by Heather Tomlinson
A Burnside pastor accused of killing three people in a Boyle County pawn shop appeared in court this week.
Kenneth Allen Keith, 48, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Boyle Circuit Court to three counts of first-degree murder and robbery and burglary charges in connection with the Sept. 20 shooting deaths of Michael Hockensmith, 35, Angela Hockensmith, 38, and customer Daniel P. Smith, 60, at the Hockensmiths’ Danville store, ABC Gold, Games and More.
Keith, who previously pleaded not guilty to murder charges in Boyle District Court before a grand jury handed down the murder, robbery and burglary charges sending the case into circuit court, appeared in person before Circuit Judge Darren Peckler Tuesday in a video arraignment.
According to news media, which displayed the video images of Keith, he was escorted by a special security detail from the jail to the courtroom and was fitted with a bullet-proof vest.
Keith, a pastor at Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, was arrested on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at Gold Rush Gold Buyers, his Somerset-based store.
Keith knew the Hockensmiths, who owned the ABC Gold, Games and More with co-owner Steven Devine. Family and friends of the Hockensmiths have told reporters that Keith served as a former pastor to Michael Hockensmith.
Danville Police have been gathering evidence in the case nearly around the clock since the murders occurred, and police are pointing to several pieces of evidence that led to Keith’s arrest.
An affidavit signed on October 22 by Danville Police Det. Kevin Peel states that investigators recovered two shell casings from Keith that match those found at the scene of the shootings.
According to the affidavit, the two .22 caliber casings found during the execution of a search warrant at Keith’s store were compared to the .22 shell casings recovered during the search of the Hockensmiths’ store the day of the shootings.
“Tests were conducted on these shell casings by the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) lab and one of them was found to have been fired from the same weapon that fired some of the .22 caliber casings recovered from ABC Gold, Games and More on the day of the murders,” reads the document.
“Additionally, four Fifth Third Bank money bands and a receipt belonging to Dan Smith dated Sept. 19, 2013 were recovered during the execution of the search warrant at the Gold Rush Gold Buyer’s Business,” continues the affidavit.
The money bands, dated to September 17, 2013, were used to band together currency in stacks totaling $10,000 each, according to the document; investigators had previously learned that Smith had ordered $40,000 from Fifth Third Bank on September 17, and that he had picked it up on Sept. 19.
“Evidence recovered during the execution of the aforementioned search warrants, including that listed above, implicated Kenneth Keith as being the one who committed the robbery and murders of Michael Hockensmith, Angela Hockensmith, and Daniel Smith,” reads the affidavit. “Certain items are being tested in forensic labs operated by the Kentucky State Police and the ATF for the presence of fingerprints.”
Police in their investigation also seized several cell phones, including Keith’s iPhone. During the follow-up investigation, it was discovered that Keith used this phone to send and receive messages and calls to a cooperating individual who provided investigators with the details of these conversations, according to the affidavit. During these communications, Keith allegedly made statements incriminating himself in the robbery and murders.
Another iPhone was taken from Keith’s wife Tracey when she was discovered at the parsonage during the execution of the search warrant there, said the affidavit, while the other two phones, a Samsung and a Motorola, are of “unknown origin,” according to the document, and that the were recovered from the parsonage and a Dodge Caravan belonging to Keith, respectively.
“During the follow-up investigation, a witness described seeing a man in the parking lot of ABC Gold Games & More at approximately (6:45 p.m.),” reads the affidavit. “The witness stated that the man was talking on a cell phone and that he appeared to be arguing with the person on the other end of the call. He also matched the description given by the child when he first called 911.”
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.
Keith’s attorney, Somerset-based Mark Stanziano, has maintained Keith’s innocence in the case and has stated that Keith was not at the Danville store when the shootings occurred.
Keith is slated to appear in circuit court on Dec. 2 for a bond hearing. He is being held without bond at the Boyle County Detention Center.