wife, Kristi have three children: Alessa, Jacob and Dominic.

Rulli thanked the chamber for the award and said, "It means a lot that you have the confidence in me." He went on to say that being in Versailles has exceeded all his expectations. "I feel like I'm a member of the community," he noted. "I'm happy to be here." He thanked the chamber for 20 years of serving the community.

Roger Kavauaugh, Versailles, was named the 2012 Citizen of the Year.

Kavanaugh was introduced with a short bio saying he graduated from Indiana State University in Evansville in 1975. He served in the Vietnam War in the US Army from 1971-1973 with the 1st Air Cavalry.

Kavanaugh owned Rogers Service Center in Versailles for a number of years and is now retired. He is a member of the Versailles American Legion where he recently served as the chairman of the Holton tornado relief, helping with supplies, food and materials for those in Holton. He also is the chairman of the Christmas program where supplies, toys and food for 50 families in the South Ripley School District are distributed.

One of his greatest accomplishments was to serve on the Vietnam Veterans Committee that helped bring the Vietnam Wall to Versailles this past July. He was responsible for getting the wall set up and torn down. It took 18 months of planning for the event to take place.

"Roger has called Bingo at the legion every Friday night for the last 16 years," May noted. She said he does between 600-800 hours of community service a year in Ripley County making him more than eligible for the award.

Kavanaugh and wife, Debra have three children, three grandchildren and one grandchild on the way.

Thanking the chamber for the award, Kavanaugh talked about his responsibility in getting the wall into place. He said he found out some things. One, that people don't use phones anymore, just email and two, that the soldiers from the Patriot Academy, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, were in better shape to do the labor! He said the young men were a great asset in getting the walls in place and then taking them down again, quite a job.

When May left the podium thinking all awards had been given out, she was surprised as the chamber president, Matt McNew, called her up again.

McNew noted that May has resigned from the chamber at the end of this year, marking her 20th year of service. She is a charter member, serving on the board of directors, as the treasurer and president, and chairperson on almost every event throughout the years.

To name a few accomplishments, May has served on the Ripley County Community Foundation for seven years. Another endeavor she has been involved in is the tourism commission, Osgood Library Board for 16 years, Osgood Beautification Committee as president; is a member of the Osgod Baptist Church where she is the choir director; and involved in the Ross Run DAR. She was the 1999 Citizen of the Year at the Speaking of Women event, sponsored by Margaret Mary Community Hospital.

May is known for her Second Sunday Shuttle ministry where she has taken people for 16 years to various events and outings every month.

She has been employed with WSCH Radio for 18 years, has written more than 1,000 columns for the local newspaper, the Osgood Journal and The Versailles Republican.

"Every community needs a Cathy May," McNew concluded.

May reclaimed the podium for just a few minutes to express her gratitude to the chamber for giving her the award and beautiful clock. She said, "I have loved the chamber from the start." As words failed her she said, "This is the best chamber of commerce in the whole world," to which the audience applauded.

A special tribute in the form of the song, "I Wish You Well My Friend" was sang to May by Lora Iceberg Parks who was accompanied by her sister, Amy Thomas on the piano. Thomas serves as the chamber's executive director.

The meeting ended with a number of songs from the special entertainment and items from the silent auction tallied.

To learn more about what the chamber does in the community or to become a member call Thomas at 689-6654.


Pictured at left, Cathy May, seated, received an award from chamber president, Matt McNew, for her 20 years of service to the chamber. Also honored at the annual meeting were (pictured below from left): Roger Kavanaugh, citizen of the year; Marsha Brinson, educator of the year and Marc Rulli, business person of the year. The meeting took place at the South Ripley Elementary School Cafeteria.

To read these and more articles pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican at your local store or subscribe by clicking on the link above or by calling 812-689-6364.
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