Motion to suppress evidence in pawn shop murder case denied

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jury selections in Kenneth Allen Keith trial to begin Aug. 10 

The families of Mike and Angela Hockensmith expressed relief in the Boyle County Circuit Court on Tuesday afternoon when Judge Darren Peckler denied a motion to suppress evidence in the case against Kenneth Allen Keith. 

Keith is accused of murdering the couple inside their Danville business, ABC Gold, Games and More, while their young children were in the store. Also murdered was Dan Smith, long-time gold buyer who made regular visits to area pawn shops. 

(Photo courtesy of the Boyle County Detention Center)
Kenneth Allen Keith

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Keith will now face a trial, with jury selections beginning Aug. 10.

His attorney, Samuel Cox, had filed the motion to suppress evidence found as a result of search warrants obtained largely on the basis of one man’s testimony. Earlier in the case, efforts were made to suppress the testimony itself, given by Tracy Herald, a Michigan pastor and a friend of Keith. The testimony, according to archives of The Advocate-Messenger, helped lead police to Keith.

“This is a positive move,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Bottoms to reporters outside the courtroom. “We want to get this to trial — to bring some closure for the victims.”

The Hockensmiths and Smith were found dead on Sept. 20, 2013.  Keith was found less than a month later, on Oct. 9,  and has since been awaiting a trial without bond. The progression of the trial has been rife with delays.

In June 2014, Keith’s attorney, Mark Stanziano of Somerset, was shot outside his office by a man known to have mental problems who resided across the street from his office. His wife, Bethany Stanziano, took over the case, but eventually withdrew as Keith’s representation in June 2015. 

Sandra E. Downs, of the State Department for Public Advocacy, took over the case before it was assigned to Samuel Cox and Teresa Whitaker — two public defenders from Lexington with experience handing capital punishment cases. Cox and Whitaker remain Keith’s council.

Motions were filed first to suppress the testimony of Herald and, most recently, to suppress the evidence that was found during the search of Keith’s property. 

The family did not speak publicly, but Bottoms said they were “satisfied” that it was going to trial.

“They understand that we need to jump through all the hoops — (we need) to do this the right way,” he said.

That includes using three pools of jurors to select those to sit on the panel for the trial. Bottoms said it would likely take a few days to a week to select a jury. Questions involving the amount of time the trial would take and sentiments regarding the death penalty would be asked of potential jurors.

“I do believe we will be able (to fill the jury) with the judge making available three panels of jurors,” he said. “We have good citizens.”

If Keith is found guilty, he could receive the death penalty.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.