On Oct. 1, family members of Matthew Asher, who passed away nearly two years ago at the age of 20, gathered in downtown Hazard to protest what they claim is a lack of investigation into the cause of Asher's death, as well as a potential cover up. The protest began in front of the Hazard Police Department and extended to the Perry County Courthouse.
In Dec. 2018, Matthew Asher died and the cause of death was suicide determined by the Perry County Coroner's Office. Since then, several of his family members and friends have spoken out, claiming that there was an inadequate investigation into Asher's death and that it was wrongfully declared a suicide. Asher's father, Carl Wayne Asher, Sr., said that he, along with others, believe that Asher was murdered and that his death is being covered up by local law enforcement.
This month, Asher said he decided he was going to lead family members in a protest in downtown Hazard to try and raise awareness to the situation.
“We're hoping this will wake them up,” said Asher.
The protest began in front of the Hazard Police Department with Asher and several family members and friends lining up along the front of the building and by the road while holding posters and chanting for justice. Asher said this was because the HPD did not properly investigate the death of his son.
After more than an hour, the protest moved down Main Street to the front of the Perry County Courthouse. Once there, Asher began calling out Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Blair, stating that Blair has the power to take the case to the grand jury.
“I've known Scott Blair since he was a little kid,” said Asher. “All he has to do – he's the commonwealth attorney — he can call the state police, he can call the FBI,” he said. “We've got so much evidence, we know who done it and when it was done. ’’ve got evidence and they refuse to do anything. It's a disgrace.”
Officials with both HPD and the Commonwealth Attorney's Office said they sympathize with the Asher family, but said everything that can be done has been looked into.
“Everything was done correctly by not just one officer, I had another officer. John Holbrook was the initial officer over the case and he worked a thorough investigation, and then I had James East, when they (the family) came in, which I've met with them several times, James has met with them several times and so has John,” said HPD Chief Minor Allen. “So to satisfy them, I had James East take the whole case and go back over the case again and review everything that John had done just to satisfy them, and that still didn't satisfy them so I suggested they take the case to the Kentucky State Police.
“The state police looked at the case as well and they came to the same conclusions that we did and we presented it twice to the commonwealth’s attorney and there's nothing there that we can proceed with,” said Allen. “I hate it for him. They have our sympathy. We've done everything we could possibly do on this case. If there was anything else, any other information, we would gladly pursue it.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Blair agreed, explaining that he and his office have looked over all the evidence as presented by the HPD and there is nothing more to be done.
“A full investigation was done by HPD and there was no finding of wrongdoing or foul play,” said Blair. “My heart goes out to this family, but I have to follow the law and follow the evidence when deciding on whether to take a case to the grand jury.”