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January: Woman Apologized For Collapsing Bridge, Missing Mitchell Woman Murdered, Lawrence County Declares Public Health Emergency
Updated December 30, 2016 8:09 AM
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kami ratcliff.jpg
Kami Ratcliff
jasmine picket.jpg
Jasmine Pickett
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Terry Luttrell
Mary Lambright.jpg
Mary Lambright
lincoln pickett.jpg
Lincoln Pickett
paoli bridge collapse.jpg
Paoli bridge collapse

(UNDATED) - 2016 started off with a woman apologizing to the town of Paoli after she drove a semi over the town's historic bridge causing it to collapse and ended with a Mitchell couple arrested for the murder of a missing Mitchell woman.

Mary Lambright apologized for her actions saying she was really tired and on her way home to celebrate Christmas with her family when the accident happened. Lambright says when she crossed the historic bridge in downtown Paoli, she didn't realize her semi was too tall and too heavy to cross. The bridge collapsed under the weight of her semi.

"I made the mistake and I'm so very sorry it happened," she said in January 2016.

Officials say the semi was carrying 43,000 pounds of bottled water. Police say Lambright couldn't comprehend how much six tons was - the weight limit posted on the bridge. The tractor-trailer and load weighted more than 30 tons.

Lambright was charged with reckless operation of a tractor-trailer, and was cited for disregarding a traffic control device, the signage on the bridge and traveling with an overweight load on a posted bridge. Lambright could face fines and 180 days in jail.

According to police, Lambright was traveling on U.S. 150 East and was attempting to make a delivery at Walmart when she failed to turn north onto State Road 37. In an attempt to head north toward the store she turned north on South Gospel Street and then attempted to turn west onto Oak Street, but was unable to.

Lambright told police that she knew there was a parking lot north of South Gospel Street and thought she could turn the truck around in the lot and again make her way back to State Road 37. But there was equipment parked in the lot and she couldn't get turned around.

Lambright says she was uncomfortable backing up the semi and didn't think to call police or another driver for assistance so she attempted to cross the iron bridge.

Police say that Lambright was traveling more than 30 miles per hour in order to get the vehicle stuck that far on the bridge. Once she started onto the bridge, the trailer got stuck, ripping about a third of the trailer top off. Then the weight of the vehicle made the bridge begin to collapse, pushing both sides of the bridge inward.

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Dr. Alan Smith, Lawrence County Health Officer, found and declared that a public health emergency exists in Lawrence County.

Dr. Smith made the declaration in response to an outbreak of hepatitis C. The disease is often spread through sharing of needles.

Dr. Smith declared the following:
1. There is an epidemic of Hepatitis C (HCV) in the county;
2. The primary mode of transmission of Hepatitis C in the county is through intravenous drug use; and
3. A syringe exchange program is medically appropriate as part of a comprehensive public health response.

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A Bedford man who was upset with the Department of Veterans Affairs and rammed his pickup into the south doors of the Lawrence County Courthouse in December pleaded not guilty to the crime on Jan. 5.

58-year-old Terry Luttrell, entered not guilty pleas on four charges - institutional criminal mischief, criminal recklessness, resisting law enforcement and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

According to Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham, Luttrell rammed his truck into the courthouse on December 11 because he was upset because of something he had learned from the Lawrence County Department of Veteran's Affairs.

According to Lawrence County Commissioner Chris May, the entrance was destroyed. A limestone pillar and a limestone bannister were damaged, a new tree was uprooted and there was damage to the hand-carved limestone that runs along the door jam.

According to police, when Luttrell left his home he told his wife "if anyone came to the door they would probably knock it down. He then went to the Bedford Police Department about 9 p.m. that Friday.

Chief Parsley says Luttrell was disturbed over his dealings at the Veterans Affair Office, but Parsley did not know any details about that encounter.

"He is a patient of the VA. He has a past history with the VA hospital," Parsley added at the time of the incident. "He seemed calm when he left the police department."

However, a few minutes later, police received reported that a man in a truck was ramming his pickup into the south side of the courthouse.

"Mr. Luttrell was backing up and ramming the doors with his truck when officers arrived on the scene," Parsley added.

Officers says Luttrell was combative and they had to physically restrain him.

"He was not injured, but was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for a medical evaluation," Parsley says.

Luttrell later admitted that he had been sober for 18 years prior to Friday night's incident, but he had "drank a pint" that night. He also admitted to "backing up and hitting it again and again." He also stated he hoped his actions would help at least one person in their dealings with the Office of Veterans Affairs.

Sheriff Branham noted that the Veterans Affairs office was at the bottom of the stairs of the door Luttrell rammed with his truck.

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January also saw changes in Mitchell with a new mayor. JD England made some changes appointed Steve Blair to replace Mitchell Police Chief Mike Hardman, who retired. Blair, a Mitchell resident, has 18 years of experience with the department.

Longtime city employee Tyler Duncan, was in charge of the city's water and sewer department received some added duties as the new head of the city's street and sanitation department.

Jennifer McNeely was appointed as the mayor's secretary. She replaced Nikki Grazer, who left after obtaining another job.

Gerald Mosier, who was hired by former mayor Gary Pruett, remained as building commissioner.

Also retaining his position as cemetery caretaker and maintaining city parks was Mike Bowling.

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The Indiana State Board of Animal Health was notified by the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory that poultry from a commercial turkey farm in Dubois County tested positive for the avian flu.

Then Governor Mike Pence directed all relevant agencies to bring the full resources of the state to contain and resolve the issue as quickly as possible including the State Board of Animal Health, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana State Poultry Association, and several private sector partners.

The Governor ordered all precautions be taken to contain the situation and minimize the effects to the state's robust poultry industry.

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January ended with the arrest of a Mitchell couple linked to the murder of missing 29-year-old Kamie Ratcliff.

Police arrested 34-year-old Lincoln Pickett and his wife, 30-year-old Jasmine Pickett.

Ratcliff had been reported missing to Mitchell police on January 21.

Indiana State Police found a body in a bonfire at the couple's home at 3413 U.S. 50 West on January 28 while serving a search warrant at the home.

Lincoln admitted to police that he placed her body in the fire but originally denied that he had anything to do with her death. The couple told police at that time that Ratcliff had "freaked out" in the couple's vehicle and shot herself.
Since then Lincoln's sister informed police that he had admitted to shooting "a buddy in the face" after Ratcliff began hitting Lincoln in the head.

She told police she had not seen Lincoln for about six months, when suddenly he appeared at her home the morning of January 22. She told police he was driving his red Chevrolet Blazer.

"Lincoln claimed he had not slept or ate in two weeks, and he was pacing and bouncing," according to the probable cause affidavit.

She told police Lincoln had a "Taurus gun in his pocket." Lincoln then allegedly gave the gun to his sister.

Lincoln then asked his relative to borrow a vehicle. That is when the two drove to Lincoln's house. On the way they they stopped at a gas station. While parked in the lot, Lincoln's sister told police that she saw blood splattered on the driver's side rear window of the Blazer.

Once at the Pickett's home, Lincoln allegedly backed the Blazer into the garage.

According to the probable cause affidavit, on January 24, Mitchell Police Officer Matt England went to the Pickett home to talk to them about Ratcliff's disappearance. Lincoln told police Ratcliff could be in Ellettsville with a man named Dillon.

Then on January 25, Officer England returned to the Pickett home and the couple told him they had left to go to Walmart to buy diapers and formula and when they returned Ratcliff was gone.

On January 28, police returned to the home with a warrant to search for Ratcliff's belongings. When officers arrived there was a fire burning behind the home. "Within the fire, officers located what appeared to be bones," the affidavit states.

According to the Lawrence County Police log, at 2:42 p.m. officers requested Huron Volunteer Fire Department to the Pickett home to extinguish a small bonfire.

Officers then secured a search warrant for Pickett's home. Inside they found a loaded handgun under a mattress and three long guns.

Pickett is being charged with Ratcliff's murder, unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent offender; obstruction of justice, abuse of a corpse, two counts of false informing and failure to report a dead body.

Because of the additional charge of murder, Lincoln Pickett is being held without bond.

30-year-old Jasmine Picket posted a $755 cash bond on January 31 and was released from jail. She is facing charges of failing to report a dead body, false informing and obstruction of justice.



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