Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment

Opticare Vision/Express Mobile Transport

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Highlands Newscasters Win in Student Technology Leadership Competition

Highlands High School Newscasting Team took top honors in a Student Technology Leadership Program competition.

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Students from Highlands High School took top place in an annual state project-based competition hosted by the Kentucky Department of Education. The Student Technology Leadership Program, or STLP, supports project-based learning through the use and creation of technology.

Technology teacher Bill Poff is the STLP sponsor, and Fort Thomas schools have been active in several STLP events over the years.

The program added Newscasting as a category a few years ago, said Director of Technology Diana McGhee. Fort Thomas did not participate the first year but since getting involved, Highlands has placed higher each year. After grabbing the runner-up spot last year, this year’s team came back from the competition as the state champions.

Some of the newscasting students were honored at the recent Fort Thomas Independent School Board meeting.

"The newscast challenge reflects all the hard work our new broadcasting program puts in every day. This really reflects more broadly than the four or five of us up here, because the entire class is involved. It’s a student-run program. We highlighted our day-to-day activities, how we put on the announcements by ourselves, our news shows, how we make videos and the process of student feedback," explained senior Kat Finseth.

She said the group created a 60-second Public Service Announcement about the Highlands Newscasting Program and provided a presentation with a posterboard to show how their class works.

Eight District Championships and Counting for Highlands Baseball

Bluebirds Run-Rule Thoroughbreds

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior first baseman Trey Gabbard makes a play on a foul ball in the 10-0 win over Newport Central Catholic on Monday. Highlands won its eighth straight district championship with the victory.
It took a trip through the line-up, but the hosts eventually pulled away for yet another 36th District championship.

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team (27-9 overall) took down the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (12-22), 10-0 in six innings Monday for the eighth straight district championship. The Bluebirds have won 42 straight against district opponents including 13 straight against NewCath dating back to a 3-1 loss to NewCath in the 9th Region championship on May 31, 2012.

"We hit the ball really hard toward the end," said Jeremy Baioni, Highlands Head Coach. "We put together good at-bats. We hit some balls hard that we made outs out. But we squared a lot up there toward the end."

Seniors Grady Cramer and Tanner Juett combined to throw a one-hitter. Cramer struck out six and walked two with Juett striking out one. NewCath went 1-for-19 for a .053 average.

On the other side, Highlands batted .429 as a team going 12-for-28 with two walks. NewCath committed the game's lone error.

The majority of the Bluebird hits came from the top two spots. Junior Ethan Kavanagh went 3-for-3 with a double, two runs batted in and four runs scored at lead-off and senior Chris Bridwell went 4-for-4 with a double, RBI and two runs scored.

"Sometimes, it might take an at-bat or two to get ready," Bridwell said. "It's always important to stay focused. Coach Baioni just mentioned an example of Cooper (25-8) losing (1-0 to Boone County) in the first round of (the 33rd) district (semifinals). (The Jaguars') season is over so we always have to be ready to play." 

Highlands pulled away with three in the bottom of the fourth. Cramer hit a two-run home run to put the Bluebirds up 6-0.

The Bluebirds ended the game with four in the bottom of the sixth. Senior Cooper Schwalbach ended the game with a double and two RBI.

"We talked about how baseball is such a different game than other sports," Baioni said. "There are so many upsets because all you need is one good arm that has a good day. While we both were going to advance to the regional tournament, I feel that it's important to have momentum and to be playing well going into the regional tournament."

Monday, May 20, 2019

Podcast: Win Tickets to Disney World and Never Wait in a Line*

The Fort Thomas Education Foundation is holding a raffle that includes a $3,000 package to Walt Disney World Orlando. The raffle, which is $20 per ticket, ends on Tuesday, May 21 and includes a three-day, two-night getaway with deluxe hotel accommodations and park hopper tickets for up to five people.

Dr. Karen Cheser and family donated the accommodations. Having been with her family to Disney over 30 times, she gave some tips on how to enjoy the park.

That podcast is available to listen here or anywhere that you get your podcast. 

Search "Fort Thomas Matters" on iTunes. 

To purchase tickets, email or call 859-815-2004.

Highlands Senior Puts On Cheapfit Fashion and Art Show at Launch

By Khrys Crawford
Photos by Lexie Crawford 

Isabel Murphy has always dreamed of hosting her own fashion show.  This Highlands senior, who designs and creates her own clothing line, Cheapfit, approached Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent, Dr. Karen Cheser, and Highlands Principal, Matthew Bertasso, several months ago and pitched them her idea.

She wanted to use the school’s space at 20 Grand to host a Fashion and Art gala and invited other Highlands student artists, writers, photographers, and videographers to join her.

“I really wanted to throw an event that would showcase all of the talented artists we have at Highlands and give them a place where they could show everyone what they’re passionate about and get some recognition for it," said Murphy. "Because it’s my senior year, I wanted to go out with a big bang.”

After working for a fashion designer for a year, Isabel wanted to put her design skills to the test.

Using what her mentor taught her, she created her own clothing line, branded "Cheapfit". She designed the Cheapfit Brooklyn hoodies sold at the show, as well as all of the unique, one-of-a-kind pieces worn by the models on the runway.  Those pieces were designed, hand-dyed, and hand-sewn or quilted by Isabel.  The inspiration behind her collection came from her desire to live and work in the fashion industry in New York.  Bold colors contrasted with white make the colors pop because as Isabel says, “We all need some color in our lives.”

After high school, Isabel plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design for Fashion Design, and  major in either Advertising or Marketing for Fashion.

Isabel gives credit to her family for being so supportive in helping her realize her dream. Her dad, Brian, helped her put together the show at 20 Grand and her mother, Allison, gave her great advice throughout the process. Her brother Finn, a junior at Highlands, was one of the models, as were some of his friends.  She said, “My family is amazing.  My parents do so much for my brother, sister (Cici), and me.  We are very, very lucky to have them in our lives.”

Select items from Isabel’s collection may soon be for sale.  Contact her via Instagram @Cheapfit.Clothing for info.

Six other talented Highlands students were invited to showcase their work before the models hit the runway.  Each young entrepreneur set up a booth displaying their work and talked to potential clients about what they do.

Senior Caleb Parks specializes in portrait and fashion photography.  In November, his photography was accepted into the Juried Art Show at Xavier University.  He plans to attend Columbia College Chicago for Photography.

Insta:  CalebParks_Photo

Senior Sydney Cooper writes free verse poetry and custom poems. She has also published two poetry books, which are available for purchase.  She is the editor-in-chief of Highlands High School’s Newspaper, The Hilltopper. She will attend Bellarmine University in the Fall.

Junior Wyatt Richards enjoys landscape and portrait photography.  He specializes in videography, specifically promos, documentaries, and short stories, and is an active member in the Highlands Broadcasting Department. His film in the 48-hour Film Festival, hosted by the Highlands Broadcasting Department, won best Film.

Junior Kyley Kunkel displayed her Art III Mini Concentration artwork, collectively themed “Human Emotion.”  The pieces individually were titled, “Joy,” “Anger,” “Disgust,” and “Loneliness.”  Kyley is too attached to her current pieces to sell them.

Junior Ella Surrey brought some of her Art III class work as well, including portrait and still life acrylic paintings to display her artistic talent.  Ella also does commissioned artwork and can be reached at her Insta:  EllaSurrey.Art.

Sophomore Lexie Crawford is the Photo Editor of the Highlands Journalism Department.  She’s a Scholastic Gold Key Photography award winner and has been selected to participate for the past two years in an exclusive analog photography workshop at Manifest Galleries, entitled The Envision Project.  She brought samples of her analog and digital photography to display.  Lexie has an active Photography business.
Insta:  LCrawfordPhotography

Superintendent Karen Cheser was excited to be at the event to see several of her students wow the crowd with their artistic talents and entrepreneurial abilities. Karen said, “This is why we created this space, to showcase the talents of our students. This is Portrait of a Graduate.”

Models:  Cameron James, Sam Burnham, Finn Murphy, Tyler Bracken, Isabel Murphy, Isabella Siska, Kat Suddendorf, Rachel Ray

Student Artists:  Lexie Crawford, Ella Surrey, Kyley Kunkel, Isabel Murphy, Sydney Cooper, Caleb Parks, Karen Cheser, Wyatt Richards

Friday, May 17, 2019

Highlands Graduate, Elwyn Berlekamp, game theorist and coding pioneer, dies at 78

Innovative Mathematician Graduated from Highlands in 1958

By Robert Sanders, Berkeley News

Elwyn Berlekamp, a UC Berkeley mathematician and game theorist whose error-correcting codes allowed spacecraft from Voyager to the Hubble Space Telescope to send accurate, detailed and beautiful images back to Earth, died April 9 at his home in Piedmont, California, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.

A professor emeritus of mathematics and of electrical engineering and computer sciences, Berlekamp was 78.

Berlekamp was a “genius” in many areas, according to colleague Richard Karp, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer sciences and holder of computer science’s premier honor, the Turing Award.

“He was a brilliant person who was always effective in everything he tried to do, whether it was mathematics or game theory or consulting and investment. He had a curious and powerful mind,” said Karp, who was the first chair of UC Berkeley’s computer sciences division upon its creation and merger with electrical engineering in 1973. Berlekamp succeeded Karp as chair from 1975 to 1977.

Berlekamp came of age during the early years of the digital revolution and focused on a problem encountered whenever information is sent from one device to another: How do you account for lost bits of data? He developed algebraic algorithms for compressing images or other information in ways that allowed precise reconstruction, even if parts of the data stream were missing due to noise or faulty transmission.

When he felt that his error-correcting codes were not being implemented properly, he founded a company, Cyclotomics, to ensure that they were. The company’s bit-serial encoders and Berlekamp decoders became the NASA standard for space communications. They’re still operating on the Voyager I and II spacecraft, which were launched in 1977 and are now at the outer edges of our solar system.

The company employed error-correcting codes to develop numerous innovative electronic subsystems and custom integrated circuits that were used in military communications, optical disk memories, magnetic disk memories, floppy disk memories and compact disks, while the techniques were adapted for optically encoding digital sound tracks on movie film.

Cyclotomics’ sound encoding/decoding system was a prototype for Eastman Kodak’s Digital Sound System, which won an Academy Award for scientific and technical achievement in 1995, but was later supplanted by other techniques, including Dolby Sound. Kodak acquired Cyclotomics in 1985 and renamed it Kodak Berkeley Research.

Hedge fund

Berlekamp later branched out into cryptography and the financial market, where companies were beginning to use complex mathematics to predict stock performance, most notably in derivatives. In 1989, he bought controlling shares in a failing firm, Axcom, that had asked for his help with its algorithms. He rewrote them and turned the company around, making a 55% net return during its first year.

In 1990, he sold his interest in the company for six times the purchase price to mathematician and former Renaissance Technologies CEO James Simons, then returned to research at UC Berkeley. The company’s algorithms, with a continual series of enhancements and improvements, performed well for the remainder of the decade, laying the foundation for Renaissance’s Medallion Fund, which is the most successful hedge fund in the world.

Berlekamp founded his own hedge fund, Berkeley Quantitative, in 2008, focusing on trading in the futures markets, but it closed after two and a half years.

For the last three decades of his life, he focused on the theory of combinatorial games, the most simple example of which, Dots and Boxes, had fascinated him since first grade. He developed theories of the game that allowed him, or anyone, to always win.

His two-volume series, Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays (1982, Academic Press), written with John Conway and Richard Guy, delved into the math of Dots and Boxes and other popular games, including Amazons, a game played on a chess board with queens only. It was republished in 2001-2004 in four volumes.

“In these books, he manages to describe deep mathematics in a way that is really enjoyable to the reader,” Karp said. “He presents it more as a narrative and explains it with real precision, but in a way that is actually charming. He was a wonderful author as well.”

One of his passions was the Asian game of Go, which he analyzed with coauthor David Wolfe in the book Mathematical Go (1994, A. K. Peters Ltd.) — one of the rare books on Go to be translated from English into Japanese, rather than vice versa. He focused on Go’s endgame, said mathematician and colleague David Eisenbud, and once challenged a top Japanese Go master to a series of endgames selected by Berlekamp. He beat the Go master in seven straight games, playing both sides of the board — white and black.

“It was mathematics against intuition, and mathematics won,” said Eisenbud, director of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI). “It was an impressive demonstration of which he was very proud.”

While the mathematical analysis of games is still very popular, computers have taken the field in a different direction: they employ brute force or machine learning to beat Go and chess masters.

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

Fedders Construction sets sights on West Newport developments

Company Wins Kentucky Startup Business Pacesetter Award

By Jessica Eden 

The “West Side Cafe” in West Newport will soon have a facelift thanks to Albert Fedders of Fedders Construction.

The property, recently purchased by Fedders, fits in perfectly with his current projects in the area.

“I’m restoring the former street car barn across the street. I’ve always had an eye on the building and I’ve thought about restoring it. I would love to restore to its ‘heyday’. I looked at it once they kind of  cleaned it out and the space has great bones and is in great shape. I can’t wait to bring it back to life,” said Fedders.

Hassman and Doyle Lawfirm. 859-655-4430. This is an advertisement.
Fedders Construction is still a fairly new company but they are quickly gaining attention of several organizations for their work in several urban core areas throughout NKY and Cincinnati. This week, the Kentucky Small Business Development Center (KSBDC), part of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, recognized Fedders Construction for their exemplary business practices and growth.

The KSBDC helps existing, and startup businesses succeed by offering high quality, in-depth and hands-on services.  As a result, the Fedders Construction team traveled to Frankfort to have lunch with Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton, Kentucky SBDC State Director, Kristina Joyce, SBA Acting District Director, Robert Coffey, and small business supporters from across the state

Fedders Construction was honored with a Startup Business Pacesetter award. The KSBDC’s Pacesetter Recognition Program honors high-performing second stage and startup businesses that are producing innovative products, increasing sales, creating jobs, and serving communities of the Commonwealth.

With an award in tow and recent announcements such as the new Ovation music venue, the new Rt. 9 corridor that currently runs through the area and New Riff’s renovation project in a building across the street, Fedders has set his sights on West Newport. He is convinced this urban core area is ready to take off and new developments in the area are pushing traffic toward the area. “Newport is centrally located and people can cut through and get to other areas really quickly. People forget about cutting through Newport. There is easy access to get on or off the express and eventually, they’ll have to do something with the 75 bridge which will push more traffic through this area,” said Fedders.

So, what is planned for the former West Side Cafe and the old street car barn? Fedders said he’d love to renovated it and turn it back into a bar and grill. “The bar is beautiful. I really want to restore the bar. Back in its heyday, it was hotel and a bar and grill. I would love to create units upstairs that we could rent out through AirBnb above, like it was back in the day,” said Fedders.

The old street car barn is about 50,000 square feet and Fedders will only need around 7,000 square feet for his construction business so he is exploring ideas for the rest of the space. “There are so many different ideas and so many potential ideas. We gotta figure out the right idea. Some people have reached out and said it would be a cool office space. I’m hoping this will attract people down to the area and be a catalyst for the corridor,” said Fedders.

He’s leaning towards creating an event space or an artist / maker space. “Not sure what the car barn is going to be.  I’ve thought about an event space. People in the wedding could stay above the bar and grill. The top floor has unbelievable views of city but I am hesitant. I may also build offices over there. I want to bring back the building’s big windows. There is even an old skylight. It’s a pretty cool space with old doors and the original wood trim is intact. I want to restore those features as well as the floors and keep the high ceilings,” said Fedders.

While West Newport is Fedders’ central area of focus at the moment, his company is also renovating three townhomes in Mainstrasse off of 7th Street as well as a building off of Pike Street in Covington. They also have projects in Over-the-Rhine and the Clifton area.

Why? Fedders likes saving old buildings. “I enjoy preserving these old buildings instead of tearing them down,” said Fedders.

Crossing Guard Appreciation Day is May 22 in Fort Thomas

The City of Fort Thomas and Fort Thomas Independent Schools are honoring crossing guards throughout the city on May 22 by declaring the day "Crossing Guard Appreciation Day."

"We would like to show our appreciation to all of the men and women who serve as our crossing guards o the last Wednesday of the school year, May 22nd," said Casey Kilgore, Fort Thomas Chief of Police.  "Our crossing guards do incredible work every day by keeping our children safe at key locations throughout the city.  These individuals care deeply for our community, and often come in to work during bad weather to keep our intersections safe."

“Priority number one is keeping our students safe,” said Jamee Flaherty, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services at Fort Thomas Independent Schools. “Our crossing guards take their jobs seriously and their charge is an important one within our communities and our schools. We are so appreciative of all of them and we’re very happy we can recognize them on May 22.”

Please join us in thanking our crossing guards on Wednesday, May 22nd.

Judy Kiskaden - North Fort Thomas and Highland Ave, (a.m. and p.m.) and Ruth Moyer (lunch)
George Geisen - Inverness Intersection (morning only)
Dennis Kramer - St. Catherine (morning)
Kim Krentz - Woodfill (morning)
Tim Markey - St. Thomas
Josh Singleton - Woodfill (afternoon)
Jon Smith - St. Catherine (afternoon)
Jay Webster - Johnson

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Opening Day for the Fort Thomas Farmers' Market is June 5

Who's ready to get their Market on?

Opening Day for the 2019 Fort Thomas Farmers' Market Season is Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, and we couldn't be more excited!  We have many of your favorite vendors and farmers returning this season - Springcreek Farm, Lobenstein Farm, Neltner Farms, Breezy Acres, Stonebrook Winery, RidgeHill Soaps, Colone De, Ryan's Raised, June & Joann's Market Stand, Diamond Ridge Farm to name just a few.

See Rob's Listing that has THIS VIEW! 19 Tower Drive. 
The Market is partnering this year with Living Hope Baptist Church and the Fort Thomas Recreation Department to bring you many exciting opportunities for the kids in your life this season.  For opening day, there will be a bouncy house and face painting.  The Campbell County Library and Campbell County YMCA will also be on hand with some fun activities.

For the latest updates, a complete calendar of events and vendor listing, please follow them on Facebook:

The Fort Thomas Farmers' Market runs June - September, 3-7 pm; October - 3-6 p.m., and is located in Tower Park across from the Armory building next to the tennis courts.  Returning vendors and kids' activities current at the time of this article and subject to change.

Call Rob Beimesche, with HUFF Realty. 859-240-3219. 

If you have any questions, please email us at

Highlands Once Again Loaded at Quarterback

Bluebirds Used Spring to Build Depth

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands junior quarterback Collin Hollingsworth (left) hands off to junior Tyler Brune (20) in warm-up prior to the win over Greenwood last fall. Hollingsworth stands next in line to start at quarterback for the Bluebirds in the fall.
As sophomores or juniors, they might have started at other places.

But every year since 2010 when Patrick Towles entered the season as the starting quarterback as a junior, a senior has entered the season as the starting quarterback for the Highlands Bluebirds football team. The big reason has to do with depth at the position and Highlands Offensive Coordinator Sam Umberg came out of spring practice on May 3 excited about that prospect this fall.

"We can go out and win a game with any of the guys we have right there," Umberg said. "It doesn't matter if they're in the first spot or the last spot. It's a testament to them and their hard work. They're completely bought in and it's showing out on the field."

1017 S. Fort Thomas Ave. 859-781-7666. 
But quarterback is not the only spot where the Bluebirds are loaded on offense. Highlands returns a number of skill position players from last year's 10-3 region runner-up squad.

"Instead of having one or two guys in certain spots, we have guys all over the field who can make plays," Umberg said. "When we go against other defenses this fall, they're not going to be able to key on one guy because we have four guys out wide who are going to be catching passes and we got backs with a great quarterback in the backfield."

Collin Hollingsworth is expected to step into the starting quarterback role as a senior this fall after backing up Grady Cramer this past fall and make his own mark. Hollingsworth completed 12-of-25 passes this past season for 100 yards and a 4-yard touchdown in the first half against Simon Kenton. The touchdown pass came on 4th-and-goal.

The lefty may remind many of 2013 Highlands graduate Donovan McCoy. Hollingsworth was in the fifth grade in 2012 when McCoy led the Bluebirds to their state-record sixth consecutive state championship in Class 4A. At 6-feet-1-inches, Hollingsworth is taller than McCoy.

"It's really just me trying to take care of the rest of the guys," Hollingsworth said. "If they can trust me, I can trust them and put up numbers. That's how we're looking at it."

Hollingsworth demonstrated his ability to scramble last fall similar to what McCoy did in 2012. Hollingsworth rushed for 163 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns for an average of 13.5 yards per carry.

But opposing defenses had to worry about defending the entire field. Zach Harris, Colin Seidel and Jaylen Hayes also made plays out of the backfield and McCoy could also throw to the likes of Luke Turner, David Christian, Jac Collinsworth and Brandon Hergott.

"Moving around in the pocket is going to be one of our biggest things this year," Hollingsworth said. "We're going to have a lot of movement either naked or completely blocked. We're going to have confidence in our passing plays. It's just going to be a lot of what we've seen the past couple years built up."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Persistent Felon Who Robbed Fort Thomas Business Sentenced to 35 Years


Kenton Circuit Judge Kathy Lape followed the recommendation of a Kenton County jury and sentenced Justin Bowling to 35 years in prison for 1st Degree Robbery, Receiving Stolen Property (>$500), and Persistent Felony Offender 1st Degree.

Bowlin's attorney read a four-page letter to the court on Bowlin's behalf. Among other complaints, Bowlin blamed his legal troubles on his substance abuse since the age of nine, and the Commonwealth's Attorney who refused to allow Bowlin to plead guilty to reduced charges. Bowlin's attorneys asked the judge to reduce the jury sentence to the minimum of 20 years.

Judge Lape declined the request for leniency.

"A good Samaritan stopped to help you and you did these horrible things to her and her child and terrified her,” said Judge Lape.

Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders said Bowlin has made a career of assaults and thefts that cannot be excused by drug abuse. "The only time this community is safe from Justin Bowlin is when he's behind bars and that's exactly where he deserves to be," said Sanders.


On March 22, 2019, at the conclusion of a four day jury trial, a Kenton County jury recommended 35 years in prison for Justin Raymond Bowlin, 37, after convicting him of 1st Degree Robbery, Receiving Stolen Property >$500, and 1st Degree Persistent Felony Offender.

Bowlin was arrested by Kentucky State Police on January 12, 2017 in Henry County after leading Trooper Joseph Brown on a 15 mile high speed chase. Once they apprehended Bowlin, troopers noticed the car he had been driving had blood down the driver's side doors and windows. After running the license plate, they learned the car had been stolen earlier the same day in Kenton County. Independence Police Lt. Jake Boyle soon obtained a warrant for Bowlin's arrest, charging him with 1st Degree Robbery.

Fort Thomas Matters broke the story of Bowlin's day of crime after coming upon a shattered storefront at the Fastenal store in Fort Thomas Plaza.

RELATED: Burglar Wrecks Car Into Fort Thomas Business, Goes on Crime Spree 

During a four-day trial which began March 19, 2019, Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders and Asst. Commonwealth's Attorney Emily Arnzen presented testimony from a witness who saw Bowlin lose control of a car he had stolen in Covington and crash into a utility pole.

When the woman told Bowlin help was on the way, he asked her how long he had before police arrived. Bowlin then jumped into the passenger seat of a car driven by a young mother who had stopped to see if Bowlin was hurt. Thinking Bowlin told the woman to drive and she did, thinking he needed a ride somewhere to get help.

The victim testified she soon became scared after Bowlin said he had a gun so she stopped the car and asked him to get out. Instead Bowlin began punching her in the face as she struggled to remove her seat belt and jump out of the car. As Bowlin climbed over the console into the driver's seat, the victim told jurors she frantically tried to get her two-year old daughter out of a child seat in the back. Bowlin sped away, running over the victim's feet just as she pulled her daughter to safety.

Two additional witnesses in car behind the victim verified the victim's account of the robbery.

Independence Police Detectives Jeff Young and Mark Fielding also found the stolen car Bowlin crashed had a trunk full of power tools taken from a burglary at a Fastenal store in Fort Thomas in the early morning hours on the same day as the robbery. Company representatives placed the value on the tools at over $2,000. Independence Police Officer Travis Hager testified he was called to a residence on Sugarcamp Road where the homeowner had located personal property belonging to the victim.

Investigators would later discover Bowlin had lived at the same residence years ago and had apparently stopped there to ditch evidence from the car linking it to the victim.

Bowlin took the stand in his own defense. Bowlin testified he had been on a week long methamphetamine binge and had no recollection of the robbery. His attorneys argued Bowlin was so intoxicated that he could not for the intent to commit a robbery. On March 22, 2019, the jury of seven men and five women took only thirty minutes to convict Bowlin. In the sentencing phase of the trial, jurors also learned Bowlin had five prior felony convictions for Burglary (2), Theft, Wanton Endangerment, and Bail Jumping. Bowlin had been out of prison just under 8 months at the time of the robbery. After further deliberations, the jury then recommended a 35 year prison sentence. Bowlin must serve 20 years before being eligible for parole. Formal, final sentencing will take place before Kenton Circuit Judge Kathleen Lape, who presided over the trial, in May.

Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders said, "Independence Police, with assistance from Kentucky State Police, did an excellent job to get this career offender behind bars before he hurt anyone else."

Sanders said the victim, who suffered a broken eye socket in the attack, has recovered physically but she and her now-four year old daughter still suffer emotional scars. "They suffered an attack so violent and scary, you'd only expect to see it in a movie," said Sanders. "But the mother's strength to save her daughter, even though her face was broken and bleeding, was remarkable."

Sanders also said the young mother showed incredible courage coming to court and standing up to her attacker. "Mr. Bowlin may have overpowered her the morning of the carjacking, but she was definitely the stronger of the two in court!"

Sanders also applauded the work of yet another Kenton County jury who imposed a heavy sentence on a repeat offender. "Kenton County is tired of repeat offender committing the bulk of our crime," Sanders said. "Thanks to this jury, Mr. Bowlin won't be victimizing our community again for decades!"

Love Lives Forever Through The Gift Of Organ And Tissue Donation

Eric and Holly Specht shared an Organ Donor Memorial quilt with friends and family this Mother's Day weekend. Photo provided.

It’s been six Mother’s Days that Holly and Eric Specht have spent without their son, Nicholas.

This Mother’s Day, however, was a special one as the Spechts were able to celebrate Nicholas’ life in a different way by joining with other families whose loved ones chose to give the gift of life through organ donation.

Holly and Eric Specht, founders of NKY Hates Heroin, lost their son, Nicholas, to addiction in 2013.

At the time of his death, the Spechts did not realize Nicholas was an organ donor. They only found out when he was brought into the ICU.

They say it did not surprise them at all and are very proud of him for doing so.

Our Nicholas was able to donate to five women who live today due to his beautiful gift of life for others,” said Holly.

According to the National Donate Life Registry, 114,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant, and another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. Twenty two people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time; And one organ, eye and tissue donor can save and heal more than 75 lives.

Also according to the Donate Life campaign, statistics show that 95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor but only 58% are registered.

This year, the Spechts were invited to participate in the Donor Memorial Quilt Project through Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA).

Each of the 14 completed quilts (a 15th is presently being assembled) displays 30 local individuals from Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia who have donated through organ, tissue and eye donation.

A quilt is sewn together once 30 squares are received and then another is started. Every donor’s family is able to borrow a quilt, once completed, for a week to share with friends and family.

The Spechts chose this Mother’s Day to bring the quilt home to share with their church and loved ones.

Holly said the process was a labor of love from the moment they learned about the project after Reverend Mark and Reverend Lisa Caldwell Reiss, ministers at First Christian Church in Ft. Thomas for 14 years, moved to Berea. They had told Holly about one of the quilts that was on display in Berea.

The Spechts knew they wanted to be a part of it especially since Holly’s mother was a long time quilter whose first quilt she made was for Nicholas when he was born in 1983.

That very quilt lay on the lap of our Nicholas as he was in ICU awaiting the transplant surgery to gift what turned out to be be five women with his organs," Holly said.

The design they chose was a photo of Nicholas’ best friend, a boxer mastiff named Ruger who had been by Nicholas’ side through every hard time.

For the fabric, a pair of Nicholas’ jeans were used and some red wool that was from Nicholas’ childhood coat his aunt Heather Blackiston hand made.

Nicholas’ father, Eric and uncle Chris Stegner carefully measured and put together the photo for the square, and Jan Ball from Ball Embroidery, an elementary school friend of Holly’s did the embroidering. Nicholas’ grandmother, Carol Stegner, hand assembled the final touches.

Carol Stegner assembles the final piece. Photo provided

From the start to the finish, Nicholas's quilt square was completely assembled by family and friends that touched our lives, Nicholas's life,” Holly said.
"It took many hands to make this happen," said Holly Specht of her son, Nicholas' quilt square. Photo provided

After the square was designed, the Spechts attended a yearly dedication program in Lexington to donate the square where families came together for a luncheon, dedication, dove release and program that showed the faces of all the 30 new donors that will be represented on the next quilt. All of the quilts were on display, each telling a story.

It was a very special event,” Holly said.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Win a trip for up to 5 people to Disney Orlando!

The Fort Thomas Education Foundation is selling $20 raffle tickets for a Disney Getaway.

The prize (valued at over $3,000) includes 2-Night Deluxe Resort Hotel Accommodations (generously donated by Dr. Karen Cheser & family); 3-Day Park Hopper tickets for up to 5 people (15 tickets) and a one-hour consultation with a Disney Vacation Club expert. There is no limit to how many tickets one family can buy.

NEW! See Rob Beimesche's Featured Listing. Click here! 

For enterprising youngsters or families, there is an incentive to sell tickets too. For every five raffle tickets someone sells, they get 1 chance to win 5 Park Hopper tickets for themselves. That’s a prize of over $800! Sell ten raffle tickets and get two chances to win, sell 20 and get four chances.

“This raffle a fun way for many families in our community to easily support the FTEF mission of enhancing educational excellence,"said Amy Shaffer, Executive Director of the FTEF. "Just this year, we were able to give over $50,000 through Teacher Grants for items such as an indoor tower garden, a poster printer and over $12,000 for the HHS Robotics Team. We hope to give back even more next year through community efforts like this raffle.”

For tickets call 859-815-2004 or email for delivery requests or buy directly at 28 North Fort Thomas Ave. Tickets will be sold until May 22nd and the drawing will be held at 2 p.m. on May 24th.

Prize Details

You will work with our local Disney Vacation Club (DVC) expert to book accommodations at any Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort (Example: Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village, one bedroom villa. Sleeps 5. Valued at $600+/ night). Booking availability and some restrictions may apply. Winner has the option to personally pay for an extension to the stay.

Park Hopper Tickets
Raffle winner will receive 15 Park Hopper tickets valid at any Walt Disney World Orlando Resort. Park Hopper tickets allow guests unlimited entries to visit any and all of the theme parks at Walt Disney World on one day (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios). During your 3 day stay, you won’t have to choose, you’ll be able to visit them all! Park Hopper tickets sell for $150+. Passes expire 12/2020 and are not valid from 12/25-12/31.

Disney Vacation Club Expert Consultation
Schedule a 1-hour consultation with our local DVC expert (Dr. Karen Cheser) who will help navigate scheduling Fast Pass+, meal plans and other details for your trip.

The FTEF is a non-profit organization that raises money to improve Fort Thomas public schools and student resources because we’re serious about educational excellence. Since 2000 the FTEF has been able to give back nearly $12 million to FTIS schools due to contributions from over 3,000 donors.

License #EXE-0000723

Second Annual Michelle Chalk Scholarship Awarded to Highlands Student

On Thursday, May 9th, during the 2019 HHS Senior Awards night the Michelle Chalk Scholarship was presented.

Owen Craft was this year's award winner.

Owen’s application included an impressive letter of recommendation and an endearing personal narrative essay. His application was ranked #1 by the MCSF screening committee and later approved by the MCSF selection committee.

Hassman and Doyle Lawfirm. 859-655-4430. This is an advertisement.
Here are some comments from Owen’s mother after receiving the award:

“What a blessing and true honor for Owen to receive the 2nd Michelle Chalk Scholarship. Of all the local scholarships given last night, this one was so incredibly special. I love that Michelle’s cousins are the ones who selected Owen. For the first time in Owen’s life he is truly living free like Michelle. We are so proud of him."

Michelle Chalk. 

The Michelle Chalk Scholarship Fund was established to create scholarship grants to graduating seniors to keep the memory of Michelle Chalk alive in the community that she lived and loved.

Michelle Chalk's death was felt by her family, friends, and the community of Fort Thomas, KY. She was a beloved daughter, sister, niece, cousin and granddaughter. She was a friend to everyone she met. She loved singing, dancing and performing on stage.

Last year's winner was Ramey Hensley.

Highlands Senior Planning Fashion Show and Artist Fair at Launch

Young local artists and entrepreneurs will feature their talents at a fashion show and artist fair at Highlands’ Launch Studio at 20 Grand Avenue on Saturday, May 18th from 6:00 to 8:00. The fashion show will start at 7:15 p.m.

The students will showcase their work for sale, or find people who would like to commission a custom project in photography, art or fashion.

Isabel Murphy, a Highlands senior, came up with the idea to launch her newest Cheapfit fashion collection.

“I interned for a luxury clothing designer last year and helped support her fashion shows.  I saw how powerful an event can be in helping artists reach their audience.  We have so many talented artists at Highlands whose work should be discovered,” said Murphy.

The event will feature 10 student artists including six from Highlands High School:

Isabel Murphy: Fashion

Caleb Parks: Photography

Ansley Grimm: Art and Photography

Lexie Crawford: Photography

Sydney Cooper: Poetry Book

Ella Surrey: Art

“Highlands and my fashion teacher Mrs. Wagner have been very supportive of my Cheapfit fashion business that I started last year.  When I heard Dr. Cheser’s vision for the Launch Studio, I knew it was the perfect location for my fashion show.  I hope that this event will spark other students to take their talent and become entrepreneurs while still in high school.”

This will be the first fashion show put on by a Highlands student.

According to Murphy, her Cheapfit collection is "a new take on simple everyday clothing that a young adult in New York might wear as they flow between their work and social lives.  The collection uses color pops, patterns and construction to give the clothing a fresh look."

Murphy submitted the designs as part of her application to the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) where she plans to attend this fall.

"Seeing my ideas come to fruition at a fashion show is the perfect end to her high school fashion education."

Revisions for Central Business Proposal Announced

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

The plans for the Central Business District development project proposed by Rick Greiwe and his partners have undergone significant changes. Greiwe Development shared newly revised plans for the Fort Thomas Town Center on its website and has submitted them to the city for the upcoming public hearing and related meetings.

A rendering by M + A Architects of the proposed Central Business District development as seen from the southwest
The revised site plan will be broken into two buildings, and the number of condo units has been reduced from 24 to 18. At a recent Design Review Board meeting, Greiwe said 18 was the minimum number of residential units he could build and still make the project financially feasible.

After a contentious public hearing in April attended by about 180 community members, the Planning Commission set a second hearing to discuss the matter further. The developer then met with the Design Review Board that echoed some of the same concerns voiced by neighbors and other Fort Thomas residents.

RELATED: Second Public Hearing Scheduled for Development Proposal

RELATED: Design Board Asks Developer for Alternatives


 Changes to the size and scale

At issue was the size and scale of the proposed three-story mixed-use development that ran along North Fort Thomas Avenue to the corner of Highland Avenue encompassing properties at 9 Highland Avenue and 3, 15, 19 and 25 North Fort Thomas Avenue. The building exceeded height requirements by three feet, nine inches and included commercial space on the first floor and two floors of luxury condos.

During the first planning process, Greiwe met with concerned neighbors from Woodland Place, which runs behind the development, to discuss the residential garage, which empties onto the beginning of their street. He recently met again with a group of neighbors who were also architects and has reached out to set another meeting with an initial group Woodland Place neighbors.

While the revised project plan contains many changes and reflects input provided by community members, at this time the residential garage will still face Woodland Place. It will include less residential parking spaces and a 25-foot wide buffer zone. Discussions on this aspect have been ongoing.

A site plan for the two buildings in the proposed Fort Thomas Town Center project.

The biggest change is the breaking up of one massive building into two buildings with a pedestrian walkway between the two buildings. The roof has been changed and will stay within the 50-foot maximum height requirement for the zone.

The larger of the two buildings will be three stories. The upper floors will include 18 two-bedroom condominium flats with sizes ranging from 1,700 square feet to 2,550 square feet. The first floor will include retail, neighborhood services and food shops.

The second building will include a full-service restaurant on the first floor with a large outside dining space and a second floor for business offices. The restaurant will feature a glass wall that will open out onto the street and a garden between the two buildings.

The proposed commercial parking lot will have 40 spaces and a designated commercial delivery and residential drop-off zone. As in the original design, the site will include landscaping, covered walkways, trellises and similar features.


Public Hearing and Design Review scheduled

The public hearing with the Planning Commission is set for Wednesday, May 29, to be held at 7 p.m. at the Fort Thomas Community Center (Mess Hall), 801 Cochran Avenue in Fort Thomas.

The public hearing will be followed the next day by a new Design Review Board meeting set for Thursday, May 30, at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the Fort Thomas City Building.

In Other Words: The Secret to Life is to Just Keep Moving

My friend, Ivy, and I at a chemo session.

There's always some anxiety about the future. That’s pretty normal. We plan but events may not turn out like we planned. Robert Burns wrote in “To a Mouse” that “the best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft a-gley.” He meant that no matter how well we plan, something may go awry. It’s Murphy’s Law. But sometimes it doesn’t happen. And then sometimes it does. And that is the source of anxiety.  

Our fear of the future is the fear of the unknown. It’s understandable. But as we step into the future we constantly adjust and even embrace those changes. Think about the anxiety you experienced with graduation, entering college or the military, a new job, births, deaths. We move forward because moving backwards is counterproductive. There is a comfort in knowing the future but we also understand that there can be some “happy accidents” along the way. And those are magical moments.

I got into a conversation with a guy I regularly see at the gym. Turns out he is a nurse and had spine surgery and exercises so he wouldn’t “rust.” And I have cancer. You never would know to see us - two relatively fit looking people chatting. As our conversation unfolded he said, “You know, you just got to keep movin’.” And he’s right.

Just keep moving.

You may know Whitney Sutkamp. Her first cancer appeared in her ear when she was four years old. As a result of that she has very little hearing in that ear. She is now 29. She lost her hair a couple of times but she rocked the bald look. She embraced those changes and made it a part of her. It is part of her but it hasn’t defined her.

But the cancer has returned. Her last scan indicated a spot in her lung. The question is how to address the tumor - chemo, surgery, or something else. Her future is unknown but she has learned something about herself.  “I could get through stuff,” she told me over coffee one morning. That’s a powerful lesson. She feels more empowered and confident as a result. And she learned that because she just kept moving.

A neighbor, an active young mother, was diagnosed with an unusual form of leukemia. She is suffering from a mix of chemo and radiation. It’s a brutal treatment and I admire her greatly. She takes a beating but she keeps moving even when she feels like giving up.

A former student is undergoing a radiation therapy to fight her brain tumors.  She has a full skull mask that is then snapped into place while radiation is targeted at her brain. As horrible as it is, she mocks the disease. She will not be stopped. She keeps moving.

All are examples of grace and power and determination.  And there are similar stories on just about every street in town.

The problem with cancer is that the future is in flux. How do we survive, get along, move forward? Well, by simply moving. Just keep moving. Two attempts to cure this lymphoma have failed and that is disappointing as well as you can imagine. But we keep moving. Even through the bad days. Especially through the bad days.

Since I am ineligible for a stem cell transplant, I begin CAR-T treatment this week. It’s a new immunotherapy where a patient’s t-cells are genetically modified, then reintroduced to destroy the cancer cells. It’s new and there is always the potential for problems but there is great promise for remission. I understand the risks and I accept them. But we are moving forward. I refuse to allow this cancer to hold me down or back.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Ask the Campbell County Attorney: Liability to Trespassers

By Steven Franzen 

A reader of this column asked that I address the liability of a property owner to a trespasser onto the property that gets hurt on the property.  This could include such persons as hunters, bicycle riders, quad runners or just kids walking onto the land.

There is a Kentucky law and many court decisions that deal with this issue.  KRS 381.232 states that “The owner of real estate shall not be liable to any trespasser for injuries sustained by the trespasser on the real estate of the owner, except for injuries which are intentionally inflicted by the owner or someone acting for the owner.”  Kentucky statute also defines a trespasser to be “any person who enters or goes upon the real estate of another without any right, lawful authority or invitation, either expressed or implied, but does not include persons who come within the scope of the ‘attractive nuisance’ doctrine.”

Therefore, if someone comes upon your property without your consent and gets injured, you as the property owner are not liable unless you somehow intended that the person be injured.  For instance, if you put a cable across a road going onto your property and the cable was very visible as a result of its size or had some flags or other markings on it and someone drove their bike through the cable and was injured, you would not be liable.  However, if you hung a very thin cable that could not easily be seen with the thought of knocking someone off of their bike if they tried to go down the road, then you could possibly be held liable in that you may have intended the trespasser to be injured.

Also, as mentioned above, a trespasser is not someone who comes within the scope of the “attractive nuisance” doctrine.  The attractive nuisance doctrine basically indicates that if you have something on your property that in effect attracts children or others onto your property and they are thereby injured, then that person would not be considered a trespasser and you could be held liable for their injuries.  For instance, if you owned a cattle farm next to a subdivision with young children and you placed a watering trough close to the subdivision, then you could possibly be held liable if a young child drowned in the watering trough because it was an attractive nuisance to the child who may have thought the watering trough was a wading pool.

If you own land and people are trespassing upon it, I would suggest first of all putting up signs at the locations where you think people are entering the land, stating “Private Property-No Trespassing” and that you also tell the trespassers, or better yet, give them a written notice and keep a copy, to stay off your land.  If the trespasser is then hurt, you would not be liable for their injuries except as noted above.  If people still trespass on your land after signs are posted and they have been told to stay off, you could file a police report and request that a criminal trespass charge be filed against the trespasser which carries a fine of up to $250.00 and up to ninety (90) days in jail for entering onto land when notice against trespassing is given by fencing or other enclosure and a fine of up to $250.00 only for trespassing upon property.