Kingsport police have arrested a Gate City man who allegedly downloaded images of sexual assault against children less than 10-years-old, with the suspect reportedly admitting that he had 5,000 images in his "collection."

According to records at the city jail, Kevin L. Jones, 42, was booked into the facility on Wednesday night.

An investigation was launched in mid-July.

KPD records state that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alerted investigators to child porn possibly being uploaded at a Kingsport residence. During subsequent interviews with individuals at that home, the residents consented to a search and a hard drive was seized for analysis.

It was also learned that Jones had been a visitor on multiple occasions, and he was tabbed as a suspect in downloading the images. Jones was interviewed at the Kingsport Police Department on Wednesday.

According to records, he admitted to downloading the child porn at the Kingsport residence, then transferring them to a computer at his Gate City home via thumb drive. Kingsport police say they had documented 45 images that Jones had uploaded, depicting children between the ages of 4 and 10, "being sexually assaulted and posed in a manner of sexual gratification."

During his Wednesday interview, Jones allegedly stated that he actually had approximately 5,000 separate pieces of child porn.

Jones is charged with both sexual exploitation of a minor and aggravated sexual exploitation. During his arraignment his bond was set at $30,000. He is currently held in the Sullivan County jail in Blountville.

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Wise woman sentenced for burglaries

Amy Melinda Fletcher Mullins, age 38, of Wise, was sentenced today before a Wise County Circuit Court judge for her role in a string of burglaries in late 2015 and early 2016.

She had previously pleaded guilty to six counts of burglary, one count of breaking & entering, six counts of grand larceny, three counts of grand larceny of a firearm, and one count of petit larceny in May 2016.

Mullins was sentenced to a period of incarceration of 20 years with 11 years and 5 months suspended. She will serve a total active sentence of 9 years and 7 months in prison. The remaining suspended sentence will be conditioned upon successful completion of 25 years’ probation, no contact with victims, and the payment of restitution to the victims.

Mullins's husband, Jason Mullins, was sentenced in June 2016 to 19 years for his part in the crime spree.

Mullins burglarized seven locations, including family residences. Mullins scoped out each location beforehand and timed the entry when she thought no one would be at home.

Using a crowbar and wire cutters, Mullins broke into homes. She took cash, personal belongings, firearms, and $30,000 to $40,000 worth in jewelry.

After an investigation by the Wise County Sheriff's Office, Virginia State Police, and the Town of Wise Police Department, Mullins was apprehended and confessed to her crimes.

Law enforcement officers located a significant number of stolen items in Mullins's residence and at a pawn shop.


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Pennington, Jonesville Selected as Part of Obama Administration Program to Help Appalachian Communities Revitalize Downtowns through Broadband Service

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced yesterday Lee County will be among 10 communities in six states selected to participate in the Cool & Connected planning assistance program, an innovative initiative to help people use broadband service for downtown revitalization and economic development.

Partner communities will receive direct technical assistance from a team of experts to develop strategies and an action plan for using expected or existing broadband service to create connected, economically vibrant main streets and small-town neighborhoods. By combining broadband service with other local assets, such as cultural and recreational amenities, communities can attract and retain investment and people, revitalize downtowns and diversify local economies.

Jonesville and Pennington Gap were selected to market and develop Wi-Fi zones, extend broadband service, and promote main street development by attracting potential anchor tenants.


Pennington Gap trucker and company sentenced for violating safety laws

 The owner of a coal trucking company in Big Stone Gap was ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines and sentenced to home detention for providing advance notice of safety inspections, according to a press release.

Hillis Bresee, 63, Pennington Gap, received three months of home confinement as part of a three year probation sentence. Bresee Trucking was also sentenced to three years probation, and both the company and owner must pay $300,000 in civil penalties, $70,000 in restitution to two former employees and fines of $5,000.

Payments must be completed within one year.

Bresee previously pled guilty to violating the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act by giving advance notice of safety inspections and failing to ensure adequate inspections of coal haul tractor-trailers, including braking systems, the release stated.

The sentence was handed down Monday in United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abindgon.

“Mining companies and their owners and operators must know that providing advance warning of the presence of safety inspectors who visit mining operations will not be tolerated,” United States Attorney John Fishwick said in the release. “This case also demonstrates the need for mining companies to maintain adequate safety inspection records, maintain safety systems on equipment, and comply fully with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.”

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Norton Office of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Jayne prosecuted the criminal case for the United States. The civil proceedings were handled by J. Matthew McCracken of the United States Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor.

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Lee County man sentenced to 13 years for sexual assault against minor

A Lee County man was sentenced Tuesday to 13 years and 4 months in prison for sexual assault against a minor.

Ronnie Marcum was sentenced Monday by the Lee County Circuit Court. After his sentence, he will be put on 6 years and 8 months of supervised probation. Marcum entered a guilty plea on June 6.

Lee County Commonwealth's Attorney H. Fuller Cridlin said in a statement: "There was no plea agreement in this case. My office aggressively prosecutes all sexual crimes, and we argued for the maximum sentenced allowed by law, 20 years, which we will continue to do in all sexual assault cases."


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SWVA Workforce Development Board Meeting

The Board (through its contractor Clinch Valley Community Action) served 208 adults for the year for such services as GED classes and workforce credentialing. Upon completion of the program(s) 42% were employed and 73% obtained a credential. The 42% figure should rise as more folks will gain employment within 6 months of completion of the program. 18 of these 208 adults are from Lee County.

The Board (also through CVCA) served 167 dislocated workers. 51% of these were employed at exit and 84% obtained a credential. Our contract with the state was for 147 dislocated workers so resources were stretched as we served the larger than expected population. 58 of the 167 were from Wise County, as they were really hit hard this year with layoffs. 7 were from Lee County.

The Board (through its contractor, People, Inc.) served 33 youths in Scott and Lee Counties. There are several criteria which make youth eligible for the program such as low income, low educational attainment and barriers to employment (such as foster care, juvenile offenses, pregnancy, etc.). The Youth program is fantastic. Several regional businesses have youth interns working for them right now (or had them during the summer) through this program including Pennington Pharmacy, Lee Health and Rehab, Lee County Rescue Squad and the Town of Pennington Gap. We thank these employers for their participation. These young people learn valuable work skills and have good role models available.

Of all the Workforce Boards in the state, our Board ranked #1 in the following categories: Adult Employment Retention Rate (95.2%), Adult Average Six Months Earnings ($15,722), Adult Employment and Credential Rate (80.2%), Dislocated Worker Employment and Credential Rate (82.5%), Youth Literacy Gains (84.0%) and Career Readiness Certificate Attainment (76.3%). That is 6 out of the 12 measured categories.

The Board members representing Lee County are Tim Long and Michael James. There is room for up to 2 more members from Lee County. If you have interest in joining the Workforce Development Board, please contact the IDA office at 276-346-7766 and we will get you in touch with the right people. The Board meets quarterly at its office in Lebanon.

VSP warning against IRS phone scam

 The Virginia State Police has issued a warning of an ongoing phone scam where the caller claims to be an Internal Revenue Service representative and demands payment using verbal threats and intimidation.

The VSP said the caller I.D. number used by the scam is a legitimate VSP area office phone number, and the VSP has received numerous calls concerning the scam in recent days.

In each scam call reported to the VSP, the caller is described as having a “thick, foreign accent” and identifies himself or herself as working for the IRS. The scammer also has personal details about the individual being called, information commonly found by an Internet search.

The VSP said if recipients of the scam calls refuse to pay, the scammer becomes agitated and impatient and begins threatening individuals with imprisonment or other severe punishment if the person does not promise to provide payment.

Common characteristics of an IRS phone scam, the VSP said, include callers using fake names and IRS badge numbers, and they may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.

Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support bogus calls. Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up, and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or Department of Motor Vehicles. The caller I.D. seems to support the claims via “spoofing.”

The IRS never calls any taxpayer demanding payments. Never give out personal information such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information.

If you receive an inquiry from someone claiming to represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request.

If you have a voicemail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker can spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you do not set a password.

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Explosives found on side of the road in Stickleyville, suspect in custody

The Lee County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office says it shutdown Dry Creek Road in the Stickleyville community Friday night after investigators found dynamite on the side of the road.

Sheriff Gary Parsons told News Channel 11 the dynamite was found after officers received a call saying someone left a home carrying the explosives.

When officers responded to Dry Creek Road, they say they found 4 sticks of capped dynamite.

The Sheriff’s Office has one suspect in custody. The Virginia State Police bomb squad was called in to clear the explosives.

Drivers were asked to steer clear of the area for a few hours Friday evening. Sheriff Parsons said Dry Creek Road was shutdown until the bomb squad cleared the scene.

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Israeli energy company possibly expanding to Wise County

Israeli renewable energy company Energix Renewable Energies exploring the potential of building a total 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy projects across Virginia, and state and local officials made sure Wise County was included as a potential project site. Energix is a specialist in solar and wind projects not only in Israel but significant projects in Poland and emerging projects in parts of Africa.

Wise County "wants to take the lead" in its own economic revitalization efforts and be innovative doing so, the potential of federal and state funds for a renewables project, and perhaps political clout at the federal level.

Wise County Circuit Court Clerk J. Jack Kennedy intimated a solar project could support the voracious energy consumption needs of the county's expanding data center industry, a major attractant for that industry to grow even more.

For several years, Sykes Enterprises has operated a customer care center facility at Lonesome Pine Business & Technology Park located adjacent to Lonesome Pine Airport, now with brand new neighbors Frontier Secure, opening this month, and Mineral Gap Data Center, currently under construction. Potential Energix solar sites to be eyed by Levinger and Cohen during their visit are in that area.

State Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City said, "We pride ourselves on producing a lot of energy including coal and gas, and this will just add to that mix. If we can do solar, that will set us apart from the rest of the state. We're going to do what we can do to land (Energix)."

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Wise man indicted after shooting his girlfriend

A Wise County man is accused of shooting his girlfriend's daughter and then himself earlier this month.

Wednesday, the Wise County grand jury indicted James Smith on attempted murder, malicious wounding, along with other charges.

On Aug. 8, deputies responded to a shooting in the Exeter community of Appalachia. Officers found 24-year-old Casey Reed outside the home with a gunshot wound. Officers found Smith inside the home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Officials say he is still in the hospital, but is improving. Reed is expected to be okay.


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