A wildly popular thread on the Lexington, Kentucky Topix forum filled with facts, theories, and inevitably fiction, titled “The Bluegrass Conspiracy” (a reference to Sally Denton’s book The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs and Murder) contained a short, obscure statement from an anonymous author referencing a “huge London, KY connection” in regards to the notorious drug ring which included characters Drew Thornton, former governor John Y. Brown Jr., Harold Vance of the DEA, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Marion “Butch” Campbell, and former Lexington Police Department investigators Johnny Bizzack and Bill Canan. I became convinced that London, Kentucky connection was Larry C. Allen, an attorney dubbed “Lyin’ Larry,” and posted a reply statement to that effect on December 20, 2018.
Unfortunately, Topix, the oft-maligned forum style website was erased from internet history that very same day, just a few hours or less after my simple statement. Probably a coincidence, but one can’t help but wonder, especially when you’ve considered the possibility the website itself was an intelligence operation, a honey pot enticing citizens from all walks of life to give up information on their neighbor, community, and even themselves that could prove useful to law enforcement, information to which law enforcement normally wouldn’t be privy.
I still believe Larry C. Allen may be the key to understanding how there was such a terrible breakdown of justice in southeast Kentucky, particularly Laurel and Knox Counties. I’ve been tracking him ever since his name surfaced in a March 15, 1986 news article when researching other characters in Sally Denton’s “Bluegrass Conspiracy.”
Larry C. Allen was connected to Marion “Butch” Campbell, KSP Commissioner and Bluegrass Conspiracy character. Fascinatingly, he was also connected to drug kingpin from Maryville, Tennessee, Jerry Allen Lequire.
(Don’t forget that Bonnie Sue Anders’ brother was best friends with Glenda and Dorman Lickliter; Glenda served on the jury that convicted Delmar Partin of a murder he did not commit, a case prosecuted by Commonwealth Attorney Tom Handy.)
The fact Larry Allen and Tom Handy were both from London, Kentucky, and both took their bar exam together, made it a very good possibility they knew each other; maybe they even attended the same law school:
What’s compelling is the CIA connection to the Bluegrass Conspiracy story and the Jerry Allen Lequire tale, and the fact Larry C. Allen’s name seems to be the only other common connection between the two criminal enterprises besides the CIA.*
Richard Biggs, author of Species of Insanity: The Story of Drug Kingpin Jerry Allen Lequire, writes on his blog:
After Jerry’s near fatal mishap with his airplane after taking off from the Madisonville, TN airport, he was left without a plane and wanted by the police. He traveled to Atlanta to stay with a friend and called a lawyer acquaintance in Kentucky named Larry Allen. I’ve mentioned previously that his nickname was “lying Larry.” Allen knew a lot of people who could get things done and Jerry needed to purchase an airplane quickly. Allen agreed to meet with him in Atlanta. A day later, they made the arrangements. Allen said he knew a man in south Florida who could purchase anything Jerry needed if money wasn’t an issue. Jerry assured him it wasn’t. So, they agreed to meet in Kentucky. When Jerry arrived, Allen had arranged for a prostitute to give him a good time. Her name was Karla Espinal. And the man who would purchase the airplane for Jerry was Hank Maierhoffer. This meeting was a major turning point in Jerry’s life. Karla Espinal became the main person responsible for Jerry getting a 60 year prison sentence and Maierhoffer was a CIA agent.
A “huge London, KY connection.”
William “Tosh” Plumlee, a “former deep-cover military and CIA asset from 1956 to 1987” (Drugging America, Rodney Stich) told FBI agents in Cincinnati that in July 1958, “under the authority of a government cover agent, Larry Allen of Miami, Plumlee arranged to fly munitions to the Castro forces in Cuba.” Stich expounds on this in Defrauding America:
"In [the] FBI report, it was stated that...On or about July 5 he [Plumlee] flew a DC-3 airplane from Miami International Airport to an abandoned military airport on Marathon Island in the Florida Keys, where the plane was loaded with arms and ammunition and flew to Cuba, and was paid $900 by Allen."
Do you know who else used Marathon Island to smuggle narcotics into the country? Larry Allen’s drug kingpin friend, Jerry Allen Lequire. And in a previous post, I talked about Octavio Pino, a Cuban national who was trafficking drugs from Columbia into the United States, who mysteriously ended up in London, Kentucky, of all places.
Jerry Lequire apparently doesn’t reveal to author Biggs who told him about the Marathon landing spot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same Larry C. Allen.
But… according the newspaper article above, the Larry Allen of London, Kentucky would have been just a little too young, maybe about 10 years, to have been involved in the 1958 scheme with Tosh Plumlee.
Unless, as an undercover CIA agent, Larry Allen’s age was subject to change.
“Operation Mother Goose” was a CIA scheme “dealing with joint military selection, recruitment, and training of qualified enlisted men with security ratings. These people were educated and trained in basic covert and undercover activities. After training they were released from active military duty to enroll in colleges and universities…while under CIA supervision they infiltrated student movements…student activities…and other political areas.” (Drugging America, Stich.)
Is it possible Larry Allen was packed off to Kentucky for such a purpose? Could there be a connection between Larry Allen and former Commonwealth Attorney Tom Handy besides the coincidence they both passed the bar exam at the same time?
Not long ago, on a whim, I called 411 looking for Allen’s phone number. I was shocked to receive a valid number in response. I’ve called it many times with never any answer, never an answering machine. But when I searched the number on the internet, would you believe it came back listed as a secondary number for Holly Bay Campground, located right next door to the former marina of the same name owned by Tom Handy discussed in this previous blog post?
Holly Bay is misspelled “Holly Day,” but the address is accurately Holly Bay Campground. Holly Bay Campground and Holly Bay Marina are connected by a trail that runs between the two. Anecdotal stories tell of mysterious packages being dropped into Laurel Lake by low flying aircraft throughout the years.
If indeed Larry C. Allen made Thomas V. Handy’s acquaintance back in the late 60s or early 70s, it would have been one of southeast Kentucky’s darkest days in history.
Some of you may remember the crack cocaine epidemic bequeathed to the city of Los Angeles during the 1980s by the Central Intelligence Agency, exposed by Gary Webb in his series, Dark Alliance. You can read more about this fascinating story here.
The same thing was happening on the other side of the United States, in St. Louis and Detroit, thanks to organized crime centered in and around London, KY. The CIA was monopolizing on addiction and using the proceeds to fund covert wars in places like Cuba, Nicaragua, and southeast Asia. Little did Gary Webb realize, the coal conspirators he wrote about in eastern Kentucky in his “Coal Connection” articles, would ultimately fuel the same drug epidemic in Detroit and St. Louis that he found in Los Angeles, and wrote about in “Dark Alliance.” The Kentucky alliance still involved coal conspiracies, but now different contraband: instead of stolen bulldozers and strippers, it was pot, cocaine, quaaludes, and weapons.
Octavio Pino was a Cuban national who had relocated from Miami to southeast Kentucky when he was arrested by the feds along with 12 others for drug trafficking in the early ’80s. The October 10, 1982 issue of the Corbin Times Tribune states, “The 13 were arrested…during simultaneous drug raids in Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan and California. The FBI charges that Pino set up a bogus coal company in London as a front for the drug operation.”
A February 13, 1983 article printed in the Corbin Times Tribune illustrates the impact this criminal outfit had on the streets of Detroit:
Records of the [front] company did not reflect any coal-related business, the FBI said. A Detroit television station sent an investigative news team to London shortly thereafter because the London based operation was believed to be a major supplier of cocaine to the Detroit area, according to the news director of the station.
Then there is this 1983 excerpt from Vance Mills’ FBI file stating, “captioned suspects are significant traffickers with impact of southeastern Kentucky area as well as the area of St. Louis, Missouri.”
The CIA aspect of these alliances make this tale so sick, so twisted, most Americans are unwilling to believe their government could take part in something so heinous. Gary Webb’s “Coal Connection” had morphed into the Bluegrass State’s own twisted “Dark Alliance,” except instead of decimating the streets of Los Angeles, these rats from the Commonwealth infected St. Louis and Detroit with their poison, not to mention east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.
When I asked my confidential source (mentioned earlier) if Jimmy Renfro was CIA, he paused for a moment then said, “Well, knowing Jimmy….” letting his voice trail off. He then divulged his own work as a contractor for the CIA. I find his non-committal answer concerning Jimmy Renfro a good reason to believe Renfro was a CIA asset, but that is just a very educated guess.
Could Octavio Pino also have been a CIA asset? I often find myself wandering back to David Beiter’s WORMSCAN files and marvel at his ability to log an incredible amount of information concerning Kentucky corruption into one easily searchable place, found here. David Beiter was clearly fearless. He deserves much credit for the WORMSCAN files compilation.
One of his logs reads as follows:
871100, "The Contra-Drug Connection", The Christic Institute, 1324 North Capitol Street, NW, Wash DC 20002. (202)797-8106. $2. 12p. Extensive documentation associates several of Oliver North's team with large-scale drug trafficking to finance covert wars in Cuba, Southeast Asia, and Central America, for over two decades.
Pino was a Cuban national intimately involved in the smuggling of narcotics from Columbia to the United States, something which he had already been busted for in the early 1970s. It is a legitimate question to ask if Pino’s activities (and Mills’ and Renfro’s) were being backed by the CIA at the time.
A March 20, 1983 Times-Tribune article states:
“Fifteen people originally were charged in the FBI breakup of an alleged interstate drug [ring] operating out of London in 1981 and 1982. Gill, senior resident agent in the London FBI office, said the investigation of the drug ring began in September 1981 on an informant’s tip. After an initial investigation at the London-Corbin airport, Gill said they realized the investigation ‘would be a sensitive matter in the community.‘”
Just like Barry Seal and Drew Thornton’s ties to the CIA, the FBI states Vance Mills and his pilot (most likely referring to Johnny Martin) “appear to have access to otherwise confidential information through the various airports that he frequents…” and a Corbin Times Tribune article from September of 1982 states, “‘Pino and other Cubans were flying in and out of the London, Ky., airport to and from distant locations on odd and erratic schedules using high performance aircraft.’ The document said those flights were conducted without clearance by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
Classic CIA. Inslaw’s Promis software. These fellows had advance knowledge of law enforcement operations occurring at any given airport. These are not your run-of-the-mill drug traffickers. They had intelligence available to them only law enforcement could provide.
What if I told you this same criminal ring would eventually be tied to another software program containing all locations of all pharmaceutical shipments from manufacturer, to shipper, to warehouse, to end user, all in real- time? Are you finally starting to understand the truth of who has been in control of your law enforcement and courts for over forty years or more? Do you recognize those persons responsible for the scourge of drug-fueled misery hoisted upon your kids and community?
The following excerpt is from my own personal journal detailing an encounter that happened to me at the Shell gas station on Cumberland Avenue in Middlesboro back in the winter of 2014. While the area intrigued me, I had not yet started this blog, or any research into the topics mentioned in it. I was comparatively new to the area, only having lived here a couple of years. The conversation was interesting enough I wrote it down. I had no idea how glad I would be later that I did:
A man comes in to pay for his gas. He is wearing a flight jacket that says "P38 ICE PLANE LOST SQUADRON" and I say, "Oh, are you one of the ice plane guys?" He smiled and said, no, he got the jacket off a good friend, (redacted). Then he mentioned he was a pilot and that he flew search and rescue for the Air Corps, and was also in the military. He said he was so young when he went to get in the military he had to get his father's permission. His dad said, " You can go if you want to, but don't call me to come get you out." When he got out of the service, he said, "They wanted me to go into the CIA." Of course I said, "What did you say?" He just smiled and didn't answer. So I finally said, "You can't tell me, can you?" He just smiled again. When he was telling me about his flying experience he said he could fly anything but a jet.
This encounter bolsters my belief the CIA has been widely active in southeast Kentucky for decades, most likely because of the efficacy of which they operate thanks to corrupt law enforcement, courts, business leaders, and a largely drug-addicted and therefore apathy-induced populace.
As it would turn out, Vance Mills’ name would be mentioned one time in all the court proceedings against Delmar Partin for the murder of Betty Carnes. What I’m sure most court spectators heard as an innocuous statement, I see it as a gateway to the truth as to what really happened to this 37-year-old mother.
Betty Carnes’ husband, Phillip Carnes, had just begun working at a store owned by Vance Mills a few weeks before his wife’s killing.
Phillip Carnes’ boss at this store was Donnie Baker. The same Donnie Baker who had been charged with hiring out the Black Horse Lounge arson hit in 1989; Baker was out on appeal when Betty was murdered. Approximately a month and a half after the murder, Donnie Baker’s appeal for the arson conviction was rejected and he was sent to prison for 15 years. At least it was so ordered at the time.
Now, before his wife’s murder, Phillip may have been having employment issues due to a bad back. He states in court transcripts he had held a couple of different jobs within the last year or so, and that his new job was with “Judy Baker’s husband.” It does sound like his potential to earn income was being affected by his health. He testified under questioning by Delmar Partin’s attorney, Gary Crabtree, that:
“Donnie had leased the store off of Vance Mills…I talked to him about it and he said he would let me try it because I have, I have quite a bit of problems with my back and I have certain problems about if I stand for a while or sit for a while, or if I do certain things, you know…I told him [Baker] I would try, I would try that job to see if I could do that job.”
Incidentally, I would also discover Judy Baker and Betty Carnes had been close friends at one time; Judy Baker used to work at Tremco. However, Judy was not working at Tremco when Betty was killed, and Judy stated their friendship had cooled after the birth of Judy’s son.
Phillip Carnes’ connection to Vance Mills and Donnie Baker is significant, as well as his wife’s friendship with Donnie Baker’s spouse, Judy. Remember, Mills had been under investigation for importing “large quantities of marijuana and cocaine from Mexico to the United States.” It’s very possible that as Judy Baker’s friend and confidant, Betty may have been privy to many secrets concerning Vance Mills and Donnie Baker’s ventures together.
At any rate, Phillip Carnes, who was already having employment trouble, begins a new career at a store owned and ran by hardened criminals. Sounds like something law enforcement should look into, doesn’t it?
They did not.
Remember, all that is required in a cover-up is for people like the Kentucky State Police and Tom Handy to not investigate, that which they should have investigated. I can confidently say the Betty Carnes murder was covered-up and this is why:
Tom Handy, the man who prosecuted Delmar Partin for a crime he did not commit, never told anyone, not the judge, not the defense attorneys, and not the jury, that Phillip Carnes’ boss, Donnie Baker, was a violent criminal for hiring out the arson of the Black Horse Lounge in June of 1989.
Tom Handy further participated in a cover-up when he did not disclose Phillip Carnes’ boss, Donnie Baker, was working as a criminal informant for his office and the Kentucky State Police during the time of Betty’s murder. The Knox County Commonwealth Attorney wrote an affidavit to the Henderson County court in the spring of 1994 advocating Baker’s early release from prison because of that relationship. It worked. Baker was relieved of his 15 year sentence for arson-for-hire and was paroled a little over a year later.
Even Delmar Partin’s own defense attorney, Gary Crabtree, had to have known about Donnie Baker’s violent past and relationship with Tom Handy: Michael Goforth, Gary Crabtree’s law partner, was Donnie Baker’s attorney who prepared the document for shock probation for the arson conviction which included the Commonwealth’s affidavit. This all while the Crabtree and Goforth firm is supposed to be providing the best representation they can offer to Delmar.
Remember what the son of the prosecutor in the arson case said about Donnie Baker:
“I know that ring that was involved in that Black Horse thing, it was a Eastern Kentucky group that had moved over and was using the Black Horse as a front. And they were a pretty dangerous group…we were pretty convinced at that point that they were, that there was, they were at least planning some sort of assassination attempt on my father, to the point where the police wanted him to wear a bulletproof vest into court…”
At the scene of the crime…
I wish I could say this was the only disturbing twist to the story, but what I’m about to tell you? That’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Donnie Baker was with the coroner Jerry Garland, at the Tremco factory for hours that night while the victim was missing, and before the body was found. Let me re-iterate that: a violent criminal was with the Knox County coroner (who, incidentally, would never be called to testify) that night at the factory while Betty was missing, hours before her body would be discovered. One eyewitness told me:
“Everybody was wondering what Jerry Garland was doing there when there hadn’t been a body. And Donnie, you know, he had no business whatsoever cause he wasn’t a cop, or a coroner, or nothing…”
Why do you think Donnie Baker and Jerry Garland were there together? Jerry Garland, an oil man, was far from being pure as the driven snow. His partner in G&M Oil was none other than Vance Mills. Rumors of prostitution and gambling at Garland’s gas stations were rampant, at one point even earning him charges of promoting gambling.
Are you still inclined to believe Delmar Partin committed this crime?
Noteworthy financial transactions after the Betty Carnes murder
It’s possible these transactions were entirely coincidental in regards to the timeframe of Betty’s murder. Therefore it is also possible they were not coincidental. The financial players are significant, the timing is significant and in the interest of scrutiny, I think notable enough to mention here.
A little over a month after Betty’s murder, Donnie and Judy Baker buy a pretty expensive property in Lancaster, Kentucky:
And then, nine months later, it appears they sell the same property to Vance Mills’ and Jerry Garland’s oil company, G&M Oil, for a profit of what appears to be approximately $27,000.
Coincidence? Entirely plausible. Did the original loan to purchase the property come from Vance Mill’s bank, American Fidelity? That’s another great question we may eventually be able to answer.
The other financial transactions that left me scratching my head have to do with Tom Handy, the prosecutor himself. Handy owned the Holly Bay Marina on Laurel Lake with his brother. Within three months of the murder trial ending, owners of a neighboring marina had drawn up papers incorporating the name “Holly Bay Marina and Resort,” indicating the property was no longer or was soon to be no longer in the Handys’ possession.
Now I’m sure this is all entirely coincidental, but it turns out the family who would succeed the Handys as owners of Holly Bay, also sold explosives under the name of a business called “Farmer’s Supply.” That is not that eyebrow-raising; being in coal country, explosives are necessary. What is fascinating is that trial transcripts indicate the original barrel that held Betty’s body would end up being taken to a magazine at Farmer’s Supply. (A magazine was where explosives were held in storage.) Why was the barrel taken here of all places? What, if anything, was in the barrel when it was taken there?
Did Jerry Garland own this property and merely lease it to Farmer’s Supply? Note: J.M. Hall is kin to these business owners:
Even though the owners of the neighboring marina (and Farmer’s Supply) obviously have experience running a boat dock, they still paid a $50,000 “consultant on goodwill” fee to Tom Handy himself after they took over his family’s marina.
Again, I’m sure all these connections are coincidental. But notable, nonetheless, just for the sheer fact all have some uncanny link to the murder of Betty Carnes.
Lingering questions someone needs to ask
What father allows his teenage daughter to make a missing persons report about her mother, his wife, and doesn’t even accompany her to the police station?
What father would let his teenage daughter accompany two other, defenseless women, in the middle of the night, to a man’s home he believed kidnapped his wife, to accuse that man of such a crime? What father would do that? I don’t think any parent would do that. I think Phillip Carnes knew from the start Delmar Partin was never a threat to anyone. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
It was cold, but not blustery when the plane touched down at the small airport in Madison County around 1:30 that morning. Hardly an hour passed before it was airborne again, slipping into the night without a trace.
The next day, the sniper killing of nightclub owner Monroe Brock would dominate the local news and locals’ conversation. Rumors were rampant the hit was related to organized crime, Las Vegas, and an unpaid debt. Investigators claimed they were unable to find a link.
To this day, the murder of the Maverick Club’s Monroe Brock remains unsolved. The question is, why? Did investigators refuse to investigate, that which they should have investigated? Has the murder of Monroe Brock been covered up by local, state and even federal authorities?
A Kentucky Secretary of State records search returned two interesting business records: two separate business entities had been formed in the state, both carrying the name ‘Maverick Club, Inc.’ The first, formed by Monroe Brock in 1979, was administratively dissolved by the Commonwealth for failure to file its annual report in October of 1987, which is understandable, considering the stress the wife must have been under that year. She would continue to operate the club until selling out a few years later, despite the revocation of authority to do business by the state.
What’s notable is the second business record that turned up for the Maverick Club, Inc. In May of 1988, three men, Donnie Baker, Ronnie Messer and Michael Warren are listed as directors of this second corporation, with their principal office and registered agent (also Michael Warren) listing an address in Barbourville, Kentucky. I had seen those names before. They had all turned up in my research of the wrongful conviction of Delmar Partin for the murder of Betty Carnes; also in Barbourville. I felt there had to be a connection to Brock’s death.
I don’t think anyone is going to get too upset with me talking about Donnie Baker (aka Donald Earl Baker) being a drug dealer. You had to have lived under a rock to have not known. What’s notable is his association to Vance Mills, the local Barbourville millionaire I mentioned earlier whose unexplained presence couldn’t be missed at Delmar Partin’s trial for the murder of Betty Carnes. Herman Levance Mills, as he was formally known, would incidentally turn out to be under investigation for the international trafficking of narcotics:
Welcome to the rats’ nest.
It should be pretty apparent at this point we’re dealing with organized crime. You’ll hear more about Vance Mills’ and Donnie Baker’s relationship later. But for now, let’s focus on Baker, one of the members listed on ownership records of the second Maverick Club, Inc.
Donnie Baker had also been involved with another bar, this one in Henderson County, northern Kentucky, called The Black Horse Lounge. The property was owned by Elvie Cobb, a very good, yet controversial friend, of the former governor of Kentucky, John Y. Brown Jr.:
June 6, 1989: The Black Horse Lounge burns. Arson completely destroys the structure. Donnie Baker is charged and found guilty of arson for hire, what should be a mandatory 15 year sentence. (I’ll talk more about that in a future post.)
The son of the Commonwealth Attorney that prosecuted Baker and his associates said it was a pretty scary time for his family. In high school at the time, he said the crime ring Baker had ties to was so dangerous, his dad had to wear a bullet proof vest to and from court every day. He said Baker’s associates were an Eastern Kentucky group who had moved into northern Kentucky to use the Black Horse Lounge as a front.
You can see why finding Donnie Baker’s name on these documents for a newly formed Maverick Club after Monroe Brock’s murder grabbed my attention.
Michael Warren, another member of the mysterious Maverick Club “No. 2,” is another questionable, albeit colorful figure:
And the third member of the latter-formed Maverick Club, Inc. is Ronnie Messer:
Most telling however, is that Vance Mills himself was an associate of John D. Sword, at one point forming a partnership to build a nursing home together. John Sword and Monroe Brock were directors of the Professional Billiards Association in Richmond, Kentucky together. Even more importantly, John Sword is listed as Brock’s spouse’s attorney in another business venture, Maverick Liquors.
Starting out at 54 seats, The Maverick Club would eventually have the ability to entertain 900 people under its roof, booking the likes of country greats like George Jones and Jerry Lee Lewis. It was also a raucous place, as this article from 1983 suggests:
If you were an organized crime ring, looking for fronts to do business out of, you might find the Maverick Club an attractive location for drug dealing, money laundering, and other unsavory activities.
Brock’s widow said at one point after her husband’s death, some “out-of-towners” wanted to buy the nightclub from her, but she refused. Were these out-of-towners none other than Baker, Warren and Messer?
Monroe Brock’s unsolved but hardly mysterious murder has the tracks of my southeastern Kentucky’s rats’ nest all over it. I am absolutely confused how authorities can claim to have no leads on the case.
If Baker, Warren and Messer are the out-of-towners who wanted to buy the bar from the widowed spouse of Monroe Brock, why were they so damned sure they were going to get their hands on that club? They went to the trouble to form legal paperwork and file it with the secretary of state, for Pete’s sake. In their minds, the transfer of that bar from the spouse of the murdered owner to their control was clearly a done deal. What made them so confident?
The one part of this story that always amazed me, was the willingness of the widowed spouse to take her children out into the black night, not knowing where the sniper was or if he might strike again, in order to get help for her fallen husband, who was said to have been shot execution-style.
She and the children would ultimately be safe. It truly was a testament to the lengths a woman will go to, no matter how terrifying.