Drainage dispute apparently led to shooting

August 24, 2004|HERB BROCK

The two next-door neighbors involved in Sunday afternoon's deadly shooting incident on Boone Trail had been embroiled in a long-standing, often heated feud over drainage problems, several residents of the upscale Danville residential area told The Advocate-Messenger this morning.

And the six residents said in separate phone interviews that they believe the dispute boiled over about 5 p.m. Sunday when Jim Trachsel, 63, of 451-H Boone Trail, was shot to death while mowing his lawn on a riding lawnmower. Jack A. Caldwell Sr., 79, of 453 Boone Trail has been charged with murder.

In its two press releases on the case, the Danville Police Department said it was investigating reports that there was an "ongoing property line dispute between the two men." But their neighbors said the central issue in what one called a "verbal battle" between Trachsel and Caldwell was drainage.

"There was no property line dispute," said A. Jack May of 460 Boone Trail, who has lived on Boone Trail for many years and was familiar with the conflict through conversations with both men. "The problem had to do with drainage."


A City of Danville water easement winds in two directions through the neighborhood, running from the upper end of Boone Trail and from O'Hara Drive, along and under Boone Trail, between and through various properties and between the Trachsel and Caldwell properties, May said. A two-foot pipe carries drainage water, he said.

"Jack has claimed for years that Jim was diverting water onto (Caldwell's) property, causing the foundation to sink and damage to the front wall of his house and to his garden," said May, who was the only Boone Trail resident interviewed today willing to be quoted by name. "Jim denied that he was diverting anything."

"Jack had an intense hatred for Jim, and he threatened to sue him and just about everybody else in town until this alleged drainage problem was taken care of."

Caldwell frequently took his drainage complaint to Danville City Commission, including a meeting not too long ago, May said. "The city would bring out some dirt to try to help the situation, but it wasn't enough for Jack," he said.

In new information coming from the investigation, police say Caldwell claimed the shooting was done in self-defense.

Caldwell still in hospital this morning

Meanwhile, Caldwell remained this morning as a patient at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center; he is in fair condition, according to hospital spokesperson Mary Begley. His room is being guarded by an officer from the Boyle County Detention Center, a jail spokesperson said.

When he was arrested, Caldwell complained about chest pains and a "laceration suffered during the arrest" and was taken by police to the McDowell emergency room, said Assistant Danville Police Chief Jay Newell. After treatment for both conditions, Caldwell then was taken to the jail, where he was formally charged with murder, but he continued complaining about chest discomfort. He was taken by Boyle County Emergency Medical Services ambulance back to the hospital, where he was admitted late Sunday, according to Newell and Begley.

Caldwell was scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Boyle District Court but the arraignment has been postponed pending his release from the hospital, a jail spokesperson said. Also, no bond has been set.

Preliminary reports of an autopsy conducted Monday at the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort show that Trachsel was shot five times with four bullets striking his torso and one hitting his cheek, said Newell. He had been shot by a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle.

Police received the call about the shooting at 5:15 p.m. When police and ambulance personnel arrived at the scene, they found Trachsel "lying unresponsive and on the ground" on a strip of lawn between the two houses; the riding lawnmower was a few feet away from Trachsel, Newell said. They found several neighbors trying to provide aid to Trachsel, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, he said. The neighbors told police Caldwell had shot Trachsel, he said.

Trachsel was dead on arrival at the McDowell emergency room; Boyle County Coroner Dr. James W. Ramey pronounced Trachsel dead at 5:45 p.m..

When they first arrived, police and ambulance personnel did not see Caldwell; he "apparently had gone into his house" after the shooting, Newell. Caldwell later emerged from the house and was "subdued and taken into custody," Newell said. It was during the arrest that Caldwell suffered a "minor cut," Newell said, adding that Caldwell was not "voluntarily being handcuffed."

"I wouldn't characterize the arrest as a fight but (Caldwell) was not volunteering to be cuffed, either," said Newell.

"Caldwell made statements to the first responders (police and ambulance personnel) that he had shot in self-defense," said Newell and the most recent police press release.

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