Sunday, November 23, 2014

Arson At The Horse Cave, Ky., Dollar General Store: Some People Are Not Trustworthy to Manage A Store Or Handle Money





When I moved to Kentucky in the Summer of 1987 from Oxford, Miss., I noticed that there were a lot of these little discount retail markets called, "Dollar General Stores" located throughout Southcentral Kentucky. As it turns out, they were down South too but I hadn't really noticed them. I'm sure that I had probably made some purchases in them before. But I can't really recall that far back in my memory to be honest. Shortly after I had to moved to Bowling Green, Ky., I realized that the first Dollar General Store started just down the road from us in Scottsville, Ky. However, some unfortunate Dollar General Corporation news stories has been in our local newspaper lately, the Bowling Green Daily News (See article posted below). Because one of its former employees, Debra Fowler Kessinger, 57, of Smiths Grove, Ky., was found guilty the other day of arson of the Dollar General Store located in Horse Cave, Ky., about 40 miles north of Bowling Green just off Interstate 65.
According to Wikipedia, "The Dollar Stores were founded in 1939 by Cal Turner Sr. and his father J.L. Turner in Scottsville, Ky. (J.L. Turner & Son, Inc.) Their descendant Cal Turner Jr. later worked as CEO of the firm for 25 years.[5] In 1968, the business changed its name to Dollar General Corporation. In 2007, the company was acquired by the private equityfirm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), which took the company public in 2009.[6]"
"The first Dollar General store opened in Scottsville, Ky, on June 1, 1955, the concept was that no item in the store would cost more than one dollar. The idea became a success, and other stores owned by J.L. Turner and his son Cal Turner were quickly converted. By 1957, annual sales of Dollar General’s 29 stores were $5 million. The Turners did not reach this level of success without obstacles. James Luther (J.L.) Turner’s father died in an accident in 1902 when J.L. was only 11. J.L. had to quit school so he could work the family farm and help provide for his mother and siblings. He never completed his education. J.L. knew his limited education demanded that he become a quick study of the world around him. After two unsuccessful attempts at retailing, J.L. became a traveling dry goods salesman for a Nashville wholesale grocer. J.L. left the sales job after 10 years and settled his family in Scottsville, Ky. During the Depression, he began buying and liquidating bankrupt general stores. J.L.’s only child, Cal Turner, Sr., accompanied his father to these closeouts at a young age, gaining valuable business knowledge and skills."
"In October 1939, J.L. and Cal opened J.L. Turner and Son Wholesale with an initial investment of $5,000 each. Wholesaling quickly gave way to retailing – J.L.’s third and final attempt at retailing. The switch to retailing resulted in annual sales above $2 million by the early 1950s.""J.L. died in 1964. Four years later, the company he co-founded went public as Dollar General Corporation, posting annual sales of more than $40 million and net income in excess of $1.5 million. In 1977, Cal Turner, Jr., who joined the company in 1965 as the third generation Turner, succeeded his father as president of Dollar General. Cal Jr. led the company until his retirement in 2002. Under his leadership, the company grew to more than 6,000 stores and $6 billion in sales."
Another known fact which I found out years later about the Turner family is that the Cal Turner Sr's daughter, Betty Turner Campbell, created and began, "The Center for Courageous Kids" also located in Scottsville. The info listed below about the center is from their web-site: "The Center for Courageous Kids is a not for profit Medical Camping Facility founded by the late Ms. Betty Turner Campbell in October of 2004 and opened for the first family weekend in February of 2008. Ms. Betty lost a beloved son following a 17 year battle with cancer. It was then she was inspired to create a place where children living with life threatening illnesses and their families could come free of charge and have fun, find respite, feel normal and forget about their every day struggles. Our 20 million dollar funded campus encompasses an on-site medical center with helipad, indoor aquatic complex, equestrian riding arena, bowling alley, gymnasium, climbing wall, boating and fishing, theater, four camper lodges, and SO much more! We have a program and medical staff who are trained and experienced in all aspects of medical camping. Operating year-round, we offer two distinct programs at CCK: weekend retreats for ill children and families and summer camping sessions designed especially for courageous kids. It is a fabulous opportunity for children who are battling an illness or handicap to come out of the shadows of their everyday lives and step into the spotlight with other children coping with the same challenges. There are no limits at The Center for Courageous Kids. We have a "You can do it" attitude. Children who attend CCK leave with memories of their first horse back ride, favorite campfire song, catching the BIG fish or taking center stage and starring in their own show. All of the memories, smiles and laughs would not be possible if it wasn't for our generous donors. Every donation, large or small, goes to helping one more deserving child experience CCK!" Since inception, over 17,900 medically fragile campers and their families have visited The Center for Courageous Kids from 40 different states and eight foreign countries. Her dream of building a medical camp on her Father's 168 acre farm, in her hometown of Scottsville, KY, came true and continues to change the lives of thousands of children every year."
To me it's just a shame when a company or corporation such as Dollar General Corporation hires and puts its trust in an employee such as Ms. Kessinger to manage their store and handle their money but they she turns around and abuses her privilege and power by stealing from her employer. Why didn't she just go ask for assistance rather than steal from them? Everybody knows that are known for their kindness and helping people. Not to mention to burn the building down to try to hide and cover up her dishonest and corrupt ways? Dollar General Stores were founded on hard work, trust and integrity and giving back to their community. Because of that hard work and honesty that had been instilled into the Turner family years ago by the patriarch of the family, they have flourished incredibly through the years and still are. And they are still generously giving back to their community and across the country through "The Center For Courageous Kids." I'm glad that the federal court system found Ms. Kessinger guilty of arson. They needed to make an example out of her. She bit the hand that fed her but her sins found her out. Like the old saying goes, "Nothing goes behind the Devil's back without coming back around." Don't steal from your employer when they are good as gold by giving you a job with benefits especially these days.

US Court Convicts Kessinger Of Arson
Prosecutors: She set fire at Horse Cave store to conceal accounting irregularities
Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:00 am
By JUSTIN STORY The Daily News jstory@bgdailynews.com 783-3256 | 0 comments

Debra Fowler Kessinger, who managed the Horse Cave Dollar General store when it caught fire in 2011, was found guilty Friday of intentionally starting the fire.
A jury of seven women and five men in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green found Kessinger guilty of one count of arson after deliberating for about 21/2 hours.
Kessinger, 57, of Smiths Grove, appeared surprised and put a hand up to her face after Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley read the verdict aloud.
McKinley ordered Kessinger to be detained ahead of her sentencing, which is set for March 12. She faces up to 20 years in prison.
Don Meier, Kessinger’s court-appointed attorney, declined to comment after court adjourned other than to say that Kessinger was disappointed with the verdict.
Kessinger did not testify.
Federal prosecutors argued that Kessinger set the fire June 27, 2011, in an effort to conceal accounting irregularities at the Horse Cave store ahead of an audit of inventory that had been scheduled for June 29, 2011.
Investigators determined the fire started in the store’s break room, and a sifting of debris collected from the room turned up remnants of fireworks and charcoal briquettes.
Investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kentucky State Police and the ATF/Bowling Green Fire Department Arson Task Force testified the fire could not have been started through natural causes or accidentally by electrical failure.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Judd put on evidence during the five-day trial that appeared to show a yearlong pattern of mismanagement at the Horse Cave store, with witnesses from Dollar Store management testifying about an excess of inventory in the store’s stockroom and a large increase throughout 2011 in shrinkage – the term for inventory lost through methods other than sales.
Jurors were shown security camera footage of Kessinger
handling packages of fireworks on the sales floor the night before the fire, along with clips of Kessinger handling cash and bank deposit bags in the store’s office and appearing to disconnect the digital video recorder system that monitored the store on the night before the fire.
In setting the fire, Kessinger saw an opportunity to fend off suspicion against her for what Judd described as “collateral crimes” related to management of the store’s finances, Judd argued.
“She couldn’t make the deposit for (the day before the fire) because there wasn’t enough cash in the store,” Judd said during his closing argument.
Judd reminded jurors that Kessinger left the scene temporarily on the morning of the fire as several fire departments tried to put out the blaze and pointed out phone calls she made to ATF Special Agent David Hayes and state Deputy Fire Marshal Todd Price, characterizing them as attempts to draw suspicion away from her.
“Kessinger was trying to keep law enforcement off her trail,” Judd said.
Meier’s closing argument attempted to show that the federal government made a weak case against Kessinger.
Meier pointed to testimony from Dollar General managers who said they were aware of the shrinkage and inventory discrepancies from month to month and had not reprimanded Kessinger, who received a “good” rating during a March 2011 performance evaluation.
“To say she’s going to burn down the store because she might be put on probation at work, that’s all you need to know about that evidence,” Meier said.
Meier argued that the case was not thoroughly investigated enough to warrant eliminating electrical failure as the cause of the fire, and that the evidence failed to show that charcoal had been recovered from the break room.
The last security footage recorded at the store, showing Kessinger bending down and reaching toward the wall past the height of a table by the DVR and monitor in the store’s office, did not conclusively show her turning off the system, Meier said.
“If you can see her turning that off in that (footage), you have a lot better eyesight than me,” Meier said.


— Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter at
twitter.com/jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

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