CALLOWAY COUNTY -- The body of a Murray State University student from Missouri who went missing on Kentucky Lake following a boating accident Sunday was found Tuesday morning.
Samantha Brooke Ratledge, 22, of Scott City, Missouri, went missing at approximately 8 p.m. Sunday after she was thrown from a boat. Ratledge was a passenger aboard a pontoon boat that was headed south on Kentucky Lake near mile marker 48 out from Paradise Resort. According to witness statements, Ratledge got out of her seat and crossed the safety rail on the front of the vessel while it was still in motion and fell overboard. The vessel was stopped, but Ratledge was unable to be located.
The Region 1 Law Enforcement Division of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to the scene alongside Calloway County and Marshall County Fire-Rescue. Calloway County Emergency Management Director Bill Call said emergency crews began their search Sunday night around 10:30 p.m. and terminated their first search efforts at 1 a.m. the following day. Searching resumed Monday at about 6:30 a.m., and those efforts continued until about 8 p.m. Monday.
The search resumed Tuesday morning until Ratledge's body was discovered around 10 a.m.
"The body was located about 10 a.m. and it was considerably after that before it was recovered," Call said. "Law enforcement had to do their examination at the scene and the coroner has to pronounce at the scene. But the body has been recovered and the coroner has the body and is taking it for further processing."
Call said the body was located in the general area Ratledge was reported to have gone overboard. He said her body washed up on shore after surfacing overnight.
"The body surfaced overnight and washed up on the shore about a quarter to a half-mile south of the main area we were concentrating in," Call said. "We assumed the body surfaced overnight or early this morning and that the currents did most of the moving."
Call said that members of CCFR found the body around 10 a.m. and that the body was removed from the scene sometime around 12:45 p.m. after the scene was processed. Call said that he was thankful to the many volunteers who came out and contributed to the search.
"We are grateful for the volunteers from Calloway County and Marshall County who put so much time into the search," Call said. "We are also thankful for the support that Paradise Resort and Lynnhurst Resort gave us. They fed and encouraged the volunteers, and were very hospitable to the family members that had come in as well."
Ratledge was a senior at Murray State. Tuesday, the university issued an official statement.
"On Tuesday afternoon, Murray State University was made aware of the tragic off-campus death of Samantha Ratledge, a student pursuing a degree in occupational safety and health from Scott City, Missouri. The University community extends its thoughts and prayers to Samantha's family and friends during this very difficult time," the statement read.
Also on Sunday, James T. Nance, 49, of Calloway County, was arrested for boating under the influence in the first degree, and was lodged in the Calloway County Jail. A release from KDFWR Law Enforcement said alcohol was a factor in the incident.
Individuals facing charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Patti's, iconic western Kentucky eatery, aims to reopen in October
By Derek Operle
The Paducah Sun
As fall approaches, crews are hard at work restoring Patti's 1880's Settlement to its former glory in time for an October reopening date.
The rebuilding of the Grand Rivers restaurant and tourist attraction following a February 2018 electrical fire that destroyed its kitchen, office and iconic Patti's dining room has been a long process for the management team.
"There's good moments and rough moments, but every day it's getting closer. When you take people through to see it they say, 'This feels like Patti's,' " said owner Chip Tullar. "That's what I was trying to make happen. We're used to something that's so old and then all of the sudden you have to reproduce it to code. It's really exciting and fun to see it come alive again."
Tullar optimistically set Oct. 1 as an opening date, though it will likely be sometime in mid-to-late October before the restaurant is fully open. Soft opening dates are expected and, right now, the focus is on filling out the staff and completing construction work.
Ann Martin, Patti's director of marketing and public relations, is hoping the restoration process brings the magic back to Grand Rivers.
"We're putting cedar on the inside, bringing back the tables that were in there before and the stained glass. The girls will be in their dresses and the guys will be in their overalls," she said. "We're trying to bring it back as much as we can to the way it was before."
When completed, the new space will be able to seat 400 diners at a time and allow for more private dining options, as well as increased handicap accessibility.
The restaurant's kitchen will also be getting an overhaul, expanding and updating its capabilities. Though the menu will hold the same offerings as before -- including the institution's legendary one-inch pork chop -- Patti's also plans to begin serving alcohol upon reopening.
Tullar compared the kitchen remodel to updating from a 1950s Cadillac to a 2020 model: "It'll take a little getting used to, but it's a heck of a ride."
The owner has been holding back on social media updates of the rebuilding process in hopes of producing more of a wow factor when people come back.
I'm creating this magnificent present, and we're going to cut the ribbon together and let everyone come see pretty soon. My mother in heaven is happy, happy, happy."
For the community surrounding Patti's, it's been a long 19 months.
"With it being down, of course, everyone has seen a decline in business to a certain degree," Brian McDonald, executive director of tourism for Grand Rivers, said. "The excitement around them reopening is going to generate more interest in Grand Rivers and get people back in town."
In December 2017 -- just two months before the fire -- the restaurant served 56,622 customers, according to Tullar. Since the fire, tourism activity in the city, McDonald estimates, has dropped 20% overall.
"I can't tell you how excited we are. It's been a long dry spell without them. They're not just a restaurant, they're a destination," Grand Rivers Mayor Tom Moodie told the Sun. "When you're a small town of 350 people, and you have a business that draws in 500,000 people a year, it's a pretty big loss to deal with for two years or so."
The losses aren't just in the tourism department. The Grand Rivers Water Department, the city's municipally owned utility, alone has lost out on north of $200,000 over the course of the closure.
Louisville armoredtruck driver accusedof stealing nearly$1M takes plea deal
By Billy Kobin
Louisville Courier Journal
The Louisville man accused of taking nearly $1 million from an armored truck parked outside Jefferson Mall last year and fleeing to Connecticut has entered a guilty plea in federal court.
Mark Espinosa, 29, agreed to plead guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville to stealing more than $900,000 from a GardaWorld armored truck parked outside Louisville's Jefferson Mall on Dec. 5, 2018.
The guilty plea came one day before a jury trial was scheduled to start in Espinosa's case.
Espinosa is facing one count each of theft from a common carrier, bank robbery, interstate transportation of stolen money, monetary transactions involving stolen money and money laundering.
According to the plea deal, federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend 21 years in prison as punishment, far less than the maximum of 60 years he was facing.
The money laundering charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a term of supervised release, while the other charges each carry a maximum of 10 years.
As explained previously by authorities and outlined in a plea agreement, Espinosa, who worked for Garda at the time of the alleged theft, took the money and left while his co-worker went inside the mall to pick up money.
When Espinosa's partner exited the mall, the truck was there but Espinosa was gone along with $932,285.22 in cash from the back of the truck, according to court records.
Authorities had initially said Espinosa could be a suspect or a victim but then issued an federal arrest warrant for him in December, saying he took steps to plan out the theft.
Within days of his disappearance, Garda officials told a Louisville licensing agency that Espinosa no longer worked for the company, the Courier Journal previously reported.
He had started working for the Montreal-based private security services firm in the summer of 2018, according to court documents.
By late 2018, Espinosa began creating identification documents for the alias "Sam Smith" on his computer, court documents state.
Espinosa was eventually arrested Jan. 30 at a Department of Motor Vehicles office in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he allegedly tried to get a new driver's license with a forged birth certificate.
Following his arrest, a Louisville police detective said Espinosa grew up in New Britain, Connecticut, which is about 8 miles west of Wethersfield.
Authorities later discovered he was living in an apartment in Middletown, Connecticut, where they found $892,737.89 in cash, according to court documents.
Espinosa allegedly put some of the stolen money to his personal use.
An indictment said Espinosa, using the alias of "Sam Smith," purchased a Chevy Malibu for $21,193.28 on or around Dec. 10 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with stolen money from the armored truck.
On Dec. 21, Espinosa used the same pseudonym and deposited $3,300 stolen from the truck into a bank account in Middlesex County, Connecticut, the indictment said.
Espinosa has been represented by a public defender.
According to court documents, Espinosa must pay back Garda $892,758.14 in restitution and also give up the Chevy Malibu and funds in a bank account under the "Sam Smith" alias.
Espinosa's prison sentence will ultimately be decided by U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. on Dec. 11, nearly one year after he vanished along with his loot from Louisville.