It is unclear why a Henry County woman ended up in Whitley County either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning and why she allegedly stole a Whitley County school bus that was recovered in Barbourville early Sunday afternoon.
“That’s two questions that I can not answer,” noted Whitley County Sheriff Todd Shelley.
He said that according to a computer-aided dispatch report from the Knox County 911 dispatch center, a relative of the woman apparently told authorities that she was off of her medication.
Barbourville Police Officer Adam Townsley arrested Ashley R. Hawkins, 44, of Turner’s Station, at 2:06 p.m. Sunday and charged her with receiving stolen property $10,000 or more and first-degree criminal mischief, according to her arrest citation.
Shelley said the bus had some damage to it when it was discovered in Knox County, but officials later learned the bus had that damage prior to it being stolen. He said that the criminal mischief charge against Hawkins was based upon that damage, and will be dismissed based upon the new evidence.
About noon Sunday, Barbourville police officers received an attempt to locate alert from Knox County dispatchers about Hawkins, who had left her residence in Henry County Saturday in anger and her family thought that she was in trouble, Townsley wrote on the arrest citation.
The caller also told dispatchers that he had made contact with Hawkins, and she told him that she had stolen a bus, the citation stated.
About 12:58 p.m., Townsley found Hawkins laying in the car wash at the Shell station off of Parkway Plaza, and she reportedly told police that she had gotten into an argument with her husband, and had gotten mad and left. She also told police that she parked the stolen bus behind the Barbourville Walmart, which is where authorities recovered it, Townsley wrote.
Barbourville police then got in contact with the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department regarding the matter, and Deputy Joe Prewitt and Shelley began investigating the matter.
Deputies determined that bus #170, a 2017 Bluebird, had been stolen from Whitley County Intermediate School, Shelley said.
Authorities are still going through video and security camera footage to try and determine exactly what time the bus was taken.
At the school, authorities discovered a 2001 green Chevy Suburban that Hawkins apparently drove, which was registered in someone else’s name at the same address where she lived, Shelley said.
When Prewitt interviewed Hawkins, she confessed to stealing the bus. Prewitt plans to present the case to the Whitley County Grand Jury next month, Shelley said.
Shelley applauded the Barbourville Police Department for working seamlessly with the Whitley County Sheriff’s Office to ensure the safe return of the school bus to the Whitley County Board of Education.
“In the end, our community benefits greatly from the other agencies that we collaborate with,” Shelley said. “Our department appreciates those that assist us on a regular basis and Barbourville PD and Chief (Winston) Tye have been supportive in numerous ways and we are very grateful. Our goal is to support our surrounding agencies as they support us. The community deserves this collaboration.”
Hawkins was lodged in the Knox County Detention Center.