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Suspect in Newberry's death pleads not guilty

BY KAT RUSSELL krussell@paducahsun.com

Making his first appearance in McCracken Circuit Court, Willie G. Holsapple -- the man accused in the death of former Judge-Executive Van Newberry -- entered a plea of not guilty Thursday at an arraignment hearing.

Holsapple, 68, was indicted March 3 on charges of second-degree manslaughter and unsworn falsification to authorities, a misdemeanor that involves making false statements to a public servant.

The charges stem from a months-long investigation following Newberry's death that allegedly revealed Holsapple had serious vision problems at the time of the wreck and had ignored doctors' warnings that he should not drive.

Newberry was killed Oct. 13 when the bicycle he was riding was struck by an SUV.

The sheriff's department said the former judge-executive was headed south in the 8500 block of Old Cairo Road when he was hit by a southbound 2016 GMC Denali, driven by Holsapple.

The impact threw Newberry from his bicycle, resulting in severe head and chest trauma.

Prior to the arrival of emergency personnel, McCracken Chief Deputy Mike Turnbow said, other motorists stopped and administered CPR, which was continued by EMS en route to Lourdes hospital. Newberry was pronounced dead in the hospital's emergency department.

When taking his statement, Turnbow said, Holsapple stated he was passing Newberry when the bicycle "appeared to move from the shoulder of the roadway," veering into the SUV's path.

Sheriff Jon Hayden disputed that claim following the indictment, stating, "There was no evidence at the scene that suggested that (Newberry) veered in front of the vehicle."

The reconstruction of the wreck, the sheriff said, showed the point of impact occurred on the line that separates the road from the shoulder, also known as the fog line, which conflicted with Holsapple's statement.

During the course of their investigation, Hayden said, detectives interviewed multiple witnesses and conducted an in-depth review of Holsapple's medical records and interviews with his doctors.

Those medical records, the sheriff said, indicated that Holsapple has "a severe visual impairment," and "was not safe to be operating a vehicle." Additionally, Hayden said Holsapple was aware his condition and that he should not have been driving as his doctors "had advised him as such."

As for the unsworn falsification charge, Hayden said that charge stems from evidence indicating Holsapple gave false information to the Kentucky Driver's License Medical Review Board as part of that agency's inquiry following Newberry's death.

Following the indictment, Holsapple turned himself in to the sheriff's department and was booked into McCracken County Jail. Jail personnel said he was released soon afterward on a $25,000 cash bond. Holsapple is scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference on June 8.

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