Warrants provide more details in Danville triple homicide

gkocher1@herald-leader.comOctober 14, 2013 

DANVILLE — Search warrants and affidavits for warrants provide new information about how police were led to arrest and charge a Pulaski County minister last week with three counts of murder and one count of robbery.

Kenneth Allen Keith, 48, is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Boyle District Court. He is charged with murder in the shootings of Michael Hockensmith, 35, and his wife, Angela Hockensmith, 38, both of Stanford; and gold broker Daniel Smith, 60, of Richmond. The three were killed Sept. 20 at ABC Gold Games and More in Danville, a store co-owned by the Hockensmiths.

The shootings happened in the presence of the Hockensmiths' 9-year-old son and 14-month-old daughter. The boy called 911 shortly after 9 a.m. to report that his parents had been shot.

"The child further explained that a man had entered into the business and asked for money," according to an affidavit filed by Danville police detective Kevin Peel. "The child described the man as being a white male wearing a blue hat, a fake beard, dark glasses and a long green coat. The child informed the dispatcher that his parents were dead, lying on the floor, and that the man who had shot them had left the business."

When officers arrived at the store, they found the front door locked, the affidavit said. Personnel at the dispatch center, who still were on the phone with the boy, told the child to unlock the front door. When the boy was unable to, officers broke the front glass door to get in.

Police secured the children and began processing the scene. Peel's affidavit said the "investigation also revealed that a metal briefcase belonging to Daniel Smith was missing from the scene. This briefcase was believed to have contained an estimated $40,000 in cash."

In the days immediately following the robbery and homicides, "no apparent substantial information was developed," the affidavit said.

A customer at a rental car agency across the street from the pawn shop told police about seeing a man talking on his cellphone and walking around the parking lot of ABC Gold Games and More. The man, in his 40s or 50s and wearing a green "Army-type" jacket, "appeared to be arguing with someone," this witness told police.

On Sept. 24, four days after the robbery and homicides, a Michigan man, who wishes to remain anonymous, told police he had contacted a man he identified as Allen Keith about the crimes. The Michigan man, who formerly lived in Danville, had learned about the homicides through the Facebook posts of acquaintances in the Danville area and had contacted Keith for more information. Although this source is not named in court documents, police said they were able to corroborate the veracity of his statements.

The Michigan caller said that he knew the Hockensmiths and that he was familiar with them and Keith through church ties. He also knew them from when he lived in Danville.

"According to the Michigan caller, Mr. Keith stated that he was devastated, and did not hear about the robbery and homicides until later in the day" of the shooting. The Michigan caller said Keith, unsolicited, then began to give details about his whereabouts.

Keith told the Michigan man that, on the morning of the shootings, he had been at the Veterans Affairs hospital (presumably in Lexington) until about 8:30 a.m. Keith said he then went to a pharmacy in Danville to fill a prescription for his wife. Keith said the prescription had to be filed in Danville because the medication was not available in Somerset, closer to his Burnside home.

"The Michigan caller stated that Mr. Keith knew that the deceased gold broker (Daniel Smith) came to the store to do business on Fridays, and it was not uncommon for the broker to have $30,000 to $40,000 in a briefcase," the affidavit said.

"The Michigan caller stated that Mr. Keith offered a scenario as to what he believed occurred, stating that it was a 'hit' on the gold buyer and the Hockensmiths happened to be there," the affidavit said. "The Michigan caller stated that he asked Mr. Keith if he thought the Hockensmiths were innocent bystanders. In response to this, the Michigan caller stated that Mr. Keith 'flipped the switch' and responded that they (the Hockensmiths) weren't innocent, and that they 'cost him a lot of money.' The Michigan caller stated that Mr. Keith explained that the loss of money was due to some unspecified workers compensation negligence and that he had made the last $600 payment to settle the case approximately two weeks ago."

Keith had entered into an agreement with Steve Divine, co-owner of ABC Gold Games and More, to buy the building from Divine or to form a partnership, the affidavit said. "This venture allegedly fell through and Divine formed a business partnership with Mr. and Mrs. Hockensmith," the affidavit said.

The Michigan man told police Keith also owned a pawn shop in Somerset. Police later identified it as Gold Rush Gold Buyers, where a search warrant was executed last week. Search warrants also were executed at Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, where Keith is pastor, and the parsonage next to the church.

Danville police were familiar with Keith because they had routine contact with him when he owned King's Corner Pawn Shop, which had formerly occupied the building of ABC Gold Games and More.

Keith had no previous criminal history but has a permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon, the affidavit said.

Police learned that Keith filed paperwork with the city of Danville to dissolve King's Corner Pawn Shop in May. In documents provided to the city, Keith indicated that the reason was an "illegal eviction" and that the current owners had changed the store locks.

ABC Gold Games and More was jointly operated by the Hockensmiths and Divine.

Police recovered surveillance video showing Keith at a Danville pharmacy at 9:24 a.m. Sept. 20, the day of the shooting. Pharmacy staff identified Keith as the person receiving the prescriptions.

Investigators learned that Keith paid a civil penalty in the amount of $765.22 to the Kentucky Department of Workers Claims. "This was a result of a visit by an inspector with that agency who spoke with Michael Hockensmith while he was an employee of Kenneth Keith's," the affidavit said. "Mr. Hockensmith had been unable to provide proof of worker's comp insurance to the inspector, and then referred him to Kenneth Keith."

Investigators learned that Keith had a VA hospital appointment on Sept. 19, the day before the shootings but did not show up. Another appointment was scheduled for Oct. 21.

On Monday, defense attorneys Mark and Bethany Stanziano filed documents asserting Keith's right to refuse to talk to anyone but his defense team.

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

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