Judge to consider admissibility of therapy sessions in Southworth murder case

To Determine bearing, if any, on criminal case

jkegley@herald-leader.comAugust 23, 2011 

Donald Wayne Southworth Jr., from December 9, 2005. Fayette County Detention Center intake photo.

A Fayette Circuit Court judge will review records of family therapy sessions to determine whether they have any bearing on the criminal case against Don Southworth, who is accused of beating his wife to death with a piece of wood last year.

The commonwealth's attorney's office filed a motion Aug. 11 seeking the release of therapy records maintained by Louisville therapist Fred Schloemer.

The records are of therapy sessions that Schloemer held with Umi Southworth, Don Southworth's wife, who died June 9, 2010, and Hesti Johnson, who lived with the couple for about six years as Don Southworth's "second wife" after they bonded in a religious ceremony in Indonesia, according to court records.

"The Commonwealth states that these individuals were in therapy with Dr. Schloemer regarding matters within the family that may be of issue in the trial of this case," the motion said.

Don Southworth, 48, was indicted in June on a charge of murder. Umi Southworth died a day after she was found beaten outside the Meadowthorpe Avenue home that she shared with her husband and daughter.

Don Southworth's trial is scheduled for January.

Southworth had a daughter with each of the women. The therapy records contain sessions with each of the minor girls, the motion said.

Hesti Johnson authorized the release of the therapy records. The authorization was sealed.

In 2005, Johnson filed an emergency protective order after accusing Don Southworth of attacking her. Johnson and her daughter, Aleah, "escaped" the home. She later married John Johnson, according to court records.

After Umi Southworth was killed, Hesti Johnson amended the EPO, granting her custody of Almira Southworth, Don and Umi's daughter.

Judge Kimberly Bunnell ordered Schloemer Friday to provide the therapy records. Bunnell will determine whether any aspect of the interviews are admissible at trial.

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