Questions, conflicts surround Harlan woman’s death

Published 12:09 pm Friday, September 17, 2021

New information that has been made available in the case of a Harlan County woman’s death is in conflict with information provided by police about the date and cause of her death.

Kayla Massingale, 31, of Harlan, was pronounced dead by the Perry County Coroner’s Office at Hazard ARH on Sept. 2.

The Enterprise reached out to Kentucky State Police at Post 10 in Harlan to learn more about her death after locals reported that Massingale had been found in Coldiron, severely beaten and possibly raped before her eventual death.

KSP Public Affairs Officer Shane Jacobs responded on Sept. 13, with more information provided by KSP, which stated Massingale was ill with COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Massingale reportedly fell down the mountain where she was found near Coldiron and died there from her injuries.

Jacobs said although drugs may be tied to the case, the detective working the investigation does not suspect foul play and no arrests have been made in regards to Massingale’s death.

The Enterprise has uncovered several details that conflict with KSP’s account of the incident.

Unlike KSP’s report of Massingale being found dead near Coldiron, other reports show Massingale was found alive just off KY 2007.

Caseworkers at Hazard ARH confirmed that Massingale was transported to Harlan ARH, and call records from the Harlan Police Department dispatch logs confirmed that information. She was logged there as a Jane Doe because she was not able to be identified immediately due to the extent of her injuries. Massingale was then transported to Hazard ARH, arriving by ambulance at the hospital’s emergency room at 3:38 a.m. on Aug. 28.

On Sept. 1, at 1:40 p.m., a call from Hazard ARH came through to Harlan Police Department dispatch to confirm Massingale’s identity.

These call logs were obtained by the Enterprise through an open records request to the police department.

According to the phone call from Hazard ARH, Massingale had been found severely beaten and possibly raped.

Massingale arrived at the hospital as a “code blue,” which is a hospital emergency term used to describe the critical status of a patient who is going into cardiac arrest, has respiratory issues, or is experiencing other medical emergencies, according to an ARH representative.

A call was made from the Harlan Police Department to KSP Post 10 at 1:59 p.m. on Sept. 1, to relay the information provided by Hazard ARH.

Massingale was later pronounced dead by the Perry County Coroner on Sept. 2.

The coroner’s office said her body was sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort for an autopsy. Results of that autopsy are pending and will be published by the Enterprise when available.

Jacobs was emailed Thursday, Sept. 16, and called Friday, Sept. 17, for a comment on the findings of the coroner’s office. He was out of the office and has not returned the call as of the publishing of this article.

Information has been shared with The Enterprise about three potential suspects tied to Massingale’s death, as well as her alleged rape and murder. Each of these individuals has an extensive criminal record in Harlan County involving drugs, disorderly conduct, robbery, wanton endangerment, assault, attempted murder, and other charges.

No arrests have been made at this time, though an anonymous source recently came forward to confirm that a warrant for DNA swabs was obtained for two of the alleged suspects.

This is an ongoing story. The Enterprise will provide updates as more information becomes available.