Somebody is lying

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“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Sir Walter Scott

It’s about the most basic question a newspaper could ask: “Was law enforcement officer Josh Welch in court the day that Judge Howell Beech dismissed resisting arrest, child endangerment, DUI, and other charges against Greg Burroughs?”

It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Which makes one wonder why are we getting two very different answers and why then-deputy, now-LPD officer Josh Welch won’t simply step up to the plate and clear up the mystery.

One thing we know for sure: Either Judge Howell Beech lied and falsified records that show that Welch was not there and that the charges were dismissed for “lack of prosecution” or Sheriff Alex Hodge is lying about Welch having been there at all.

Let me take you through the course of events that got us where we are. After the sheriff called me a week ago to tell me under no uncertain terms that both Josh Welch and Deputy Brennon Chancellor showed up in court for the scheduled Jan. 12, 2017 court date, Judge Howell Beech provided Leader-Call reporter Mark Thornton with documents showing that Welch wasn’t there and a signed document from a week earlier showing that he knew about the Jan. 12 court date.

You would think, case closed. Welch was a no-show and that the lie-detecter administrator for the LPD was caught in a big, fat lie himself after saying over Facebook that the sheriff got it right. But hold on just one second.

Incredibly, Sheriff Hodge and the sheriff’s department issued a statement saying that they stick by their assertions that both Welch and Chancellor showed up for the Jan. 12 court date. SOMEBODY HAS TO BE LYING. There isn’t any other option.

Here is what we don’t understand. Why isn’t Welch breaking his silence? We have been told by LPD Chief of Police Tyrone Stewart that he gave Welch permission to talk to us, but Welch says he is waiting for that approval. Why the secrecy in the first place? In spite of Stewart’s denials, we are quite sure that someone has silenced the entire department from talking to us, as normally cooperative officers, such as Welch himself, have suddenly clammed up since the Katherine Sinclair shooting.

If you want to raise suspicion in regard to the way a case is being handled, the LPD has mastered it — put a gag order on all of your employees.

But it isn’t just the LPD. Another person who could clear up the mystery surrounding the court date of Jan. 12 is Deputy Brennon Chancellor with the sheriff’s department. He certainly knows exactly what happened because we know he did show up for the court appearance. Unfortunately, as Judge Beech explained, as the second officer on the scene, he needed Welch there for the charges to stick. Unfortunately, in accordance with the sheriff’s policy, Deputy Chancellor can’t talk to us either.

Incredibly, people have questioned why we have “targeted” Officer Welch. Why are you dragging a good man’s name through the mud on a case that doesn’t have anything to do with the shooting of Katherine Sinclair? Let me make this perfectly clear. We have absolutely nothing against Officer Welch. On the contrary, prior to this story, we considered him a friend to this newspaper and he was always cooperative.  However, this case has everything to do with the shooting of Katherine Sinclair. If Greg Burroughs had been held accountable for his past actions on Jan. 12 of this year, it is very likely that Katherine Sinclair wouldn’t have been found dying from a gunshot wound to the head in Mr. Burroughs’ garage six months later.

If you can’t understand this simple concept, then all I can do is share a quote from Mr. Danny Corey’s Facebook page that sums up my feelings better than I can myself. On Thursday of this week, Mr. Corey posted: “Jones County has some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met!!! First you complain how no one will report the shady things going on, then when the LLC does and it’s about a friend of a friend … you idiots call out the newspaper for reporting it!!! I’m speechless at this point, TOTAL ignorance!!!

Mr. Corey couldn’t have summed up my frustration any better. I don’t personally know Mr. Corey, but thank you!

Anyone who thinks this newspaper has any agenda besides uncovering the truth and making sure that Katherine Sinclair receives justice is, in fact, as Mr. Corey pointed out, an idiot. Even though I’m used to the newspaper being attacked on a daily basis, this time I am particularly offended and disgusted by it.

My family and employees fear for their safety daily because we are the only local news organization who has been brave enough to seek the truth. We like to think of our town as this idyllic, gentile, Southern setting, but in what kind of alternative Mayberry does a publisher have to purchase firearms, install security cameras and has multiple private detectives calling to offer paid protection for this family and employees simply because his newspaper seeks answers and justice for a shooting victim?

We shouldn’t have to worry about sleeping with one eye open because we demand that our public officials come clean and tell the truth. We shouldn’t be punished by the wealthy and powerful simply because we are seeking justice for a 23-year-old girl who was found shot in the head under mysterious circumstances at the home of her boyfriend. And when we do finally fall asleep, we shouldn’t have to worry about waking up next to the severed head of a chicken.

My family has suffered. My employees have suffered. And there is no doubt that this story will take years off of the lives of Mark Thornton and me. The best we can hope for is that those years taken from us are due to stress and happen later in life and not from one of the scenarios that Mark has nightmares about.

In the meantime, instead of attacking the newspaper that is taking it on the chin because we seek answers, how about, instead, demanding that our public officials actually provide those answers.

Let’s start with a certain ex-deputy, now-LPD polygraph administer stepping up to the plate and telling the truth.

Jim Cegielski is publisher of the Leader-Call. He lives in Laurel.