The Burnside pastor accused of shooting and killing three people last month in a Danville pawn shop pleaded not guilty during a hearing yesterday in Danville.
Murder suspect Kenneth Allen Keith, known to his friends and family as Allen, appeared at his arraignment Wednesday morning in Boyle District Court via video from the Boyle County Detention Center. Keith pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder and one count of first-degree robbery in connection with the Sept. 20 deaths of Michael Hockensmith, 35, Angela Hockensmith, 38, and Daniel P. Smith, 60.
Keith’s attorney, Mark Stanziano, continued to emphasize Keith’s innocence after Wednesday’s hearing, according to the Danville Advocate-Messenger, which has helped the Commonwealth Journal gather information in the case.
“He’s not guilty,” Stanziano said.
Keith, 48, who was arrested on Wednesday Oct. 9 at Gold Rush Gold Buyers, his Somerset store, is pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside. Keith knew the Hockensmiths, who owned the ABC Gold, Games and More with co-owner Steven Devine, which is the Danville store where they and Smith were gunned down.
Smith, a gold buyer from Richmond, was known to carry a significant amount of cash, and Danville police have indicated he may have been the target of the Sept. 20 robbery.
The Advocate-Messenger reported that Michael Hockensmith’s mother, Barbara Lewis, is vowing not to jump to any conclusions until Keith’s case makes its way through the court system.
“There are only five people who know exactly what happened: Three of them are dead, God above and the shooter,” Lewis told the multitude of reporters gathered at the Boyle County courthouse. “I want to make sure this man is guilty before I judge him. In my heart, I’m not sure. I like to think I can be like the court and he’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Lewis, along with Michael Hockensmith’s sister-in-law, Terra Hockensmith, wore black T-shirts with a Superman emblem on the front and “In loving memory: Mike and Angie Hockensmith, Sept. 20, 2013. W.W.J.D.” printed on the back.
“He’s (Superman) been Mike’s hero for years, ever since he was little,” Lewis said.
Lewis also spoke of her grandchildren, who she said were doing “about as well as expected,” according to the Advocate-Messenger.
The Hockensmiths’ two children, 9-year-old Andrew and 14-month-old Naomi, reportedly hid in a closet in the store when Keith allegedly entered the store and shot and killed their parents and Smith, who was a regular customer there. Andrew reportedly called 911 after the shootings, and he and his sister escaped unharmed.
Danville Detective Kevin Peel filed an affidavit to obtain a search warrant for ABC Gold on the day of the murders. In seeking the warrant, Peel noted that a 911 call from “a small child” reported the murders was made at 9:17 that morning and wrote:
“The child stated that he was at King’s Corner Pawn (now known as ABC Gold Games and More) and that his parents had been shot. The child told the dispatcher that a man had come into the store and asked for money. The child described the man as being a white male wearing a hat, a fake mustache, glasses and a long green coat. The child told the dispatcher that his parents were dead and lying on the floor and that the person who had shot them had left the building.”
According to Keith’s arrest warrant, he had “intimate knowledge” of the crime scene, including the number of times one of the victims was shot. He also matched the physical description of the suspect provided by witnesses, and his silver 2008 Dodge Caravan is similar to one seen by witnesses and in surveillance videos from nearby businesses. The warrant also states that Smith, a gold buyer from Richmond, was the target of the robbery.
Keith operated King’s Corner and other pawn shops in Danville for years, and Michael Hockensmith had worked for him prior to taking over the business earlier this year and renaming it ABC Gold. Keith also was friends with Smith, a long-time gold buyer who paid regular visits to area pawn shops.
Those who knew the Hockensmiths and Keith have suggested Keith ran into financial hardships recently.
Records on file in Boyle County Circuit Court show Keith defaulted on credit card debts totaling about $100,000 from four different companies since 2010. Another case in Pulaski County stated Keith owed $17,000 to another credit card company, but it was dismissed in January only to be reopened in June in Boyle County.
An anonymous tipster reportedly led police to Keith. Court documents allegedly detail a conversation Danville investigators had with a person from Michigan who has asked to remain anonymous. According to published reports, the caller told police that Keith, without being asked, said where he was on Sept. 20, the day of the shootings.
The documents also state that Keith offered the caller a scenario of what happened at ABC Gold Games and More and that Keith told the caller it was a “hit” on the gold broker Smith, who was allegedly known to have as much as $40,000 on him while selling precious metals.
The documents allege that the anonymous caller asked Keith if the Hockensmiths were just innocent bystanders. Keith allegedly told the caller that the Hockensmiths were not innocent and that they “had cost him a lot of money” during the time he did business with them.
During Wednesday’s arraignment, Boyle County District Judge Jeff Dotson ordered that Keith remain held without bond until a preliminary hearing the case, scheduled for next Wednesday, Oct. 23.