Rick Howlett

Rick has been a member of the WFPL News team since 2001 and has covered numerous beats and events over the years.   Most recently heââ

Jacob Ryan/Kentucky Public Radio

The Kentucky State Fair Grand Champion country ham sold for a record $2 million at a charity auction this morning.

Owners of Louisville's Hermitage Farms, Bridgeman Foods and Republic Bank put their financial powers together to jointly purchase the ham at the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast.

Hermitage Farms and Bridgeman Foods agreed to each give $500,000 for the ham and Republic Bank is picking up the other $1 million.

The champion ham was produced by Broadbents B and B Foods in western Kentucky. It’s co-owned by Ronnie and Beth Drennan.

“It all goes for charity.  We don’t’ get the ham back,” said Ronnie Drennan. “This is the ninth time we’ve won it since we bought the business.   We just pride ourselves in making good-quality products.”

The buyers say the sale proceeds will be donated to charities in the education and health care areas. The nearly 16 pound grand champion ham will also be given to a charitable organization.

KennyPerry.com

This week’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville will likely be the last appearance in any of golf’s major competitions by Kenny Perry. The longtime Franklin, Kentucky resident is expected to begin focusing on the Champions Tour for golfers 50 and over.

Valhalla was the site of one of the biggest heartbreaks of Kenny Perry’s playing career.    He finished second in a playoff to Mark Brooks in the 1996 PGA Championship. But 12 years later there was triumph,  as Perry’s Ryder Cup team defeated the Europeans at Valhalla.

Now 54, Perry says he’s grateful for the chance to play in the PGA Championship a final time….in Kentucky. 

Perry spent about an hour signing autographs after his Tuesday practice round.     He says the attention is not a distraction from his preparations.   Perry joked that he hasn’t had to sign all that many autographs over the years.

“To me, it’s my way to say thank you for 30 years of support, thank you for your love and your compassion for me,” said Perry. “I enjoyed it, for me personally.  There were a lot of people yelling out where they were from---Glasgow, Kentucky, Bowling Green, Kentucky—just all these little towns that are around Franklin where I live”

Clark County Sheriff's Office

The sheriff of Clark County, Indiana is denying accusations about his alleged involvement with a prostitute that led to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday, but will take a voluntary leave of absence pending the outcome of his case.

Sixty-year-old Sheriff Daniel Rodden is charged with destroying evidence and lying to federal investigators.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett says Rodden provided a prostitute with a deputy’s badge and other credentials in May of last year.

"He did so in order that the prostitute could obtain a government employee rate at a hotel across the river in Louisville," explained Hogsett.  "It is also alleged in the indictment that Mr. Rodden met the prostitute at that hotel several weeks later and engaged in a sex act with her."

Rodden is accused of telling the prostitute to “get rid” of the materials and with lying repeatedly to the FBI about his involvement with the woman.   The charges carry more than 20 years in prison.

Rodden was first elected Clark County Sheriff in 2007 and is in the last months of his second and final term.

Creative Commons

California Chrome is the 3 to 5 early favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and become horse racing's 12th Triple Crown champion.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will break from the No. 2 post under Victor Espinoza on Saturday at Belmont Park. Eleven Belmont winners have come out of that post, the last being Tabasco Cat in 1994.

Trainer Art Sherman says he’s happy with the draw.

"It gives you a chance to see who’s going to have the speed and where you’re laying going into the first turn," explains Sherman.

Wicked Strong is the 6 to 1 second choice and drew post No. 9.  The colt finished fourth  in the Derby and sat out the Preakness.

Tonalist was made the third betting choice at 8 to 1 odds and will break from the No. 11 post.

Eleven horses are entered in the Belmont Stakes.

Indiana's House of Representatives has approved a proposal that would write the state's gay marriage ban into the constitution.

The Republican-led House narrowly voted 57-40 Tuesday in favor of the measure. The proposed ban now heads to the Indiana Senate.

The vote followed weeks of uncertainty for a measure that swept through the General Assembly with ease just three years ago.

"This amendment has jumped the shark," said Democratic Rep. Mat Pierce, who voted against the measure. "History has really passed it by. And that’s why I think we need to give up on it."

The House measure leaves open the door for approval of civil unions and employer benefits for same-sex couples.  It also would potentially reset the clock on Indiana's lengthy process of amending the constitution.

But Senate Republicans could potentially place the measure back on course to appear on the November ballot.

In a $16 billion deal this week, Japanese beverage giant Suntory announced it plans to purchase Beam Inc., the maker of Jim Beam bourbon and the owner of other popular bourbon brands like Maker's Mark.

Those and most other bourbons are made in Kentucky, and the deal has some hoping the drink's growth in the global market won't come at the expense of its uniquely Kentucky heritage.

Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities have announced plans to build a new natural gas powered generating plant in western Kentucky and a smaller, solar-powered station.  Spokeswoman Chris Whelan  says the facility planned for Muhlenberg County will be similar to the generating plant being built at the companies’ Cane Run site in Jefferson County.

"It will be 700 megawatts, roughly $700 million to construct, and then we’re also proposing we will build a 10 megawatt solar facility at one of our existing sites," explains Whelan.

Assuming the plants receive regulatory approval, the solar facility will go online in 2016, with the Muhlenberg plant running by 2018.

LG&E and KU are retiring their coal-fired generating stations at Cane Run, Green River in western Kentucky and Tyrone in Woodford County.

Whelan says the new gas-fired plant will create several hundred construction jobs and about 40 permanent jobs.

Rick Howlett

It’s been just over three months since the ambush shooting death of Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis. The 33-year-old was attacked while on his way home from work on the Memorial Day weekend.

Police say they have not identified any suspects but continue to follow up on leads.  As the days pass without an arrest, many are working to keep the case fresh in people’s minds.

On a hot Saturday afternoon in late August, hundreds of motorcyclists gathered at the Jim Beam Distillery for food, drink and an auction. They were taking part in a poker run to raise money for the Jason Ellis Memorial Fund, established for the slain Bardstown officer’s wife and two sons, ages 6 and 7.

This event raised more than $32,000. Similar fundraisers have generated thousands more, some went to a reward fund set up to help find the officer’s killer or killers. It has grown to about $200,000.

Police believe the ambush of Officer Jason Ellis was carefully planned.

The Indiana Supreme Court has let stand the fines levied by state House Republicans on Democrats for their walkout over a controversial right-to-work bill.

Justices split 3-2 on an opinion issued Tuesday finding that the constitutional separation of powers bars the courts from interfering in internal legislative decisions. The state's highest court approved a request that the case be dismissed.

Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the majority that it is not the court's role to assess punishments within the legislative branch of government. Justices Loretta Rush and Robert Rucker dissented, writing that the House's "discretion to punish its members" doesn't include withholding pay.

Majority House Republicans ordered the state auditor to withhold the fines from Democrats who spent weeks at an Illinois hotel in protest of the right-to-work bill in 2011, and staged another walkout the following year.

The Kentucky and Indiana Planned Parenthood affiliates will merge next month, creating a new non-profit that will operate 28 centers across the two states.

It will be known as Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and Indiana.   The centers will offer services such as pregnancy tests, birth control, breast exams and Pap tests.

Planned Parenthood of Kentucky Chairwoman Kim Greene says the combined affiliate will have 190 employees at the centers and its administrative headquarters in Indianapolis, with a few job duplications in IT and finance.

“We have had to consolidate three of those sorts of positions, but other than that, there will be no other employee changes, employee losses.”

Greene says the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has made the merger necessary to more effective serve patients.

The merger becomes official on July 1st.

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