by Heather Tomlinson
Danville, Ky. —
A Burnside pastor accused of shooting and killing three people in a Danville pawn shop will remain in jail through his upcoming trial.
Kenneth Allen Keith, 48, appeared before Boyle Circuit Judge Darren Peckler Monday morning for a bond hearing. Keith is charged with three counts of murder, first degree robbery and first degree burglary in connection with the Sept. 20 deaths of Michael Hockensmith, 35, Angela Hockensmith, 38, and customer Daniel P. Smith, 60, at the Hocken-smiths’ Danville store, ABC Gold, Games and More.
Keith has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Peckler denied Keith’s request to set a bond amount, which would have made it possible for Keith to go free until his trial date.
“That was sort of expected,” Mark Stanziano, Keith’s attorney, said to the Danville Advocate-Messenger.
Stanziano told the Advocate-Messenger Keith is “ ... upset, but that’s to be expected ... He’s looking at being in jail for a long time before this comes to trial, which means he’s going to miss holidays, birthdays...
“...of course, someone’s answer to that will be, ‘these three people are going to miss all of those dates for the rest of time.’ Yes, but if he didn’t do it, he shouldn’t miss any special days,’” Stanziano added.
Stanziano told the Advocate-Messenger he takes issue with Keith’s denied bond, considering prosecutors have yet to give notice whether or not they’ll seek the death penalty in the case.
“If they’re going to seek the death penalty, then they make this showing about strong evidence or presumption of guilt,” said Stanziano. “If they haven’t given notice that they’re going to seek the death penalty, then he’s entitled to a bond. It might be $500,000, but at least he would have had a bond set.”
Boyle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms, who is prosecuting the case, said they’re considering pursuing the death penalty, but no decision has been made.
Keith, a pastor at Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, has been lodged in the Boyle County Detention Center without bond since his Oct. 9 arrest 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.
Keith also reportedly did business with Smith, of Richmond, who was a gold buyer and seller.
During Monday’s hearing, a Danville detective gave testimony describing some of the evidence prosecutors have gathered in the case against Keith. According to published reports, the detective stated that the Hockensmiths’ 9-year-old son, who called 911 to report the shootings and who was in the store with his 14-month-old sister when the incident happened, may have witnessed one or possibly all of the killings.
The two escaped unharmed.
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 Oct. 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.
Other pieces of evidence presented during Monday’s hearing that were reportedly found with Keith’s belongings included money bands connected with Smith’s business and a receipt book belonging to Smith which contained a transaction in Lexington from the day prior to the murder.
Police in their investigation also seized several cell phones, including Keith’s iPhone. During the follow-up investigation, it was allegedly 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.
Along with several other phones recovered during a search of the parsonage, Keith’s Dodge Caravan was also obtained by investigators.
Stanziano told media outlets he is still building his defense case, and said he will continue to review statements, videos, and other evidence. He also said he will ask that evidence taken from Keith that is irrelevant to the investigation be returned to the family.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for February.