High profile trial bringing business to small Kentucky community
CLINTON, Ky. (AP) — Peggy Howell is stocking up on pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy and soft drinks.
Howell, who owns the Kountry Cafe with her husband Kenny and mother-in-law Cathy in Clinton, is gearing up for the murder trial of Quincy Omar Cross, which is expected to begin this week.
The trial, expected to last between three and four weeks, will bring attorneys, witnesses, police officers, journalists and the “just curious” to Clinton, a town of 1,339 in far western Kentucky known mostly for its farming.
Some locals, like Howell, are jumping on the opportunity to make money and show visitors Clinton’s charms and tourism appeal.
“It’s just a shame it takes a tragedy to bring something like this into our town,” Howell said. “We need something. We’ve lost so many businesses, and it’s a great little town.”
Cross, 31, is accused of murdering 18-year-old Jessica Currin of Mayfield in July 2000. Prosecutors allege that in a drug-fueled night of partying, he strangled and beat her to death. Later, prosecutors say, Cross and others sexually abused Currin’s body before dumping it behind Mayfield Middle School.
A separate trial will be held for two other defendants, Tamara Caldwell and Jeffery Burton. Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to charges of abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence in the case.
Jury selection began last week and was to resume today, when another 100 jurors were to be called.
The trial prompted the Clinton-Hickman County Chamber of Commerce to make a map, highlighting restaurants and businesses.
“With this coming in, we thought, ‘What can we do?”’ said Chamber treasurer Mary Ann Elliott. “It’s just another way the chamber can help promote our businesses. With the extra people coming into town, it would help them know where to get food.”
Elliott said that while Clinton has plenty of charms, including a museum, downtown events, a sense of community, the word hasn’t gotten out as well as she’d like.
“You’d be surprised how many people say, ‘Where is Clinton?”’
It didn’t help, Howell said, when the Garan clothing factory closed in 2001 and the Jakel electric motor factory closed in 2003. Together, that cost about 290 jobs.
Not everyone, though, is thrilled with the attention and visitors. Gilbert Fortner, who owns Fortner’s Barber Shop, said the idea of such a high-profile trial in town is unpopular in some quarters, with concerns about parking in downtown.
“People are down on that pretty hard,” said Fortner, a city council member.
Police Chief Tracy House said the city has ample parking, although it might not be as convenient as some would like.
Nicky McClanahan, owner of Nicky’s BBQ, said that if there is a premium on parking spaces, he plans to take advantage of it. From his restaurant on U.S. 51, he’s brought a trailer outfitted with a kitchen and will park it downtown every day, he said.
“If people leave here to go eat, they won’t have a parking place when they get back,” McClahahan said.
Published in The Messenger 3.24.08
Clinton, Jessica Currin, Ky.