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Jackleen Lane, 1 year later, still no answers

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Cabinet for family services still denies record request

By Lisa King

Tuesday marked one year since the body of 15-year-old Jackleen Lane was spotted by a railroad engineer floating facedown in Clear Creek.

The case was closed by police – her death ruled accidental – the family is trying to heal and state social services officials will still not talking about the tragedy, which has left many questions still unanswered.

Lane’s mother, Lottie Likes, said she knows no more about how her daughter ended up drowning when she was supposed to be at the county fair than she did a year ago. But added the tragedy has helped her family.

“It’s sure brought us closer together as a family, though,” she said.

Likes said police have not come up with any new ideas about her daughter’s death, and officials at Shelbyville Police Department reiterated that sentiment.

Kelly Cable, spokesperson for Shelbyville P.D., said that the case was closed because no evidence of foul play had been found. “It could be reopened if new information were to surface, but that has not been the case,” he said.

Jeremy Rogers, an attorney for the Kentucky Press Association, said that The Sentinel-News’ continued fight with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for release of Lane’s records has so far come up empty, despite a ruling from the Attorney General in favor of the paper.

The Cabinet had removed Lane from the custody of her mother because of truancy issues, and the newspaper has sought to understand how her oversight was specified and monitored.

The Cabinet filed an appeal in October in Shelby Circuit Court, a month after the Attorney General ruled it had violated the state’s Open Records Act in denying the release of its records concerning Lane.

“As you recall, the newspaper prevailed at the attorney general level on that, and the cabinet appealed the attorney general’s decision to the court, and at this point, that lawsuit is still pending,” Rogers said.

The cause of Lane’s death was ruled accidental drowning, but questions persisted about how the teen could have found her way into the creek and how her absence might have gone unreported for three days.

“We are in the discovery phase of the lawsuit to try to find out relevant information about what the cabinet has done or has not done with respect to any investigation or any determination about the cause of death, and once we have that information, which we do not yet have, that’s going to inform what we ask the court to do,” Rogers said.

“We’ve got a lot of these cases that deal with whether [or not] and to what extent child fatality records are subject to open records,” he added, which was the basis for the newspaper’s request for Lane’s records.

The cabinet had argued that suspected neglect or abuse that could have resulted in Lane’s death – the basis of the request – had not been reported by a parent or guardian.

Lane, a student at the Education Center at Cropper, had been in the care of her brother, Joshua Lane of Bagdad, after the Cabinet last year removed her from the home of her mother. Joshua Lane had said he had not heard from his sister since the Friday before her body was discovered by a Norfolk Southern Railroad employee on Monday morning floating in Clear Creek near 1st Street.

Her body showed no signs of foul play, and an autopsy would determine there were no drugs in her system, leaving accidental death as the only explanation.

But by all accounts, Lane was well liked and much loved, though her 15 years are littered with criminal issues and family problems.

At the time the case was closed last year, Shelbyville Police Chief Danny Goodwin had expressed frustration at uncovering no answers to how Lane met her death at such a young age.

“We have investigated this case from every angle, and unless somebody just jumps out with something new, well...,” he said. “The thing is, nobody’s ever going to be happy with this [investigation] because a fifteen-year-old girl is dead and everybody is wondering who’s to blame.”

Likes said Tuesday that the family had planned to hold a memorial service for Lane, marking the anniversary of her death and in remembrance of her life. However, no one was at the site when Likes said the memorial would take place.