Inmate who escaped sought in Mercer County

October 01, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

HARRODSBURG - Reports that an escaped prisoner is hiding in Mercer County are being investigated, says Sheriff Ralph Anderson.

Anderson responded to questions after a letter writer reported to The Advocate-Messenger that, "There are people out here sleeping with loaded guns at their beds."

Anderson knew immediately who the letter was about: "Kenny Cook - yeah. We've got warrants for him and we've searched the area high and low."

Kenneth Ray Cook, 36, was convicted of first-degree robbery in May 2002. He was sent to the Marion County Detention Center, where he spent seven months. Cpt. David Gibbons said he arrived on May 20, 2002, and was there for 254 days before he was sent to the state reformatory in La Grange.


From La Grange, Cook was sent to Bell County Forestry Camp, a 250-man minimum security facility near Pineville. Bell County, in turn, sent him on to Breckinridge County Detention Center in Hardinsburg, where he served 13 months.

Deputy Vincent Hale, a state inmate coordinator at Breckinridge, said, "I wouldn't describe him as a violent person. Everyone was shocked that he ran."

Cook was working community service at the sewer treatment plant in Hardinsburg.

"He was working with another inmate and just decided he didn't want to be here anymore and just took off running one day," said Hale. "The supervisor who was on site couldn't leave because there was another inmate there. He called back to the office and we dispatched officers out, but we couldn't find him."

In the Battlefield Road area

Anderson, the Mercer County sheriff, said calls to his office indicate that Cook has been seen in the Battlefield Road area of Mercer County, where he has allegedly been "hiding out" in his family's house.

"What people don't understand is that even when we're dealing with this - escapees - we still have to abide by the rules and regulations of dealing with a convicted felon. We cannot beat the door down to someone's house and search without a warrant because someone has called our office and said they've seen him in the area."

The letter stated that Cook "takes off out the back door every time the sheriff sends a car out to patrol," then returns later.

"He may very well be running out of the back door," Anderson said, "and I'm reasonably sure he probably has before. He has had many run-ins with local law enforcement, but, again, this is not Russia. This is a building block process.

"We don't have the luxury of doing things backwards. We have to follow the letter of the law. There's a difference between hearsay, when someone calls and says, 'Hey, we've seen Kenny around.' We can go and ask the family if we can search their house, but they can say no.

"Now if we have reasonable suspicion or probable cause, which means someone has said that he drives this kind of vehicle or has these plates, and the vehicle is there right now or they see him standing on the porch right now, that's different. So far, we've responded to all the calls and not been able to find either."

Lisa Lamb, public information officer with the Department of Corrections, said Cook was convicted in Marion County on Dec. 2, 2002, for first degree attempted robbery and being a persistent felony offender, second offense, and sentenced to 10 years.

He appeared before the parole board on May 25 and was deferred for 36 months.

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