The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ken.)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky State Police say rangers at Barren
River Lake State Resort Park mishandled evidence surrounding the
death of a 28-year-old man last month.
Jeremy Scott Martin, 28, was found unconscious in a loading dock area
behind a lodge on May 30. He had been attending a Glasgow high school
Martin was transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville,
where he died 10 days later. Authorities said Martin died as a result
of a fractured skull.
Park rangers handled the investigation for the first day after Martin
was found, then asked state police for help.
A Parks Department official defended the rangers' actions and
initially said the department would review whether rangers were
responding appropriately to suspicious deaths and whether a written
policy was needed.
Last week, the department's lawyer said no such policy is needed.
Family members wished state police had been involved in the
investigation from the beginning.
"When there's all this controversy surrounding it, and there are
questions of well, did Scotty accidentally fall or did somebody bring
it upon him? Those are hard things to deal with, and you really don't
have any peace about it," said Michelle Huffman, Martin's cousin.
State police Sgt. Shannon West, of the Bowling Green post, said state
police initially refused to assist in the investigation for fear of
"stepping into a mess" created by rangers.
"I think they realized, `Hey, this is above our heads,"' West said of
the Parks Department. "But our position is sometimes we get in a
no-win position where if we adopt it we inherit a case that is
tainted from the beginning. It's really no win for us."
West said rangers returned some of Martin's personal items to the
family, rather than keeping them as possible evidence. He also said
state police lost the chance to interview reunion attendees
"I'd be remiss in saying we could do just as good of an investigation
now as if we'd got it in the beginning," West said. "That's so far
The Parks Department has no written policies for investigating
suspicious deaths or when to ask local or state police to help, said
spokesman Jim Carroll.
Parks Commissioner George Ward said the first ranger at the scene,
Veachell Adwell, "handled the situation appropriately" by making sure
Martin received medical attention, securing the area and asking state
police for help -- albeit a day after Martin was found.
Initially, Carroll said the incident would spark a review of policies
on ranger responses to suspicious deaths. But later, Teresa Hill, the
Parks Department's legal counsel, said it is not rewriting its
policies and will continue to let rangers make judgments about
whether to call in state police.
The state's 70 park rangers undergo a 16-week training program at
Eastern Kentucky University and have full police authority, including
the power to conduct criminal investigations.
Carroll said two people have been slain on park property since
January 1994, and both cases were investigated by state police.
There have been 58 other deaths on park property since January 1994
-- 29 because of heart attack or stroke, 16 drownings, 11 suicides
and two in traffic accidents, he said.
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Rangers investigated a suicide and a drowning and state police, the
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and local sheriffs
investigated the other suicides and drownings, according to Carroll.