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Ermine couple facing 109 charges related to child pornography

A cold front is expected to pass through the area this weekend bringing light rain again, but Harp said not all of the news is good.

“The bad news is it’s going to bring some very high winds,” he said. Harp said that could cause sparks to ignite other areas outside the blackened ground.

The largest fire left in the state is the Nolansburg fire, which started in two separate locations on Pine Mountain, in Letcher County along Little Shepherd Trail and in Harlan County. The two fires burned together, at one time accounting for nearly half the burning timberland in the state. Harp said that fire is now exclusively in Harlan County, but its 7,400 burned acres are still at risk of spreading, and firefighters are having to redraw the fire breaks daily to prevent that.

“Nolansburg is in the same shape as the Number 1 Hill fire. We have a control line around it, but we’re still getting burns in the middle of it, basically because of the all the big trees and stumps left (burning),” he said.

According to the Division of Forestry, there were still 27 uncontrolled fires in the Southeast Region on Monday, with two of those in Letcher County.

As of Monday, four National Guard Blackhawk helicopters were dumping water on fires in Letcher, Harlan and Bell counties, and two Lakota helicopters were spotting smoke.

The Department of Mine Safety was assisting Forestry with 50 workers providing logistical support, while a 20-person crew from the Kentucky Fire Commission was assisting on the ground. Twenty more from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources arrived this week. A total of 400 people were fighting fires in the region, including personnel from those agencies and both seasonal and fulltime employees of the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

Burn bans are in effect in 73 counties, including Letcher, and persons have been arrested in Letcher, Harlan and McCreary counties for violations of the burn bans and for arson.

Johnny Mullins, 24, of Jenkins, was charged with second-degree arson for allegedly setting a fire in Wheaten Hollow. Mullins is accused of setting the fire to get attention on Facebook.

With deer modern gun season open until November 21, there is an increased danger of more fires, and hunters should be aware of their surroundings and the potential for being trapped or overrun by fire. The Division of Forestry is asking hunters to pay attention to the burn band, and if they smoke place their cigarette butts in a bottle of water.

An Ermine man and woman were each charged with 109 counts of possessing child pornography after police say a search of a cellular phone turned up an equal number of photographs showing two female juveniles “in a sexual manner.”

Kentucky State Police say the phone containing the photographs was in the possession of Timothy L. Banks, 50, and Stella F. Diets, 36, both of 487 Thicket Branch.

KSP Trooper Scott Caudill arrested Banks on October 31 and Diets on November 3. They are accused of possessing and viewing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor. Diets is also charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of a meth precursor, possession of a defaced firearm, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of marijuana.

Court documents say the arrests were the result of what began as an investigation into a stolen all-terrain vehicle found dismantled behind the Thicket Branch home the two share.

“When I arrived, the ATV was observed in the rear of the residence and taken apart,” Trooper Caudill writes in an arrest citation. “After a short period of time, Tim Banks, the residence owner, returned from the woods. He informed me that (Diets) was his girlfriend who had been living with him for several months now.”

Trooper Caudill writes that after Banks consented to a search of the home “it was noticed that within the living quarters were multiple items of meth ‘precursors’ such as clear tubing, Heet (an automotive additive used to remove water from fuel lines), and Coleman-style fuel. When these items were observed, Banks informed me that he was unaware how to make meth, but that he was concerned about (Diets).”

During a search of the couple’s bedroom, Trooper Caudill also found a sawedoff .410- gauge shotgun that Diets allegedly used to threaten the life of the owner of the ATV, a small amount of marijuana and a small paper bag containing Neurontin.

Caudill writes in the citation that he discovered the alleged pornographic photos after “Banks provided me with permission and a code to view the contents of his phone (to verify) there were no additional items stolen nor (other) illegal activity.”

“One-hundred and nine pictures of two small juvenile females in a sexual manner were located,” Caudill writes. “(Banks) stated that he knew they were there, but were placed there by (Diets) and one of her male friends. When myself and Trooper (Danny) White made contact with (Diets) the next day, she immediately in excited utterance stated that she knew (the male friend) had downloaded child porn onto Banks’s phone.”

The photos were contained in a “photo gallery” that had been downloaded from an outside source, the citation says.

Letcher District Judge Kevin Mullins set bond for Diets at $100,000 full cash after determining that she is a “danger to herself and the community.”

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