Commonwealth Journal

October 10, 2013

Burnside pastor faces triple murder charges in pawn shop murders

Victims include former Pulaski County couple, Danville man

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — "No sleep at all, I am just in shock right now over this loss of three great people. We never know what is coming on the next breeze so breath deep the breath God gives you now."

Kenneth Allen Keith

Facebook, Sept. 21, 2013

Pulaski County Detention Center Photo

Kenneth Allen Keith posted the above on his Facebook page last September 21, a day after the murder of three persons at a Danville pawn shop — the two owners who had Pulaski County ties, along with a male customer.

Last night, Keith was in jail, charged with those very same murders.

Keith, 48, pastor at Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, has been charged with three counts of murder and one count of first-degree robbery, according to investigators.

Keith is accused of killing Michael and Angela Hockensmith. Angela, 38, graduated from Somerset High School, and her husband Michael, 35, also lived in the area for a time. They owned ABC Gold, Games and More in Danville. The Hockensmiths were found shot to death in their store on September 20, along with a third victim, Daniel Smith, 60, of Richmond. Keith is also charged with his murder.

The Hockensmiths were the parents of two children, a 9-year-old son and a 14-month-old daughter.

The couple also hosted an exchange student from Taiwan.

 Police said the two children were in the store when the murders happened, and the 9-year-old reportedly called 911 after the incident occurred.

Friends and family of the Hockensmiths are planning a benefit for the Hockensmith children, set for Nov. 30 at The Center for Rural Development. See the accompanying story about the benefit in this edition of the Commonwealth Journal for more information.

Keith was arrested at his Somerset business, Gold Rush Gold Buyers pawnshop, located at the intersection of Monticello Street and South U.S. 27, where he bought and sold precious metals. After his arrest, investigators were seen executing a search warrant at the business and removing documents.

Their investigation at Gold Rush was continuing at press time.

Police also executed a search warrant at Keith’s home in Burnside near Main Street Baptist Church. Keith has reportedly been pastor at the Burnside church for only a couple of years.

Investigators offered no details about what, if anything, was discovered during the searches.

Burnside Mayor Ron Jones said he didn’t know Keith, but was shocked to hear the news about alleged wrongdoing by a spiritual leader in his own community.

“You expect more out of a minister than you would your average person walking down the street,” said Jones.

Todd Kleffman, a reporter for the Danville Advocate-Messenger who worked with the Commonwealth Journal to help develop this breaking story, said Danville Capt. Robert Estill reported that his investigators had tips that led to the arrest of Keith. Capt. Estill did not elaborate on how long Keith had been a suspect.

The Advocate-Messenger also reported that Steve Devine, a part owner of ABC Pawn with the Hockensmiths, said Michael Hockensmith had worked with Keith at King’s Corner pawn store in the past. According to the Messenger, King’s Corner stood in the same building as ABC Gold, Games, and More before selling the business. Devine also said there were some “hard feelings” between the two, but according to the Danville paper, the disagreement didn’t appear to be a major issue.

Somerset Police, Kentucky State Police, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms assisted in the arrest.

Keith was lodged in the Pulaski County Detention Center.