New book features stories from sheriffs across Kentucky

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Former Taylor County Sheriff John Shipp is included.

By Ellen Hittson

A former Taylor County sheriff is included in a new book of stories collected from sheriffs across Kentucky.

William Lynwood Montell is the author of "Tales from Kentucky Sheriffs" published by the University Press of Kentucky. The stories Montell collected fill up nearly 300 pages and range from humorous mishaps during incidents and interesting criminal behavior to the more somber topic of death in the line of duty.

John E. Shipp was appointed as Taylor County sheriff in 1995, later winning a special election and serving for the next 15 years. He did not seek re-election last year.

A native of Campbellsville, Shipp is also a military veteran, having served for eight years in Vietnam and other countries. He retired from the Kentucky State Police in 1995 after serving as a road trooper, detective and in the governor's security division.

Shipp says Montell came to his office a few years ago, saying he was interested in hearing about experiences he had encountered during his time as sheriff. 

In the book, Montell writes, "Oral history is becoming increasingly useful in conducting research on specific topics, especially those that focus on local life and culture.

"Folklore is not the 'falsehood of history,' as it has been defined by a few academic professors and others in earlier times."

Shipp says that he is staying busier than ever during his retirement and doesn't know how not to be busy.

"Times are changing," he said. "It was time for me to retire. Younger people need to get in there."


Excerpts from the book ...


Hungry Prisoner

I arrested a notorious guy here one night. We had to fight, or he'd give us a lot of trouble. We got a call telling us he was out on a certain road causing trouble. I didn't want to go because some nights you just don't feel like fighting. But I did go out there and saw him setting on the side of the road. So I whipped around and pulled up, then started to get out of the car. Well, he jumped up and started running to the car, and I said, "Oh, my gosh."

Well, he run up to the back door of the car and jumped in. He yelled, "Hurry up."

I said, "What are you talking about?"

He said, "Hurry up. Doggone, it's almost suppertime and I'm going to miss it at the jail."

Sometimes you expect trouble, but don't get it.


Wrong State

I was headed east here one afternoon, going toward Lebanon, and there was a lot of traffic in front of me. I kept seeing dust coming up, and wondered, "What in the world is that?" I was getting around the traffic, and when I got up there I saw an old car off on the shoulder of the road. The driver was driving in the gravel. I was able to finally get them to stop, and there were two old Tennessee men in it, and the car had Tennessee plates on it.

I walked up, and both of them were as drunk as everything. I got their IDs, and the driver was sitting there. I said to him, "Sir, have you been drinking?"

He said, "Oh, yeah."

I said, "Where are you going?"

He said, "I'm going down here to --."

I didn't recognize the name of the place he was talking about. I said, "I don't know where that is."

"Well, it's down right beside this place," he said.

I said, "Do you know where you are?"

He said, "Well, yeah."

He named the place, and I said, "What state is that in?"

"What do you mean, what state? It's Tennessee."

I said, "Sir, you're not in Tennessee. You're up in the middle of Kentucky."

About that time, he took his hand and backhanded the passenger and hit him, then said, "Dad blame you, Fred, I told you we should have turned left back there."

Well, I like to have died. [Laughter] It was so funny, I hated to arrest them. No problem, but they were so drunk they didn't know what state they were in.


Mother's Weird Request

One of the funniest things took place when I was running for sheriff. I was trying to work and campaign at the same time; trying to please everybody. After all these years, I realize you can't please everyone.

I got a call at the police station, so I came in and answered the phone and there was some woman who was calling. She said, "I want you to come out here and get my son."

I asked her, "How old is your son?"

She said, "He's six."

I said, "Why do you want me to come get him?"

She said, "I'm trying to get him ready for Bible school, and he won't put on his good shoes."

I said, "That's what you're calling me for, lady?"

She said, "Yes, I want you out here now."

I said, "Ma'am, when I come out there, I'm going to arrest you. If you can't get your six-year-old son to put his shoes on you've got problems, so I'm going to take you."

She said, "Never mind," and hung up. Evidently, she didn't need me!


Marijuana Distributors

Back when we had only a few officers, we got a complaint from a lady out in the county, out where there was a house that was awfully suspicious. People would come to this house, then leave pretty soon. And every now and then big trucks would come in. So the chief deputy and I decided we were going to conduct surveillance on that house.

One night the deputy and others went out there, but I was still here in the office. As soon as they got there they realized that there was a truck at the back door of this house, a big U-haul type of truck. My deputies watched as these people were carrying in big boxes. Then as the truck and car and stuff left, they walked up to the house. They saw this lady standing in there, and they asked her, "Can we search your house? Do you live here?"

She said, "Yeah, but you probably can't search. You might need to get a warrant, because you are going to be very surprised at what you find in here."

From all the information we had gathered, we got a warrant, but while we were getting a warrant, we were trying to track these guys that had left.

When we finally got our search warrant, we walked in and found more than two thousand pounds of processed marijuana that they had been shipping in from Arizona and Mexico-the route up through there. We were able to track down the guys that had left here. We called Elizabethtown where there were some Mexicans and stuff they caught up there.

The main guy got away. He lived in another county, and he fled. It ended up that he and his wife were wanted in Tennessee for the same thing.

Anyway, the DEA got involved, and months later we got the main guy captured in Florida. The DEA were able to track from a little town in Kentucky a network all the way back into Mexico. The shipments they sent here to Taylor County were distributed in New York, and they found out where it was distributed from there.

These illegal eighteen-wheelers had brought it up to Indiana, right there in the Louisville area. Then they distributed it to us, then these trucks would go somewhere else.

Well, we captured over two thousand pounds. I guess it was the biggest marijuana drug bust in Kentucky, and it still is the biggest. I'm sure that type of illegal activity is still going on.

The funny part is, it just happened that this woman called and were just lucky enough to go the same night that they were making the delivery. The reason she called was due to the traffic in that area. It is usually quiet, but since these people had moved into this house, there was much noise.

The owner of the house lived in Marion County but was renting it out to the fellow that lived here. The one who owned the house was involved with people associated with Cartel. But in a small town in Kentucky, you'd be surprised what goes on.