The Marshall County Judge-Executive sent an open letter Thursday to Attorney General Andy Beshear, asking the Democratic gubernatorial candidate to clarify comments made at Tuesday’s debate in Lexington.
Beshear at the debate said he “met with the parents of the Marshall County High School shooting”. Judge-Executive Kevin Neal’s open letter to Beshear claims several victims’ families were never visited by Beshear. Yet the former Marshall County attorney, who served at the time of the shooting, asserts Beshear did visit impacted families.
“As of the time of this correspondence, 12 of the 16 victims’ families, including the Cope and Holt families who lost their children, have all confirmed that they have not been contacted or approached by you or any of your staff in any way,” Neal’s letter said. “Please clarify which victims’ parents you spoke to as none of the families we have heard from seem to remember this interaction.”
Neal’s letter goes on to say that the families in question feel “extremely upset” and feel that Beshear’s comments were used to “politicize and exploit” the events surrounding last year’s shooting.
Former Marshall County Attorney Jeff Edwards responded to Neal in a separate open letter, saying Beshear did visit impacted families within 48 hours after the shooting. In a phone call, Edwards said he knows this because he was there.
“I was there as chief prosecutor for the district court at that time. And I wanted to correct the facts,” Edwards said. “That first appearance in juvenile court, there was a limited number of people that could go in. There were a few family members of victims there in the grand jury room, and I introduced them. [Beshear] assured them that my team was doing a good job and that he had his resources there and offered them condolences.”
Former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jacob Ford, who initially helped prosecute the case against the MCHS shooter, commented on the Facebook livestream of Kevin Neal reading his open letter. In the comment, Ford also said Beshear visited families in court, saying not all affected families were there. “Those who were there may have just forgotten about this meeting. I can’t say that I blame them since everyone was clearly in shock,” Ford said.
Governor Matt Bevin on Thursday attacked Beshear in a tweet, claiming the Attorney General was lying about visiting impacted families. A spokesman for Beshear’s campaign declined to comment, instead referring to the letter that Edwards published.
In a follow-up phone call, Neal said he believes Edwards’ account. But Neal still wants Beshear to clarify to parents he allegedly didn’t meet with all the parents affected by the shooting.
“I acknowledge that I heard he was there two days after the shooting in the judicial building, and I think Jeff’s letter confirms that,” Neal said. “My correspondence is specific. It is specific about the Attorney General’s comment that he met with the parents. Which is simply, he didn’t meet with all the parents….did [Beshear] misspeak? Clearly.”
Find the open letter published by Kevin Neal and the open letter published by Jeff Edwards, below: