By COURIER STAFF REPORT
A Jackson County man has been sentenced to 28 years in prison as the first defendant convicted in an online child solicitation sting conducted by Madison Police Department last year called Operation Predator Net (OPN).
Everett James McGill, 53, Seymour, was sentenced in Jefferson County Circuit Court Monday following his conviction on March 10 for Attempted Sexual Misconduct with a Minor and Child Solicitation, both Level 4 Felonies. McGill, already a registered sex offender, had his sentenced enhanced as a habitual offender based on previous convictions for child molestation and involuntary manslaughter.
The case, tried by Jefferson County Prosecutor David Sutter and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Campbell, was the first trial and conviction in the wake of last year’s OPN internet investigation targeting child predators. Madison Police Department (MPD) launched the investigation in August of 2020 and made 20 total arrests between then and Nov. 13, 2020. The Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office has been pursuing those cases in court ever since.
After Monday’s sentencing hearing, Sutter thanked the law enforcement officers for their efforts. “Thanks to the Madison Police Department and their tremendous police work, we were able to put this child predator behind bars. I especially want to thank Detectives Kyle Cutshaw, Ricky Harris and Shawn Scudder for their testimony at trial and at the sentencing hearing.” Sutter said.
Madison Police Chief John Wallace thanked Sutter and the Prosecutor’s Office for vigorously prosecuting the case and making sure that a child predator was taken off the streets. He said the conviction and lengthy sentence are both validation that OPN was worth the hundreds of hours the department spent engaging with McGill and the other suspects in the sting but that remarks by Circuit Judge DJ Mote Monday while announcing sentencing, really drove the point home.
“While sentencing Mr. McGill, Judge Mote said, ‘Had not law enforcement stepped in and intervened, another 14-year-old girl would have been victimized,’ ” Wallace said. “And that’s exactly what would have happened. Mr. McGill was very motivated. This sentence should send a very strong message to the other defendants and to anyone who preys on our youth.”
McGill was actually the 14th arrest made after OPN was initiated when Madison Police created a social media profile depicting a 14-year-old female, “E.W,” in August of 2020. According to the probable cause affidavit, McGill initiated a chat conversation using a social media profile on Facebook named “Unk Aaron” and listing a date of birth 10 years younger than his actual age.
During the course of the investigation, McGill engaged in near constant communication with the MPD account between Sept. 3, 2020 and Sept. 9, 2020. In the messages, McGill would refer to E.W. as “babe” and “kid” and would constantly message her, even during late night hours wanting to chat, and asking questions about what she likes to do for fun and how she likes to party.
On Sept. 9, Detective Scudder identified the “Unk Aaron” Facebook profile as belonging to McGill and further identified McGill as a 53-year-old registered sex offender in Jackson County, Indiana. The sex offender registry listed McGill as having a prior conviction for child molestation and a lifetime registration requirement for the registry.
Scudder noted that McGill had also been messaging another undercover profile that he manages and that also depicts a 14-year-old female, and a third undercover profile managed by Detective Harris. On Sept. 10, 2020, McGill initiated a conversation with E.W. that led to a discussion of her sexual preference and sexual history. During the conversation, E.W. advised she was 14 years old, after which McGill continued to engage in talking about sex and oral sex with E.W. and eventually telling E.W. he could arrange for her to perform oral sex with him. McGill then arranged to meet E.W. in Madison.
On Sept. 11, 2020, MPD Patrolman Nichole Midgett spoke to McGill by phone via the Facebook messenger app. Midgett stated that McGill, believing she was E.W., wanted her to wear a black dress with a flower in her ear so he would recognize her. McGill then messaged that he would send her a “thumb’s up” emoji when he got to Madison, and then another when he wanted her to call him and that he would pick up vodka and orange juice.
McGill arranged to meet E.W. at the Circle K gas station at Second and Jefferson streets in downtown Madison and further instructed her to enter the store and purchase a Snickers candy bar. While inside the station, McGill was observed by police watching a female intently for what she was buying. He was taken into custody when he exited the building and arrested and charged at that time.
In addition to the convictions for Attempted Sexual Misconduct with a Minor and Child Solicitation, in phase two of the trial, McGill was found to be a habitual offender. McGill will serve his 28-year sentence at the Indiana Department of Correction.
The next Operation Predator Net defendant is scheduled to go to trial in July.
The new Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott being developed in the old Eagle Cotton Mill in downtown Madison has a goal to hold a soft opening by June 21, but owner representative Ron Bateman said Tuesday he’s “not sure we’ll make that.”
If not ready by then, the developers are hoping for July 1, so that it can be open for the Madison Regatta, but that depends on how it all comes together in the next few weeks.
“It’s really intense right now,” Bateman said, “We’re on a compressed schedule with everything. We’ll be done when we’re done.”
Right now, there’s work being completed on all facets of the project, Bateman said. There is site work going on outside and landscaping will start soon. Inside, he said they are placing carpet in guest rooms while also finishing up painting and drywall. Furniture for the guest rooms is scheduled to arrive Friday.
“There’s a lot that’s happening at once,” said Bateman, noting that artwork for the facility is arriving this week.
Bateman said the developers rejected artwork proposed by Marriott, and will instead be using art that is entirely from Madison featuring local landmarks and big map displays along with works by local artists like Eric Phagan and local photographers.
Bateman took on the project after he and his wife moved to Madison. He became interested in the vacant and decaying 1884 Eagle Cotton Mill, located at 108 St. Michaels Avenue, and the project captured his attention and fueled a desire to restore the former textile factory. Bateman, president and founder of Riverton LLC, has teamed with Dora Hospitality of Indianapolis in developing the 85-room Fairfield by Marriott hotel and mini conference center at a cost of about $22 million.
He said COVID-19 has slowed work and impacted the project’s progress.
“We were originally planning to have it ready by the Kentucky Derby but we clearly missed that,” Bateman said, of the iconic Louisville horse race that took place last weekend.
He said having to work closely with National Park Service requirements along with guidelines from Marriott hotels added extra layers of approvals along the way. Since the project is part of Madison’s National Historic District, it was eligible for tax credits, but that involves following National Park Service guidance on “what it looks like and keeping it as historically accurate as we can.”
When COVID-19 began, government offices shut down along with Marriott’s construction department, limiting the work they were able to do. But completion is nearing and Bateman looking forward to the revitalized building opening for business this summer.
“We’re pleased with the way the outside of the building is turning out,” said Bateman. “We’ve got the brick cleaned up and repaired all the damage from over the years. I think it’s going to be OK. I think it’s going to be worth the effort.”
“We wanted to let the public know that we are part of the music scene in Madison,” says Scott Tebbe, former club president and driving force behind live music at the Madison Elks Lodge. “We want to be part of M3, the Madison Music Movement, and a vibrant contributing part of the community, not the old stodgy Elks Lodge that so many people think of.”
The Elks, located in the former Madison Country Club building at the far west end of downtown, has been hosting live music on Wednesdays for a couple years now, and quite often on Thursdays, too. The shows are all open to the general public (unless otherwise noted) and the music is staged in the cozy front gathering room, with a full bar available.
“The people who come for the first time really like the atmosphere,” continues Scott, “it’s small, intimate and friendly. It’s the perfect place to come with a group of friends if you want to get out on a weekday evening.
“It all started a couple years ago with the Spare Change Band, out of Jennings County. They were playing just about every Wednesday and we all got to really enjoying the energy. Since those early days we’ve featured Joe Perkinson and Deano Crafton, Amy Noel and Michael Fortunato, Kyle Pearl, Leah Pruett, Matt Stokes, Robbie Davidson, Rick Eblen and recently Margo Watkins.”
At this point, Debbie Ciganovich, the current club president (Exalted Ruler) chimes in. “We decided if this was going to be a regular event it ought to have a regular name. We call these shows ‘Herd It At The Elks’. I see it as a real draw for the Elks Lodge, a chance for non-members to come and enjoy this lovely location we have down here at the edge of the golf course. And going forward I’d like to see it pulling in a younger crowd, like people in the 30- to 40-year-old range.
“It’s been a great thing, I’ve seen a difference in the attitude and engagement of the lodge members, having something fun and consistent like these shows. And it’s helped our room rental business, with more people coming in and seeing this great facility we have.
“Honestly, I’ve been thinking about how we can take it even further. Maybe some kind of amateur night or open mic night? The more people come out and support us, the more we can grow it and make it better.”
“Music has changed the outlook of our lodge locally,” interjects Scott, “made us more community oriented. I’d encourage everyone to keep an eye on the Weekly Music Calendar here in The Madison Courier to see what we have scheduled. If you see a performer you really enjoy, like Joe Perkinson or Amy Noel, grab some friends and come on down. It’s a great way to spend a Wednesday evening.
The Friday Live Lunch concerts have resumed at Lytle Park, and will run all summer long. The shows start at 11:30 a.m., and you are encouraged to bring a sack lunch, sit at one of the picnic tables, and enjoy great live music. This week the always entertaining Tim Brickley will be playing.
Mad Paddle Brewery has a fun one-two punch on Friday and Saturday. Bass player and distillery master extraordinaire Craig Philipp will bring his band The Mens Room to Mad Paddle on Friday, and then switch up the line-up for his classic rock/blues band The Bottle Trees on Saturday. Make it an “All-Craig” weekend and you can’t go wrong!
Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.
Thursday, May 6
Mad Paddle Brewery — Paul Rosewood
Broadway Tavern — Joe Perkinson
Friday, May 7
Mad Paddle Brewery — The Mens Room
Off-Broadway Taproom — Jimmy Davis Band
Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson
Lytle Park — Tim Brickley (11:30 a.m.)
Saturday, May 8
Mad Paddle Brewery — The Bottle Trees
Off-Broadway Taproom — Bobby Robbins & Guest
Thomas Family Winery — The Derby City Dandies
Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson with Deano Crafton
Electric Lady — Kinetic Pulse Dance Rave
Wednesday, May 12
Elks Lodge — Joe Perkinson
By BOB DEMAREE
Hanover now has a Building and Zoning/Nuisance Officer to handle building permits, enforce zoning regulations and handle nuisance issues in the town.
Rick Schnebelt was hired for the newly created position at Tuesday’s meeting of Hanover Town Council.
Efforts toward creating the new position began earlier this year because the town council felt it needed a person in place who could be responsible for the various permits and enforcement issues.
The part-time position will be no more than 25 hours per week at a rate of $16 per hour with a stipend for cell phone use on the job. The council also agreed that the new Building and Zoning/Nuisance Officer should have use of a truck bearing Town of Hanover identification.
In addition to that new truck, the council also discussed purchasing a new truck for the Utilities Department to replace one that is in poor condition. Clerk Treasurer Keith Mefford suggested buying a new truck with a warranty might last longer than a used vehicle. He suggested town council approve up to $28,000 for the vehicle.
Council President Kenny Garrett requested that the purchase for the Utilities Department be tabled for further review and the council agreed.
“We’re spending a lot of money now, and we need to try to think what we can get for two trucks” now that they are also wanting one for the new Building and Zoning/Nuisance Officer.
Mefford said he thought the Utilities Department truck should be a four-wheel drive so that a plow could be attached to help in clearing snow in the winter while a vehicle for the Building and Zoning/Nuisance Officer would only be used for transportation.
In other business:
• Mefford said he and Garrett met with Bob Bronson, grant administrator for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, to discuss the process moving forward now that the town’s application for a five-year plan has been submitted. Mefford said they were instructed to decide by June 1 what project they want to pursue for a grant. In addition, rather than seeking money for multiple town parks, the town can only submit a request for funding for one park but can pursue multiple actions within that park. Mefford noted the town will have to provide proof that it has the money to match any grant the town might receive and that grant will be a year-long process leading up to any awards.
• Plans are a moving forward toward establishing a Beautification Committee with town council member Debbie Kroger assuming leadership of the effort. The next step is determining who can and will serve on the committee.
• Officially ended the probationary period for the Town Administrator position that Mefford assumed nearly eight months ago in addition to his duties as clerk-treasurer. Because of what the town council felt was a need to hire a person to act as a chief administrator to oversee town projects and activities, along with applying for grants, overseeing the town, Mefford said he was hired for the part-time position that was outside the scope of his Clerk Treasurer duties. The town handbook had required a six-month probationary period for the Town Administrator position. In the Aug. 4 minutes, the town council approved hiring Mefford as part-time Town Administrator with an additional salary of $25,000.
• Announced plans for a concert at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, at Hanover Community Park. Kentucky-native and blues singer-songwriter Jeremy Short and his band Short & Company will headline along with local singer/songwriter Matthew Williams and Frank Pearson and Friends. Cost is $15 through www.eventbrite.com.
By BOB DEMAREE
Jefferson County Health Department reported Wednesday that it is working with the Indiana Department of Correction on containing a COVID-19 outbreak at the Madison Correctional Facility on the hilltop.
Jefferson County remains this week in an “Orange” advisory status on the county metrics map, with a mild community spread.
“As warmer weather approaches, we look forward to residents and visitors enjoying all Jefferson County has to offer in the way of parks and outdoor festivals,” said Tammy Monroe, Jefferson County Health Department administrator. “We would like to encourage all Jefferson County residents and visitors to continue to take responsibility for the health and safety of themselves and those around them by continuing to wash/sanitize your hands and mask up indoors with those outside your household when social distancing cannot be achieved. If possible, avoid crowded indoor venues unless you are masked.”
On Wednesday, Jefferson County had just four new positive cases of COVID-19. There have been a total 3,288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County with 81 COVID deaths. The county’s current seven-day average positivity rate is 8.5% and the seven-day positivity for unique individuals is 21%. As of Wednesday, 10,662 Jefferson County residents are fully vaccinated and 11,915 residents have received at least a first dose of COVID vaccine.
Switzerland County has 1,962 fully vaccinated and 2,155 that have received the first dose of a two-dose vaccination series. Switzerland County has two new cases of COVID-19 with a total of 782 positive cases. The total COVID-19 deaths remains at eight. The county’s current seven-day average positivity rate is 2.9% and the seven-day positivity for unique individuals is 5.9%.
The Indiana Department of Health announced Wednesday that 1,160 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 725,353 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus. To date, 12,960 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 10 from the previous day.
Indiana now has had 2,006,049 fully vaccinated individuals including 2,389,057 that have received the first dose of a two-dose series.
In Kentucky, 1,855,240 Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine with 1,456,343 now fully vaccinated.
On May 4, the Kentucky Department of Public Health reported 776 new cases of COVID-19. The positivity rate in Kentucky was 3.47% Tuesday. There have been 446,221 positive cases overall and 6,532 deaths including seven new deaths.
In information from the North Central District Health Department, Trimble County has reported 709 cases of COVID-19 with 15 active cases and overall seven deaths during the pandemic. Carroll County has reported 1,003 cases of COVID-19 with 19 deaths.
On Tuesday, Walmart and Sam’s Club announced they are now offering the COVID-19 vaccine across all their 124 Indiana store and club pharmacies. Pharmacists at those locations will now honor walk-in patients who have not previously scheduled a vaccine appointment.
COVID vaccines are continuing to be administered Monday through Friday at the Jefferson County Health Department for those 18 years of age and older. Appointments can be scheduled by visiting www.ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211. Walk-ins are welcome Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., and Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Vaccine is now eligible to 16 years of age or older. All 16- and 17-year olds must receive a Pfizer vaccine.
Switzerland County Health Department is operating a vaccine clinic at the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center, 708 West Seminary Street, Vevay.
Kentuckians should visit vaccinemap.ky.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccination site near them.