Tina Powell to stay in prison at least 10 more years for Lexington murders

jhewlett@herald-leader.comApril 26, 2011 

Tina Marie Hickey Powell, who was convicted in 1987 of five counts of murder for her role in a sensational killing spree in Lexington, will have to spend at least 10 more years behind bars.

The Kentucky Parole Board decided Monday to deny parole for Powell and not to consider the issue again for 10 years.

Five members of the nine-member board voted. Three voted for the 120-month, or 10-year, parole-consideration deferral; two voted for Powell to be required to serve out her time, meaning she would never be considered for parole again.

The two board members from Lexington, Shannon Jones and Chuck Massarone, voted for Powell to serve out her time. Board members George Carson of Louisville, Caroline Mudd of Lebanon and Larry Chandler of Oldham County voted for the 120-month deferral.

Powell, 52, had her first parole hearing earlier this month. The two parole board members she met with — Chandler and Jones — decided that she should not be released and that she should not come before the board again for more than five years. Under state guidelines, because the two wanted more than five years to pass, the full parole board — or a quorum of at least five members of the nine-member board — was required to vote on parole.

Powell and LaFonda Fay Foster killed Carlos Kearns, 73, a semidisabled Air Force veteran; his wife, Virginia Kearns, 45; Trudy Harrell, 59, a caregiver of Carlos Kearns; Jimmy Roger Keene, 47, a neighbor of the Kearnses; and Theodore Sweet, 52, a friend of Keene who visited often, on the night of April 23-24, 1986. The victims were shot, stabbed and run over with a car. Some were burned when the car was set on fire.

Powell was in her late 20s and the mother of four when she and Foster, who had been lovers, killed the five people in Lexington.

Powell told parole board members Chandler and Jones on April 13 that she didn't remember all that happened on the night of the murders because she and Foster had been using cocaine and drinking for about a week before the slayings.

Powell told the jury at her and Foster's murder trial in 1987 that she dropped out of school in the seventh grade. A clinical psychologist testified that Powell had an IQ of 78, which borders on retardation.

Powell was sentenced to life in prison on one of the murder counts and life without the possibility of parole for 25 years on the other four.

Foster was sentenced to death on all five counts. The Kentucky Supreme Court later returned the case to Fayette Circuit Court for a new sentencing trial. Foster pleaded guilty to five counts of murder in January 1999 and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on each count.

The murders drew national attention, and Foster, who has been called Lexington's most infamous killer, became the inspiration for a film that received critical acclaim at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.

Foster, now 47, is housed at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia in Lyon County.

Powell, who is housed at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women at Pewee Valley in Shelby County, and Foster have had numerous disciplinary violations while in prison, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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