Judge combines rape, murder charges in Harrison slaying

Ruling adds death penalty option

shopkins@herald-leader.comFebruary 2, 2011 

Bass Webb

Bass Webb enters the courtroom for his competency hearing at Bourbon Circuit Court in Paris, Ky., Wednesday, May 12, 2010. Photo by Matt Goins 10069

MATT GOINS — Lexington Herald-Leader

CYNTHIANA — A Harrison Circuit judge granted a motion on Tuesday to combine the charges against a man accused of sexually assaulting and killing his girlfriend.

Bass Webb, 31, will be eligible for the death penalty in the Harrison County case if he is convicted. A grand jury indicted Webb in December on a first-degree rape charge. Webb had already been indicted on a murder charge in the death of Bryia Runiewicz, 32, who was found dead in her home in Cynthiana on July 31, 2009.

Harrison County Commonwealth's Attorney Doug Miller filed the motion for the rape and murder cases to be combined. Defense attorneys argued Tuesday against it.

Circuit Judge Jay Delaney granted Miller's motion, saying the incidents "occurred on the same date" and at the same time. Delaney also granted a defense motion to postpone the trial.

In Kentucky, capital punishment is a sentencing option in cases of murder or kidnapping with aggravating circumstances. The rape charge is considered an aggravating factor

Webb, who was living with Runiewicz before she was found dead, had been scheduled to go to trial on the murder charge next month.

"There's no way we can be prepared," public defender Tom Griffiths told the judge.

Delaney did not set a new date Tuesday but said he might set the date at the next pre-trial hearing, March 22.

Defense attorneys have argued there is not enough evidence to support the rape charge. And Craig Newbern said an "unfair prejudice" could occur during trial because jurors might be more likely to convict Webb on the murder charge because of the rape charge.

Webb faces charges in other counties.

The murder charge in Harrison County came after Webb allegedly tried to run over Bourbon County jail employees with his vehicle in July 2009. Police said Webb confessed to killing Runiewicz after they caught him.

He was charged with contempt for spitting on a judge during his arraignment on the attempted murder charges.

Webb also is charged with murder in the death of former girlfriend Sabrina Marie Vaughn in Montgomery County. Vaughn was reported missing in 2003. A grand jury indicted Webb on the murder charge in April 2010.

Webb also faces a third-degree assault charge in Fayette County after allegedly throwing a food tray at a Fayette County jail employee in December 2009.

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