southworth slaying

Southworth pleads not guilty in wife's slaying; bond reduction is denied

Lexington Judge refuses to reduce $500,000 bond in 2010 beating death

rclemons@herald-leader.comJune 4, 2011 

Appearing in court Friday for the first time since being charged with murder, Donald Southworth Jr. pleaded not guilty in the death of his wife and tried unsuccessfully to have his bond reduced.

Wearing a green Fayette County Detention Center jumpsuit, Southworth was virtually silent at his arraignment in Fayette Circuit Court.

Southworth's attorney Michael Rowland asked that Southworth's $500,000 bond be reduced to $100,000.

"He can make some bond," Rowland said, but "he can't make $500,000."

Southworth, 48, was arrested early Thursday at his room at Sportsman Motel on Winchester Road, where manager Frank Cutshaw told the Herald-Leader Southworth had been staying since March.

Southworth was charged with murder in the death of Umi Southworth, who died June 10, a day after she was found beaten outside the Meadowthorpe Avenue home she shared with her husband and daughter.

Rowland said Southworth is not a flight risk.

"He's been well aware of these charges and that they were coming down the road," Rowland told Judge Kimberly Bunnell, "and he's stood right here."

Rowland said the length of time between Umi Southworth's death and Don Southworth's indictment "speaks for itself."

Rowland said Southworth has worked at UPS for more than 24 years and is a year and a half from retirement. He said Southworth has to pay child support for two children.

"Losing his job's going to have a negative impact on two children," Rowland said.

He said Southworth, in addition to paying child support, carries health insurance for the children.

Rowland asked for Southworth to pay 10 percent of a $100,000 bond.

But the prosecution said that Southworth has "lived mostly in his van" and at the motel, and that he has traveled to Indonesia numerous times. Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said Southworth "clearly has the means to escape," although Rowland said Southworth does not have a passport.

"He does not have the means necessary to go on some international flight or leave the country," Rowland said. If released from jail, Rowland said, Southworth is "certainly willing to wear an ankle bracelet if he needs to or anything else that the court would feel more comfortable with."

Rowland said Southworth has had some contact with the court but nothing in the last five years.

In 2005, Southworth was charged with fourth-degree aggravated assault, first-degree sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. He pleaded guilty to assault, and paid a $500 fine and $148 in court costs.

At least three emergency protective orders have been taken out against Southworth by two women.

Rowland said Southworth is "taking the charges very seriously" and has shown up to court in the past on time and prepared.

The prosecution did not agree with Rowland that Southworth was not a risk to others.

"He knows the location of witnesses that will be used against him," Larson said. "We're very concerned about that. The people we've talked to that have a relationship with this defendant are terrified.

"Not only that, he's been charged with intentionally murdering his wife."

Larson said the prosecution thought the $500,000 bond was appropriate.

The judge agreed.

Southworth's pretrial hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. June 23, with a status hearing July 8.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service