Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

January 18, 2011

'Ballad of Nicole Penix Vanzant'

Music video seeks justice in unsolved murder

MOREHEAD — More than a year after her skeletal remains were found in the Red River Gorge, songwriter Fred Brown Jr. said he couldn’t forget the unsolved murder of Nicole Penix Vanzant or shake the feeling that someone, somewhere knows what happened to her.

The song he wrote in her memory, which details the young woman’s disappearance, is now the foundation for a music video featuring local musician Sasha Colette and aimed at an Internet audience in hopes of helping to solve the cold-case crime.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if this would jar loose some information?’ It occurred to me that those most likely to know something would also be most likely to listen to a music video as read a newspaper,” Brown said Tuesday morning from his home in Mount Sterling.

Since it debuted at the Rowan County Arts Center in Morehead last weekend, the video for “Ballad of Nicole Penix Vanzant” has registered more than 1,100 views on youtube.com.

“I did not know Nicole or her family before she disappeared,” Brown said, explaining he first followed the woman’s story as a missing-person case, and feared the situation would end badly as the search went from days, to weeks, to months.

A year later, he pondered writing a song about Vanzant on the anniversary of her last contact with friends and family members, and wrote the first rendition of the ballad. Hesitant to contact members of her family, Brown got in touch with the detective handling the case and asked him to review the song’s lyrics for factual content and ask if he thought her family would be receptive to his idea.

The detective checked the facts and contacted the murder victim’s parent, who reviewed the song and added further detail to the story.

When he was satisfied with the song, Brown contacted Sasha Colette and asked if she would put the words to music, and explained his hope to make a difference for Vanzant’s family. Colette, who was not familiar with the story, immediately identified with the young murder victim and her family and felt the ballad could actually make a difference, “especially around here where everybody knows everybody, so somebody knows something.”

Colette said the music video project, directed and shot by Scott Ginn, was completed in a single afternoon using several locations in the Morehead area that corresponded to the song’s content. The singer/songwriter said she did her best to convey the urgency of the song during the filming process.

“I put my heart into it ... put my soul into it,” she said, noting the importance of the song’s message.

“As an artist there are not that many situations where you can actually come into play ... to serve a purpose that’s more important. I think it’s cool to be able to say I’m doing whatever I can,” she said.

Colette said she was nearly overwhelmed with emotion when Vanzant’s mother attended the premiere of the music video during last weekend’s Fuse the Muse event at the Rowan County Arts Center. “She held it together real well. She started crying and hugged me after the video,” Colette said, noting she was barely able to contain her own emotions at the moment.

“She’s hurting because her daughter was murdered for something ridiculous and they can’t find the fool who did it,” she added. “When you’re hurting like that, there’s nothing that can really make it better. But it can soothe the mind to have justice.”

Recalling the grizzly details of the forensics evidence associated with the recovery of Vanzant’s remains, Brown said he is certain “anybody that would do that would probably do it again.”

“I don’t want this to get lost as a cold case,” Colette said. “Every case — especially murder — deserves justice.”

Those with information about the disappearance or murder of Vanzant are asked to call Kentucky State Police Detective Larry Bowling at (606) 784-4127.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

Text Only
Local News
  • jeremymccombs.jpg Jeremy McComb enjoys Tri-State's limelight

    Jeremy McComb’s career has been a wild ride, especialy in the last week.
    The lead single from his latest album was released on iTunes last week and it was a huge success right from the start.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Festival to showcase new plays

    The ACTC New Play Festival will feature 10 student and faculty written plays (short scenes, monologues, ten-minutes, one acts) that will premiere at 8 p.m. April 25 and 26 and at 2:30 p.m. April 27 at J.B. Sowards Theater on campus.

    April 17, 2014

  • 0420mongol1.JPG A ride to remember

    Riding 50 miles a day is no big deal to Amy Whelan.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418melodies.jpg Melodies & Masterpieces returns Friday

    Anyone strolling through downtown Ashland at lunchtime Friday will have a chance to enjoy the artistry of one of the area’s most-respected guitarists as Chris Kitchen kicks off the return of the Melodies & Masterpieces series on Judd Plaza.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418odell.jpg MSU professor appointed state geographer

    Dr. Gary O’Dell, a professor of physical geography at Morehead State University, was named state geographer in January.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill to benefit AK Steel

    During the 11th hour of the General Assembly, a bill extending important sustainable incentives for AK Steel’s Ashland Works was pushed through for approval Tuesday night.
    House Bill 483 was created to extend the plant's incentives provided by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act in 2004.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pathways begins autism services

    Pathways has extended its community outreach in a big way by providing services for families facing autism.
    Lena Harmon, central director for the company's Kentucky Impact Youth Council, said these services can save families the trouble of being added to long queue lines in Cincinnati and Louisville.
    Harmon said she has heard some families testify having to wait up to 12 months for appointments in faraway cities.

    April 16, 2014

  • Russell academic new dean at OUS

    Nicole Pennington chose a two-year community college degree track in 1991 because she wanted to enter the nursing work force with as little delay as possible.

    April 16, 2014

  • 1936 Indian lasting wedding gift

    When it came time to present his future wife with a symbol of his undying devotion, Virgil Erskine gave her a 1936 Indian motorcycle instead of a diamond ring.
    “I’ve always called it my wedding present. It’s my diamond ring,” said Charlene Erskine, explaining she and her husband were married at Sturgis, S.D., in 1983, found the antique Indian Sport Scout in 1984 and had it restored and on the road in 1985.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014