Commonwealth Journal

February 14, 2013

‘Murder-for-hire’ defendants plead not guilty

By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

The three suspects in an alleged murder-for-hire plot in McCreary County have pleaded not guilty to their charges in McCreary District Court.
Timothy Prater, 30, Joseph Denning, 19, and Antonio Turner, 21, all of Somerset have been charged with attacking a Pine Knot woman at her home as part of a foiled conspiracy to commit murder.
Prater was arrested last Friday by Kentucky State Police Officer (KSP) Billy Correll, and charged with criminal conspiracy to commit murder, impersonating a peace officer, first-degree robbery, and unlawful imprisonment.
Denning and Turner were located on Tuesday by the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office working with the United States Marshall Service. Both men were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree complicity to commit robbery, and unlawful imprisonment.
KSP spokesman Trooper Don Trosper noted that in felony offense cases like the ones the above suspects are facing, “not guilty” pleas are automatically entered. Denning and Turner were arraigned Thursday, and Prater has also been arraigned in McCreary District Court, and as such would have entered “not guilty” pleas under that policy. They will await further legal proceedings at a later date.
 Trosper told the Commonwealth Journal this past weekend that Prater was paid $1,500 to murder a Pine Knot woman, and was arrested after a report of an assault on the victim on Richard Stephens Road in McCreary County. 
KSP reported that the victim was walking from her home to her vehicle when three men dressed in dark clothing attacked her. Neighbors of the victim went to check on her, and the three alleged attackers identified themselves as FBI agents, but refused to show any identification.
According to the McCreary County Record, the victim, Debbie Taylor, was at home alone after her husband Larry had gone away as part of his trucking job. Officers learned that the victim had allegedly been accosted on the way to her car to go to work, handcuffed and stunned with a taser device.
Prater told police that he was paid to kill Taylor by Regina Stephens of Pine Knot — both employees of Guthrie’s River House in Burnside, according to the Record, where Prater was a bartender and Stephens a waitress.
Stephens was found to have likely killed herself Friday night after an arrest warrant had been obtained for her also, on conspiracy to commit murder charges. McCreary County Sheriff Gus Skinner informed the record that Stephens’ car was found in her garage, but that authorities had to make entry into her home, where they found her dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to KSP Detective Billy Correll, that while the investigations into both Taylor’s assault and Stephens’ death are still open, “the public should not have any grounds for concern” relating to further occurrences.
Trosper said a motive has still not been established in the alleged murder plot.