By Jeff Moreland
Several Willisburg residents are living in fear in their own homes, and they are tired of it.
Following a recent break-in attempt and at least three arrests of men from the Isaiah House/R6 Mentoring programs housed at the old Willisburg school, some residents say they are tired of living in fear.
Brandon Coslow got his taste of that fear around 3 a.m. Monday morning. He and his wife were in bed when they heard a loud noise at the front door of their home on Main Street in Willisburg. He said someone tried to kick open the front door of his home, and there was damage done to the door.
“I heard a noise and jumped out of bed to see what it was. I turned the light on and whoever it was went away,” Coslow said. “They broke the door jam trying to get in.”
Coslow called for help, and Washington County Deputy Sheriff Jackie Robinson responded to the home around 4 a.m. Robinson said he looked along the roads in the area, but didn’t find anybody walking or any sign of where the person trying to get in the Coslow house might have gone. He was not able to determine who might have attempted to enter the house. He has no proof, but he does have an idea who might have tried to enter his home, and he thinks it was a member of the Isaiah House or R6 mentoring program. Robinson and sheriff Tommy Bartley produced reports showing recent problems at the facility, including three arrests in the last five weeks.
On July 2, Robinson was called at around 2 a.m. to a report of a man entering the home of Samantha Beals on Main Street in Willisburg. The report states that a black male was found inside the residence at 1:50 a.m. The man was Anthony K. Allen, a resident of the R6 program. Allen was taken into custody and charged with criminal trespassing and alcohol intoxication. According to Robinson’s report, Allen was carrying a bottle of bourbon that was nearly empty. Allen was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant out of Florida.
“The door wasn’t locked that night, and he just walked right in,” Beals said of the July 2 incident. “We heard noise, then we heard him talking. He just came right in our house.”
Beals said her boyfriend got Allen out of the house and called Robinson.
“We lock our doors all the time now,” she added.
Bartley made a second arrest of a member of the program on July 18 when James Mattingly, a resident of Lebanon, was arrested for criminal possession of a forged instrument and failure to pay a fine as ordered. Bartley and Robinson explained that Mattingly left the facility and went into Willisburg, where he allegedly stole a truck from a residence. Bartley said Mattingly was not aware that the truck had a bad transmission, and he was only able to go a short distance before the vehicle stopped running. When it stopped, Mattingly left it in the middle of the road, according to Bartley, who said Mattingly was believed to have spent the night in a mobile home where nobody was at home. He was reportedly seen leaving the residence the following morning.
A third incident took place when Keith Darien, a resident of the facility, attempted to leave. As is the facility’s policy, they contacted the sheriff’s office. Darien had outstanding warrants, according to Bartley, and he was picked up by the sheriff’s office.
“They have no control of those guys,” Coslow said. “They have no curfew, and they’re out roaming the streets at 11:30 or midnight, and the town is sick of it.”
Coslow, too, is sick of it. He said his wife doesn’t feel safe going outside to tend to her flowers because men from the facility allegedly stare at her and say things to her.
Another woman, who asked not to be named, said she is scared to go to sleep at night. She said after an incident where a man, believed to be Allen shortly before his July 2 arrest, tried to enter her home, she now sleeps with her car keys so that she can hit the panic button on her key chain and attract help if needed.
Pat Kirsh lives near Coslow and Beals, and she, too, is scared. Kirsh said when the Isaiah House came to the community, there were some small problems, but she has noticed that the break-ins followed later, when the R6 program began to occupy the same building as the Isaiah House.
“I’m scared, and my neighbors are scared. But we’ve got guns, and most of us around here do, and we know how to use them,” Kirsh said. “I’m just afraid some innocent person is gonna get hurt.”
Charles Chesser of Willisburg said he has lived in the community to experience a peaceful lifestyle for his family, and not for what is happening there now.
“I’m against them bringing all these misfits into our community. I drove to Louisville and worked 30 years to raise my kids up in the country, to get them away from the riffraff, and now they’re in the community all hours of the night, and I don’t approve of it,” he said. “I’m retired, and I’m a coon hunter. I come in at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and I see them. These people that are problem people shouldn’t be out walking the streets all night with a cell phone in their hand. I think if these people are trying to reform them, they ought to be confined after 9:30 or 10 o’clock.”
Mark LePalme is over the Isaiah House, and he said his program is closely monitored. He gave a demonstration of the facility’s security camera system, and said while it is not perfect, it is monitored closely. Lonnie Dunn, a case manager for the Isaiah House, said the R6 program is not affiliated with the Isaiah House, and is merely a tenant, sharing space in the former school building.
“They are their own program with their own director,” Dunn explained.
Dunn added that the Isaiah House residents have a curfew of 10 p.m. each night, and lights go out at 11 p.m. for the men. He said the R6 program does not necessarily operate under those rules.
According to Internet searches, the R6 program is a division of the Kentucky Baptist Association. Michael Bingham is director of the R6 program in Willisburg. Attempts to reach him at the facility were unsuccessful as of press time.
LePalme acknowledged the concerns of the citizens, and pointed out that the Isaiah House will have a board meeting in the near future, and the date for that meeting will be publicized, with the members of the community being welcome to attend.
“We operate in a very open way, and we don’t have any secrets. Anyone who wants to attend is welcome,” he said.
For more information on the Isaiah House, visit www.isaiah-house.org on the Internet.