Commonwealth Journal

News Live

October 15, 2013

Caller claims Keith discussed shootings

Somerset — Court documents and search warrants released by investigators over the past several days are shedding more light into the shocking triple murder at a Danville store.

As Burnside pastor Kenneth Allen Keith, 48, awaits his arraignment in Boyle District Court, police have been releasing documents pertaining to the investigation into the Sept. 20 murders of Angela Hockensmith, 38, Michael Hockensmith, 35, and Daniel P. Smith, 60, at the ABC Gold, Games and More pawn shop in Danville.

Documents filed Monday 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.

Those allegations align with what relatives and friends of the Hockensmiths have claimed about some sort of business dispute between the Hockensmiths and Keith — and that Keith may have been struggling financially.

According to the Danville Advocate-Messenger, which has assisted the Commonwealth Journal in gathering information on the case, records on file in Boyle 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.

Police, who have steadfastly declined to comment on the high-profile investigation, have worked to piece together what occurred on the morning of Sept. 20 at the pawn shop.

Investigators say Keith entered the ABC Gold, Games and More pawn shop, owned by the Hockensmiths and Steven Devine, on the morning of Friday, Sept. 20, and shot and killed the couple and Smith, who was a regular customer at the store.

The Hockensmiths’ two children, 9-year-old Andrew and 14-month-old Naomi, reportedly hid in a closet in the store when the murders occurred. 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.”

Friends and relatives of the Hockensmiths said the couple knew Keith, who is known to his friends as “Allen.” Relatives have said that Keith served as a former minister to Michael Hockensmith, and some said he even attended the Hockensmiths’ funeral.

But those statements contradict those of Keith’s defense attorney, Mark Stanziano, who said Keith did not attend the funeral or visitation, which were held on Sept. 23 and 24 in Somerset.

Court documents filed Monday fall in line with Stanziano’s comment that Keith did not attend the services, but it also claims that Keith told the anonymous caller he could not offer the family condolences because of an agreement in a workers compensation settlement that mandated Keith was not to contact the Hockensmith family, according to published reports.

According to police documents released Friday, officers obtained search warrants for the Danville pawn shop where the murders occurred, the Hockensmiths’ home on Valley Drive in Stanford and their vehicles, cell phones belonging the three victims, and other vehicles found near the crime scene.

Among the items seized in the search of ABC Gold were 14 spent .22 caliber shell casings and three live .22 cartridges; a lead fragment; a 9mm Ruger handgun and magazine and another magazine; eyeglasses and a lens; various bags of jewelry; three cigarette butts; and $1,350 in cash in the register.

That’s according to the Advocate-Messenger.

The Advocate-Messenger also reports that on the afternoon of the murders, after police had determined the identities of the victims, Danville police obtained a search warrant for the Hockensmiths’ home in Stanford. In his affidavit, “Based upon the information collected at the scene and from witnesses, it is apparent the victims were specifically targeted,” states the affidavit.

Among the items taken from the Hockensmith home were one spent .22-caliber shell casing, an iPad Mini and “3-5 partially crushed yellow pills,” according to the evidence log of that search.

On Oct. 3, police obtained three additional warrants to search cell phones recovered by Boyle County Coroner Don Hamner from Michael Hockensmith and Smith during post-mortem examinations and another phone taken from the Hockensmiths’ home.

Affidavits and evidence logs for the searches executed Wednesday, Oct. 9 at Keith’s Gold Rush business in Somerset — where he was taken into custody — and his church, Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside have not yet been released.

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.

Stanziano has continued to emphasize that his client didn’t commit the murders. Stanziano has pointed out that police documents have not stated that anyone at the scene of the crime identified Keith, but simply a person who resembled Keith.

Stanziano stated to media outlets that the pastor has battled brain cancer and other serious health issues in the past. He said Keith’s cancer is currently in remission.

Keith is expected to plead not guilty to three counts of murder and one count of first-degree robbery during his appearance in court Wednesday.

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