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Coombs gets 16 years in fatal crash
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A Madison teen who was driving the car that crashed and killed two other teens while fleeing police on Jan. 9, 2020 was recently sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Blake S. Coombs, 19, of Madison, appeared in Jefferson County Circuit Court Tuesday to be sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of resisting law enforcement resulting in death as Level 3 felonies punishable by three to 16 years in prison. Families of the victims also appeared to provide victim impact statements during the hearing.

The incident began when Madison Police attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a 2005 Toyota car in Madison at 3:45 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2020, and the driver fled in the vehicle from the officer.

Coombs, then age 18, was driving and fled from the officer northbound on State Road 7 from Madison. Indiana State Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department joined the Madison Police Department pursuit of the vehicle with the vehicle turning westbound on State Road 250, southbound on State Road 3, and then eastbound on State Road 256 back toward Madison.

Coombs lost control of the vehicle on State Road 256 at Thompson Road, causing the vehicle to leave the roadway and strike two utility poles on the northeast corner of the intersection.

A front seat passenger in the vehicle, Tyler Cooley, 18, of Hanover, and a backseat passenger, Brooklyn James, 19, of Madison, were fatally injured in the crash and both were pronounced dead at the scene by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. Coombs was airlifted from the scene to a Louisville area hospital where he was treated for serious injuries. Following his release from the hospital, he was arrested and has remained in custody since then pending trial.

Sandy Cooley, the grandmother of victim Tyler Cooley, provided a written statement to the court during the hearing on behalf of the family. “No amount of time you serve, Blake, will fix what you have done or bring back your victims. We just wish you hadn’t been so selfish or cowardly and faced the consequences of your actions. All you had to do was stop,” she wrote.

“This is a tragic and unfortunate reminder to obey traffic stops and pull over safely, even if you fear the consequences. I want to thank the families of the victims for their participation in the court process and for providing impact statements to the court. I am continuing to keep the family of these young victims in my prayers,” said Jefferson County Prosecutor David Sutter at the conclusion of the hearing.

Coombs was convicted on the lead charges, Level 3 felonies, one count for each victim. He was sentenced to 16 years with one year suspended. The sentencing range on a Level 3 felony is 3-16 years. He will receive credit for time served and will serve the remainder of his sentence at the Indiana Department of Correction.

Although an ISP investigation into the incident found no wrong doing on the part of the officers, the incident along with other pursuits in the city, was cited as part of the reason a City of Madison Police Steering Committee recommended tightening the city’s threshold on what justifies engaging in a high speed pursuit. The department’s Standard Operation Procedure on pursuits was rewritten in 2020 as part of a wider review of all police policies and procedures.

American Queen Steamboat Company’s American Duchess docked at the Port of Madison on Sunday, signaling a return of riverboat tourism to downtown Madison after the big cruise boats took last year off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month the City of Madison signed a docking agreement with the cruise line that will see the Duchess return today, June 8 and June 20. The American Queen will visit on June 29 and Sunday, July 11. American Queen Steamboat Company, which operates the American Duchess, American Countess and American Queen, announced SafeCruise health and safety protocols earlier this year requiring all guests and crew members to comply with health and safety protocols including vaccination requirements before coming aboard. The big boats will be making stops at other ports along the Ohio River from Paducah to Pittsburgh. For more information, visit www.americanqueensteam boatcompany.com.

Return of Riverboats

Local tourism saw steady growth until pandemic
  • Updated

Tourism numbers in Jefferson County steadily increased in the three years prior to the COVID-19 epidemic.

At Monday’s meeting of Visit Madison Inc., Sarah Prasil, VMI marketing and advertising director, updated the board with 2019 data on Jefferson County from the Rockport Analytics that was received earlier this month.

In 2019, tourism spending reached $44.8 million, an increase of 4.4% from 2018 when spending totaled $42.9 miilion. Tourism spending in 2017 was $41.1 million. The report stated the indirect impact in 2019 was $21.3 million and the direct impact was $15.7 million.

“If tourism did not exist, each of the 19,471 households in Jefferson County have to pay an additional $335 per year in taxes,” Prasil said. Also, she said that for every dollar spent by visitors in the county, 48 cents in economic impact is returned to the local area.

In other business:

• Cari Morrison Bear, VMI vice president, said the board has received back from its attorney the funding contract with Jefferson County Board of Tourism and is still in the process of reviewing it.

• Prasil announced VMI’s order of 30,000 visitors guides has been received and they are beginning to distribute the guide which got several compliments from board, particularly the cover with a photo by Madison photographer Brenda Shopshire on the cover. “It’s definitely eye-popping. We’re always looking for the perfect picture.”

• Prasil updated that VMI is marketing for the Madison Regatta and Roostertail Music Festival, and has received $10,000 from the Jefferson County Board of Tourism to assist in that effort. She expects the promotion plan to be completed this week with a concentration of marketing in May and June leading up the event July 2-4.

Police make arrest in encounter at Walmart
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Madison Police have arrested a Harrison County man in connection with a frightening incident that took place at the Madison Walmart on Sunday in which a stranger allegedly threatened to kill a mother and her daughter as they were waiting in line at the bakery.

Madison Police Chief John Wallace said Cody Ray Goldman, 26, Depauw, Indiana, was arrested later Sunday night on two counts of battery, both Level 5 felonies; and three counts of communication intimidation, all Level 6 felonies. He is being held without bond at the Jefferson County Jail.

The incident took place at about 3 p.m. on Sunday when Goldman walked up to Kinzee Black and her young daughter and allegedly threatened to kill both of them for unknown reasons. At one point the man grabbed the girl by the shoulder while holding a knife.

The Blacks, who do not know Goldman, were waiting in line at the bakery to pick up cupcakes ordered for a party when they were approached by Goldman.

“According to witnesses he approached the adult victim and for unknown reasons said ‘I’m going to kill you’ and then turned to the victim’s daughter and said ‘I’m going to kill you first,’ ” Wallace said, based on an investigation by MPD Patrolmen Cameron Blankenship and Zackery Nicholson. “He was holding a knife in his hand and then he grabbed the daughter by the shoulder.”

Wallace said Goldman then turned and walked away and that neither Black nor her daughter were physically injured in the incident but “both were traumatized from the encounter.”

Kinzee Black wrote about the incident a short time later on her Facebook Page in what she called a public service announcement to alert other local residents and asked them to be on the look out for the suspect. Her post said:

  • “Today at Walmart I experienced any mom’s worst nightmare! Ranzee and I went to the bakery to get Kindalls cupcakes we had ordered for her party, when all of a sudden while standing there waiting a guy about 6’4 starts charging at Ranzee and I screaming I’m gunna Fing kill you, I’m gunna Fing kill you, as he begins to get in my face he looks down at Ranzee, pulls out a knife and rubs his arm and says never mind your awfully pretty I think I’ll kill you first. I was frozen in my steps I couldn’t speak but the only thing I could do was grab Ranzee and hold her tight as Walmart worker start to circle us until they got this man out. If anyone sees this man please call the Madison police department! He has on dark gray sweat pants a black sweat shirt with black boots and strawberry blonde hair. Walmart did not get his name because apparently ran from them. I have never in my entire life been so scared and so helpless at the same time! Hopefully this message will help save others from this happening because let me tell you it’s the worst feeling I have felt sick ever since.”

Police were able to interview Black, store employees and other shoppers about the incident while investigating. Wallace also attributed that social media posting and repostings throughout the day in helping resolve the case.

“The Madison Police Department truly appreciates the assistance from citizens, on getting the word out via social media,” Wallace said in a new release. “The investigation into Sunday’s incident is ongoing.”

“He had apparently approached several other women at Walmart asking them if they wanted to go walking in the woods with him,” Wallace said. “That’s pretty creepy but that allowed us to focus on searching the nearby woods in case he had fled to there or been hanging out in the woods.”

As part of the investigation, police also reviewed store’s surveillance video and we’re able to precisely identify the appearance of the suspect and share that information with all local law enforcement.

The investigation produced quick results just hours after the incident when MPD Patrolman Jared Sweet observed a man meeting the suspect’s description at Main and West streets in downtown Madison. Sweet detained the man and found a knife in his possession. The man, identified as Cody Ray Goldman, was then positively identified from the incident earlier on Sunday and taken into custody without incident.

Goldman’s trip to the Jefferson County Jail was his second visit to the facility in the same weekend. Goldman had been arrested and incarcerated for public intoxication alcohol/drugs, a Class B misdemeanor, on Friday, April 25, with bond set at $250 cash.

JCHD now accepting walk-ins for COVID vaccinations
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More than 9,000 Jefferson County residents are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and the Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD) is working five days a week to push that total even higher including allowing walk-ins daily at specified times.

Previously available only by appointment, the health department is now administering the vaccine to walk-ins on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those vaccine opportunities are in addition to the shots by appointment that are available Monday through Friday and at other locations in the county.

As of Monday, 9,021 Jefferson County residents were fully vaccinated and 11,633 residents had received at least a first dose of COVID vaccine. Vaccination is now available to all county residents age 16 and older but those ages 16 and 17 must receive a Pfizer vaccine.

So far there have been 3,194 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County with 81 COVID deaths with one additional death added to the total during the weekend. The county’s current seven-day average positivity rate is 12.6% and Jefferson County’s metrics advisory level is “Yellow” with a large amount of the recent cases attributed to a congregate setting outbreak. There have been less than five confirmed positive COVID-19 cases of the UK variant B.1.1.7 reported in Jefferson County.

“The Jefferson County Health Department would like to encourage and advise all Jefferson County residents and visitors to continue to be vigilant and to take responsibility for their safety and health and safety and health of those around them by continuing to mask up, social distance and hand wash/sanitize, avoid crowded venues,” said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. John Hossler. “We urge all Jefferson County residents and visitors to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Jefferson County currently has four vaccine sites to choose from. Appointments can be scheduled by visiting www.ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211.

“We also encourage all residents to seek testing if you develop symptoms of COVID-19,” Hossler said. “Jefferson County currently has two free testing sites, you can schedule your test by visiting www.coronavirus.in.gov.”

On Monday, Switzerland County had 1,719 resident fully vaccinated and 2,119 with at least the first dose of a two-dose vaccination series. Switzerland County had no new cases of COVID-19 with a total of 773 positive cases. The total COVID-19 deaths remains at eight. The seven-day unique positivity rating is 9.1%. Switzerland County Health Department is operating a vaccine clinic at the Switzerland County Technology and Education Center, 708 West Seminary Street, Vevay.

The Indiana Department of Health announced Monday that 702 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 715,468 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus. To date, 12,870 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of five from the previous day.

In Kentucky, 325 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on April 25, according to the Kentucky Department of Health. There have been 440,955 positive cases overall and 6,449 deaths including four new deaths, and nine additional from new audit deaths.

In information from the North Central District Health Department, Trimble County has reported 698 cases of COVID-19 with nine active cases and overall seven deaths during the pandemic. Carroll County has reported 990 cases of COVID-19 with 19 deaths. In Kentucky, state guidelines now allow COVID-19 vaccination of everyone ages 16 or older. To see all vaccination sites in the commonwealth and free transportation options to and from vaccination appointments, visit vaccine.ky.gov.