The principal of Bardstown High School, Chris Pickett, has been identified by his lawyer as the “person of interest” in the theft of $26,000 in rare bourbon after allegedly trying to sell a “large quantity” of Pappy Van Winkle to a Hardin County liquor store — but he says that never happened.
Doug Hubbard, the lawyer representing Pickett, said Franklin County Sheriff’s Office officials would be meeting with them in Nelson County Monday afternoon.
“I hope they come in there truthfully investigating rather than acting on any preconceived notions,” Hubbard said.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office released a surveillance video Wednesday with a man who appeared to be wearing a purple Bardstown High School sweatshirt.
Eric Hall, the owner of Packages and More Liquors in Elizabethtown, said the video was taken at his store.
According to Hall, the man entered the store and talked to manager Ben Beach, offering to sell the store a large amount of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon — just five days after more than $26,000 worth of the rare bourbon was reported stolen from Buffalo Trace Distillery.
“We don’t know if he is the person or not but we turned (the video) over,” said Hall. “It’s a pretty ironic coincidence.”
Hubbard said Pickett called him Wednesday night in “absolute shock” after a friend informed him he was being shown as a person of interest in the bourbon heist.
Pickett was in Hilton Head, Hubbard said, for a destination wedding.
Hubbard said the next day he called and set up the meeting with the Franklin County Sheriff’s office.
“We do want to cooperate,” Hubbard said. “We do have the highest respect for the law.”
In spite of their respect, Hubbard said the information released by Sheriff Pat Melton is wrong.
Hubbard said Pickett went into Packages and More Liquors Sunday afternoon and asked the manager if they had any Pappy Van Winkle.
Hubbard said Pickett is a collector and he told the store’s manager he “had quite a bit and wanted to add to his collection.”
Pickett left after the manager said they didn’t have any, Hubbard said.
“He was not even in there 90 seconds,” Hubbard said.
Melton said they were originally investigating the heist as an inside job.
“Chris has never been there. Chris knows of no one who works there,” Hubbard said, explaining that it’s not possible that his client could have pulled off such a huge theft. “Those places aren’t somewhere that everybody walks in and out of there, carrying whatever they want.”
Hubbard said Pickett has been principal at Bardstown High School for three years, but has been working at the school for a total of 15 years.
He said he hopes Monday’s meeting gets everything straightened out, so it doesn’t tarnish Pickett’s good name in the community.
“Certainly he’s always concerned about his reputation and bewildered why anyone would make these accusations against him,” Hubbard said. “But we’re trying in good faith to be cooperative.”