Commonwealth Journal

October 12, 2013

Stanziano: ‘Wrong person’ in jail for murdering three people in Danville

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — The attorney for a Burnside pastor accused in shooting and killing three people in a Danville pawnshop continues to emphasize that police have arrested the wrong man.

Local defense attorney Mark Stanziano is defending Kenneth Allen Keith, 48, who on Wednesday was arrested for the Sept. 20 murders of Michael Hockensmith, 35, Angela Hockensmith, 38, and Daniel P. Smith, 60.

Stanziano has maintained that Keith wasn’t even in the same area as the store when the shooting happened.

“I think he'll have people that can back it up,” Stanziano said in a media interview. “They have the wrong person in a jail cell.”

Keith is lodged in the Boyle County Detention Center and he is charged with three counts of murder and one count of first-degree robbery.

Investigators say Keith entered the ABC Gold, Games and More pawn shop in Danville, owned by the Hockensmiths and Steven Devine, on the morning of Friday, Sept. 20, and shot and killed the couple and Smith, who was a regular customer at the store.

The Hockensmiths’ two children, 9-year-old Andrew and 14-month-old Naomi, reportedly hid in a closet in the store when the murders occurred. Andrew reportedly called 911 after the shootings, and he and his sister escaped unharmed.

Friends and relatives of the Hockensmiths said the couple knew Keith, who is known to his friends as “Allen.” Relatives have said that Keith served as a former minister to Michael Hockensmith, and some said he even attended the Hockensmiths’ funeral.

Stanziano said that is incorrect, and noted that Keith was in Florida on vacation with his family on Sept. 23 and 24, when the Hockensmiths’ visitation and funeral services took place. They were buried in Somerset.

According to the citation filed by the Danville Police Department, witnesses at the scene stated a man with physical characteristics similar to Keith’s was in the area when the murders happened. They also told police that a silver or gray van was seen in the area as well. Police say Keith owns a silver 2008 Dodge Caravan van.

“You'll notice, they didn't say that anybody identified him,” Stanziano said about the citation. “Nobody says it was him. And nobody says it was his car.”

Police also say Keith, who owns the Gold Rush Gold Buyers store at the intersection of Monticello Street and U.S. 27 in Somerset, had detailed knowledge of the crime to which the wasn’t public privy.

“Through interviews with witnesses, investigators learned that (Keith) possessed intimate knowledge pertaining to the specifics of the crime, including the number of wounds sustained by one of the victims, and details pertaining to the robbery of the business and its occupants,” the citation states.

Stanziano suggested in the interview that the case is so high-profile that details of the investigation may have “leaked out” to the public.

But Boyle and Mercer Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms said Friday he's “100 percent confident going forward that I can present a case for conviction against Mr. Keith.”

Bottoms said the arrest warrant didn't include details that will be presented later. Bottoms also stated that evidence presented by prosecutors will show that Keith was in the area when the shootings happened early on Sept. 20.

Keith once reportedly ran a pawn shop called King’s Corner at the location where ABC Gold, Games and More now sits. Michael Hockensmith worked with Keith and helped manage that store before the store changed hands earlier this year from Keith to the Hockensmiths and co-owner Steven Devine.

Relatives of the Hockensmiths have said Keith may have been having financial troubles, and Devine told the Danville Advocate-Messenger that there may have been some issues between Keith and the Hockensmiths after Michael Hockensmith began buying gold from Smith, the customer who was killed in the store, instead of Keith.

Public documents accessed at the Pulaski County Judicial Center reveal that FIA Card Services sued Keith in Sept. 2010 for $17,160.41 in unpaid credit card debt. That case began in Boyle County, where Keith’s address was listed as King’s Corner, but it was transferred to Pulaski Circuit Court after he changed addresses. The case was settled in January of this year.

Keith was arrested Wednesday at Gold Rush Gold Buyers pawn shop, located at the intersection of Monticello Street and South U.S. 27, where he bought and sold precious metals. Police executed search warrants at Keith’s Somerset business, Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, and at Keith’s home.

Friends and relatives of Keith have said they’re shocked that the Baptist pastor would have anything to do with the killings. Keith has been described as “upstanding,” and “ a good guy.”

“Unbelievable,” said Don Thompson, owner of Don’s Barber and Style Shop, located just across South U.S. 27 from Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, where Keith lives and serves as pastor.

“He’s one of the last people in the world I would expect something like that from,” added Thompson, who cut Keith’s hair a couple weeks ago. “He’s just a fine, upstanding citizens when he was in my shop.”

Stanziano stated to media outlets that the pastor has battled brain cancer and other serious health issues in the past. He said Keith’s cancer is currently in remission.

Keith is being held without bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, Oct. 16 in Boyle Circuit Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.