Former Danville principal gunned down on his lawnmower

August 23, 2004|HERB BROCK

A regular summertime chore turned into a bizarre tragedy late Sunday afternoon for a longtime fixture in the Danville school system: Jim Trachsel was gunned down while mowing his lawn, and a next-door neighbor, Jack A. Caldwell Sr., has been charged with murder.

About 5 p.m. Trachsel was on a riding lawnmower outside his home at 451-H Boone Trail when he was shot several times. Trachsel, who had served for 13 years as principal at Jennie Rogers Elementary School until his retirement in 2000, and earlier was an assistant principal at Danville High School, fell to the ground unconscious, said the Danville Police Department.

Trachsel, 63, was taken by Boyle County Emergency Medical Services ambulance to the emergency room at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, where he was dead on arrival. Boyle County Coroner Dr. James W. Ramey said he pronounced Trachsel dead at 5:45 p.m.

Trachsel died of "multiple gunshot wounds" to the chest and head, Ramey said. A .22-caliber rifle was used in the shooting, and it was recovered at the scene, said Assistant Danville Police Chief Jay Newell.


Both Ramey and Newell declined to say exactly how many wounds there were or how many shots were fired. They said that and other information will be released pending the outcome of a continuing police investigation and an autopsy today at the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort.

"Our investigation is on-going. Anyone with any information about the case is asked to call the department at 238-1224," Newell said.

Concerning motive, Newell said the department is "investigating reports of a long-standing property line dispute" between Trachsel and Caldwell.

Meanwhile, Caldwell, 79, of 453 Boone Trail, was taken into custody late Sunday afternoon and charged with first-degree murder. Witnesses had told officers that they saw Caldwell shoot Trachsel, but Caldwell was "not present when officers arrived" at the scene about 5:15 p.m., police said. He "appeared later" and was charged and arrested, police said.

After his arrest, Caldwell complained of chest pains and was taken by ambulance to McDowell, police said. He was admitted as a patient late Sunday and was in fair condition late this morning, said hospital spokeswoman Mary Begley. His room reportedly was under armed guard, according to a spokesperson at the Boyle County Detention Center, where Caldwell had not been booked as of late this morning.

Arrangements for Trachsel are incomplete at Stith Funeral Home.

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