Prosecutor to seek death penalty for minister charged in Danville pawn shop killings

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJanuary 30, 2014 

DANVILLE — In a document filed Thursday, a prosecutor has given notice that he intends to seek the death penalty for a minister accused of killing three people in a Danville pawn shop.

Richie Bottoms, commonwealth's attorney for Boyle County, filed notice that he will seek "a sentence of death" in the case of Kenneth Allen Keith.

Keith, 48, of Burnside in Pulaski County is charged with three counts of murder and one count of first-degree wanton endangerment in the September deaths of Michael Hockensmith, 35, and his wife, Angela Hockensmith, 38, both of Stanford, and gold broker Daniel Smith, 60, of Richmond. The three were shot and killed in a pawn shop co-owned by the Hockensmiths.

The notice filed Thursday said the commonwealth "may offer proof the defendant committed murders for monetary gain for himself or another person."

"Additionally, or in the alternative, the commonwealth may offer proof the acts of killing were intentional and resulted in multiple deaths," the notice says. "Additionally, or in the alternative, the commonwealth may offer proof the murders were committed while the defendant was engaged in the acts of robbery in the first degree and/or burglary in the first degree."

Under state law, those "aggravating circumstances" open the door for prosecutors to pursue the death penalty.

Keith was pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside in Pulaski County at the time of the fatal shootings. He has been in the Boyle County jail in Danville without bond since he was charged Oct. 9.

The Hockensmiths' 9-year-old son, Andrew, was in the Danville store at the time of the shootings Sept. 20 and called 911 to report the slayings.

The notice also says the commonwealth will seek the testimony of affected family members to provide the court with victims' impact statements prior to any final sentencing in the Keith case.

A status conference in the case is set for Tuesday in Danville.

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

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