Warrick Co. Sheriff’s Office will release Kristy Kelley files

Warrick Co. Sheriff’s Office will release Kristy Kelley files

WARRICK CO., Ind. (WFIE) - The Warrick Co. Sheriff’s Office had until Friday to appeal the decision to release the files in the Kristy Kelley death investigation.

They announced Friday afternoon, the files will be released.

Kelley’s father, Todd Scales, is the one who filed for the release.

He is now now trying to get them exclusively released to him. A judge ruled against last week, but another hearing on that matter is set for June 4.

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Kristy Kelley’s father reacts to Appeals Court ruling

Here is the entire statement from the Warrick Co. Sheriff’s Office.

"The Warrick County Sheriff’s Office today announced it will not seek rehearing or transfer of the Access to Public Records Act case filed by Kenneth Todd Scales. The decision effectively concludes the litigation over the release of the Sheriff’s 2014 investigatory file into the disappearance of Kristy Kelley.

While the Sheriff persists in the view that the law enforcement investigatory file into the Kelley case is substantially similar to any criminal investigation file—and argued vigorously for that conclusion both in the trial court and at the Court of Appeals—the appellate court ruled otherwise. The Sheriff accepts and respects the decision of the Court of Appeals.

The Sheriff’s Office today has started the preparation of the investigatory record for release to APRA requestors. There are four such requestors to date, including Mr. Scales. Before releasing the documents, however, the Sheriff’s Office is attempting to redact any personal identifiers such as Social Security Numbers or Dates of Birth where applicable. Given the size of the file, it is possible some personal identifiers will not be located and redacted despite best efforts. Otherwise, the file will be released in its entirety with the exception of autopsy photos that are specifically exempted as confidential under Indiana law.

The Sheriff was advised late yesterday that Mr. Scales is requesting an additional hearing in Warrick Superior Court to seek exclusive access to the record without dissemination to other requestors. That hearing tentatively is scheduled at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Because Mr. Scales is seeking exclusive access to the file and has requested a hearing, the Sheriff will defer immediate release of the record until after that hearing. Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, the Sheriff’s intention is to release the record to all requestors simultaneously.

The Sheriff’s Office underscores that the file contains material discovered or disclosed in the course of a 30-day investigation into Kristy Kelley’s disappearance. Some of the content is graphic. The release of the file may also cause distress or embarrassment to individuals who cooperated in the investigation anticipating that their candid or personal disclosures were made confidentially and without any expectation that their statements or information would be subject to public disclosure. The Sheriff very much regrets the potential negative consequences to individuals who committed no wrong and sincerely assisted a wide-ranging investigation into Ms. Kelley’s disappearance.

For those reasons, the Sheriff also hopes that individuals or organizations receiving the file exercise caution and discretion in the broader dissemination of the material. The Sheriff acknowledges high public interest in the investigation and in the content of the file. The Sheriff’s position in the litigation was not to conceal information to which the public should have access, but rather to withhold within the Sheriff’s discretion the release of a raw law enforcement investigatory file that contains a variety of information—relevant, irrelevant, important, trivial, or extraneous data compiled by multiple officers and agencies. While the Sheriff and his predecessor believed there was a good faith basis for that access denial, the Court of Appeals reached a different conclusion in the interpretation of the Access to Public Records Act.

In that respect, the Sheriff will encourage local legislators to consider amending APRA to include specific language that would extend a law enforcement agency’s discretionary authority over release of records to include missing person cases. Indiana law dictates the duties of a law enforcement agency receiving reports of a missing person and the investigation that follows is not materially different from the investigation launched after the report of a crime. The assistance of the public is critical to those investigations, and making the raw data of such a file accessible to any requestor may risk a chilling effect on the public’s cooperation at critical junctures in such an investigation.

The Sheriff anticipates it will take time to compile the records and convert them to a digital file for simultaneous release to all requestors. It is not practical simply to make the paper file accessible to all requestors at the same time. An update on release of the records will be made after the June 4 hearing."

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