Trial date set in death penalty case

Bradley A. McMahan

A trial date has been set for next spring in a capital murder case involving a Tennessee man accused of killing a Eubank grandmother.

Bradley Allan McMahan, 35, of Louisville, Tenn., is charged with Murder and first-degree Burglary in connection to the death of 59-year-old Johnnie Faye Davis, whose body was discovered inside her Eubank home the morning of November 1.

In a status hearing held Friday, Special Judge Samuel Todd Spalding scheduled McMahan's trial for March 16, 2020.

It was the Lebanon-based judge's first appearance in the case after taking up the case last month upon Pulaski Circuit Judge David Tapp's recusal. Also new to the case is defense attorney Sarah Fightmaster, who is taking over for DPA (Department of Public Advocacy) Capital Trials Manager Teresa Whitaker as she retires.

Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery filed notice in April that his office would be seeking the death penalty against McMahan amid aggravating circumstances. In Kentucky, death penalty consideration is generally reserved for murder cases in which the homicide occurs during the commission of another violent crime or where the accused has a prior murder conviction.

In this case, McMahan is accused of killing the mother of his former girlfriend.

According to preliminary hearing testimony last fall from Detective John Hutchinson of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, authorities responded to the scene on Goodhope Church Road around 6:43 a.m. on November 1. Once inside the home, the officers found Davis lying unresponsive in the foyer -- with blood covering her face from what turned out to be a broken nose and the electric cord from a nearby oscillating fan wrapped around her neck.

Davis lived with her two grandchildren, who had been getting ready for school when the assault began. Det. Hutchinson said Davis' 11-year-old grandson recognized the assailant as his mother's ex-boyfriend. The boy reportedly ran to the bedroom of his 15-year-old sister, where together they barricaded the door and left the home through the bedroom window to seek help at a neighbor's house.

McMahan was located later that afternoon by Somerset Police Department at the Dollar General on East Mt. Vernon Street. Once in custody, the suspect allegedly admitted that he strangled Davis but claimed that "she came at him with a knife and it was self defense."

Preliminary autopsy results were consistent with Davis dying from strangulation. Det. Hutchinson also testified that blood evidence was taken from the home and McMahan's truck, as well his clothing.

DNA results are reportedly back from the Kentucky State Police lab. Fightmaster advised Judge Spalding that she and her co-counsel Peyton Sands are currently reviewing discovery that Montgomery's office had provided.

McMahan remains lodged at the Pulaski County Detention Center in lieu of a $1 million cash bond.