Commonwealth Journal

March 21, 2013

Justin Litton arraigned on murder charge

Hearing set March 27

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

A Somerset man who police say intentionally caused a fatal crash ap-peared in court this week to face a murder charge. 
Justin I. Litton, 36, appeared in Pulaski District Court Wednesday for an arraignment. Litton is charged with murder in connection with a Saturday night car crash that left Levi Stephens, 33, of Somerset, dead.
Litton was charged Monday as he was released from the University of Kentucky Medical Center for treatment of injuries sustained in the two-vehicle accident, which happened near the intersection of West Ky. 80 and the Ky. 914 southwestern bypass.
According to Lt. Shannon Smith, with the Somerset Police Department, the incident began at around 10 p.m. Saturday when a Pulaski County Sheriff’s deputy noticed a black 1998 Nissan car parked in the lot of a closed business on Ky. 80, without its headlights on.
Before further investigation could be made, the vehicle — driven by Litton — left the parking lot and headed eastbound, according to SPD.
The deputy was attempting to make a traffic stop to investigate the suspicious incident when the accident happened. Litton’s vehicle reportedly crossed the centerline just west of the intersection with WTLO Road and struck head-on a westbound white 2005 Suzuki driven by Stephens.
The impact trapped both drivers in their vehicles, according to SPD, and sent Stephens' vehicle off the road, where it came to rest on the north side of the highway. 
Litton was airlifted to the UK Medical Center. Stephens was transported by ambulance to the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead by the Pulaski County Coroner's Office. 
The murder charge was handed down after investigators allegedly discovered that Litton intentionally drove his car into the path of Stephens’ vehicle. 
“The collision was an intentional act,” said Smith. “The charge of murder is being filed not by virtue of whether or not intoxication was a suspicion. (Litton) intentionally drove his car into the path of (Stephens). This is not a case where he accidentally drove off the road.”
Smith said that a camera mounted on the deputy’s vehicle captured the entire incident on video, and that the images showed the accident taking place right in front of the deputy, about 10 to 12 seconds after the pursuit began.
Smith also stated that it was clear Stephens tried to move out of Litton’s way, but that Litton steered his vehicle to create the collision despite Stephens’ efforts. 
Litton was also the subject of a report earlier Saturday, as a family member had informed authorities that he was suicidal. Officers went to Litton’s home and were given a vehicle description, and told that it was Litton’s alleged intention to drive in front of a semi-truck so as to kill himself, according to Smith.
Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield said Litton entered a not guilty plea during Wednesday’s arraignment. All defendants facing felony charges enter automatic not guilty pleas during their initial court appearances and before the case moves to a grand jury for possible indictment. 
Litton’s bond remains at $250,000, as set by Pulaski District Court Judge Scott Lawless.
A preliminary hearing to determine whether the case should go before the grand jury is set for Wednesday, March 27.