Commonwealth Journal

January 31, 2014

Burnside pastor may face death penalty in triple homicide case

Keith’s lawyer says his client is innocent

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

The prosecutor in a central Kentucky triple murder case involving a Burnside pastor is seeking the death penalty. 
According to media reports, Boyle County Commonwealth’s Attor-ney Richie Bottoms on Thursday filed a notice that he will seek the death sentence against Kenneth Allen Keith, 48, of Burnside, who is accused of killing three people in a Sept. 20 incident at a Danville pawn shop.
Keith has pleaded not guilty to 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 Hockensmiths’ Danville store, ABC Gold, Games and More.
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. 
Danville Police gathered 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 court proceedings 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 communica-tions, 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. 
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, according to detectives’ testimony given during recent court hearings. 
The two 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.