Interlude: Tony Satterly
Through the first half of 2014, rumors continued to proliferate the region of Bardstown. Many believed that the Bardstown Police Department was involved - somehow - in the death of Officer Jason Ellis. However, it wasn't until March of that year that these conspiracy theorists were given some fodder in the form of a disgraced former-officer.
In the latter half of 2013 - just months after the ambush of Officer Jason Ellis off the Bluegrass Parkway - one of the Bardstown Police Department's senior officers retired. On its own, this wasn't unusual; after all, people retire every single day. However, as you can imagine - this being small town Kentucky and all - his retirement was only fodder for local gossip, and many began to theorize that this officer's retirement had something to do with the death of one of Bardstown's finest.
That rumor-mongering started to become even more prevalent months later when - in February of 2014 - whispers began to spread that a colleague of Jason Ellis was under criminal investigation. The charges were kept secret for a time, but that did nothing to quell the flames of local gossip.
The subject of these boundless rumors was 45-year old Tony Satterly - a Bardstown Police Officer that had been working in law enforcement for more than a decade without any kind of blemish on his record. Some believed that his story might intersect the ongoing investigation into Jason Ellis' murder, but that was not the case.
In January of 2014, Satterly had been placed on administrative suspension for an undisclosed reason. That reason was eventually disclosed in March of that year, when Satterly resigned from the department. It was then revealed that he was being investigated for multiple drug charges, and he did not want that cloud to hang over the other officers in the Bardstown police force.
Tony Satterly was then indicted by a Nelson County Grand Jury for 10 counts of prescription drug fraud. He was alleged to have illegally obtained more than 1,800 hydrocodone tablets and approximately 260 oxycodone tablets between the months of January 2013 and January 2014.
Satterly denied the charges laid against him. Following his indictment, his lawyer - Keith Sparks - released a statement that likened his client's problem to a simple misunderstanding. In this statement, he stated that Tony had started taking prescription pain pills following an injury at work, when he had been called to a house fire - thus beginning a slippery slope of prescription drug abuse, which wasn't illegal (according to him):
"Tony became dependant on the medication to help control his pain. These prescriptions are highly addictive. His addiction is no different than what Brett Favre, Rush Limbaugh and countless others have experienced. Tony admitted his problem and voluntarily sought help earlier this year. He doesn't believe he ever misrepresented anything to his doctors. He certainly denies that he obtained medication by fraud, as has been alleged. Right now, we are looking forward to seeing the evidence and discussing the case with the Commonwealth."
Christy Morris was a local woman that worked at the office of Tony Satterly's doctor - who also happened to be dating one of his colleagues, a fellow Bardstown police officer.
According to Kentucky State Police that had been investigating Tony Satterly for several months, Morris had been enlisted by Satterly to write fraudulent prescriptions. Satterly's lawyers seemed to try and put the full blame on her shoulders, alleging in court that she was the person responsible for the fraudulent prescriptions:
"[Satterly] honestly thought Christy was talking to (the doctor) about the prescriptions and that he believed the prescriptions he received from Christy were legitimate."
However, this seemed to only tell part of the story. It was revealed in court that detectives had discovered that Satterly had approached Christy Morris for illegitimate prescriptions on at least two occasions outside of the pharmacy: once outside of Flaget Memorial Hospital, and another time at a memorial benefit for deceased Officer Jason Ellis. That seemed to do enough to discredit his notion that this was all a big misunderstanding.
In total, it was believed that Tony Satterly had sought out prescriptions from at least five sources: including four physicians and a dentist.
In September of 2014, Tony Satterly entered into an Alford Plea - which you may or may not be familiar with due to the infamous West Memphis Three case.
In short, an Alford Plea is a way for the defendant to plead guilty while maintaining innocence; ultimately resulting in a weird gray area of the law, where the defendant is considered "guilty" - for all intents and purposes - but can plead down to lesser charges and insist upon their innocence in the court of public opinion. It's very strange, and I could honestly do an entire episode about how weird Alford Pleas are.
Nonetheless, Tony Satterly entered into one of these Alford Pleas, being found guilty of two counts of attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud. His other eight counts were dismissed by the prosecution.
Satterly was granted pretrial diversion for two years, which meant that he would have to obtain counseling and could not get into any further legal trouble for two years. If so, his plea would be null-and-void, and he could be subjected to the whole gamut of charges.
Christy Morris, Satterly's alleged accomplice, entered into a similar plea: pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree forgery, which had been brought down from prescription forgery charges. Her punishment was almost identical to Satterly's, minus the counseling: she just had to stay out of trouble for two years.
As far I can tell, it seems like both have lived up to their end of the deal and have remained out of the public eye in the years since.
My goal with this interlude wasn't exactly to wow you with a shocking story of crime and punishment. As you probably figured, this was a pretty tame story of prescription drug abuse, which resulted in the responsible parties being caught and found guilty.
However, I wanted to tell this story in an interlude because it really fills in an important gap in the story: the trust that Bardstown residents had with their own police force. Within one year after the death of Officer Jason Ellis - a huge mystery in the region, which was rife with tons of rumors and innuendo - one of his fellow officers had retired, another had resigned in shame (and later pled guilty to drug abuse), and another was indirectly tied to this perceived corruption (due to the second officer's accomplice being his girlfriend).
Bardstown wasn't the investigative force behind the two stories I've covered so far in this series: the ambush of Officer Jason Ellis from May of 2013, or the double-murder of Kathy and Samantha Netherland from April of 2014. That duty was given to the Kentucky State Police, who oversaw the investigation with much more oversight. However, there was so much gossip surrounding both cases, and now - with corruption beginning to be exposed from within the local police - that gossip would only get louder and louder.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Published on February 9th, 2019 (updated version)
Originally published on February 18th, 2016