Second attempt will be made to seat jury in Webb murder trial

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJuly 17, 2012 

The second attempt to seat a jury in the capital murder case of Bass Webb is scheduled to begin Wednesday in Falmouth.

Webb, 32, was to have gone on trial in December in Cynthiana. But after several days of jury selection, Circuit Judge Jay Delaney issued an order saying a change of venue was necessary because of extensive publicity about the case.

Falmouth, a town of more than 2,000 residents about 50 miles north of Lexington, is more in the orbit of the Cincinnati media market.

Webb is accused of killing his estranged girlfriend, Bryia Runiewicz, 31, who was found dead in her Harrison County home on July 31, 2009. If convicted, Webb could face the death penalty.

Runiewicz, a one-time employee at the Bourbon County Detention Center, was studying to become a law enforcement officer. She died three days before she was to begin a job with the Department of Homeland Security. She is survived by two daughters from a previous relationship; the girls' father died the month before Runiewicz died.

The prosecution could call as many as 70 witnesses. The defense has not said how many witnesses it will call, and it's not known whether Webb will take the stand.

Webb's attorneys, public defenders Tom Griffiths and Craig Newbern Jr., indicated in pretrial hearings last year that they intend to call witnesses who will testify that Webb's drinking and diabetes affected his mental state. Griffiths would not comment on strategy during a brief interview on Monday.

Commonwealth's Attorney Doug Miller indicated last year that he intends to vigorously challenge the defense's theory about Webb's mental state. Miller could not be reached for comment.

The trial is scheduled to run in the Pendleton County Judicial Center through Aug. 17. But testimony might not begin until the end of the month as the attorneys winnow a pool of 200 prospective jurors down to a dozen jurors and three or four alternates.

If convicted, Webb faces penalties ranging from death, life in prison without the possibility of parole, life without parole for 25 years, life, or 20 to 50 years in prison.

Webb has a criminal history going back to 2000, when he was sentenced in Menifee County to one year in prison for attempting to elude a police officer and five counts of wanton endangerment.

Last year, he was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder for trying to run over a pretrial officer and a deputy sheriff outside the Bourbon County jail in 2009. He received a 50-year prison sentence. Webb is serving his sentence at the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty, but during the trial he will be housed in the Boone County Detention Center in Burlington, where Pendleton County normally takes its prisoners.

In March 2011, Webb was found guilty of assaulting a Fayette County Detention Center officer and was sentenced to 15 years.

Webb also is accused of murder in the death of Sabrina Marie Vaughn in Montgomery County, whose skeletal remains were found in January 2010, seven years after she had gone missing.

Webb received national attention after he spit in the face of Bourbon District Judge Vanessa Dickson during a hearing in August 2009.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305.Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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