Police: Man accused of killing Somerset attorney said messages, voices told him to kill

bestep@herald-leader.comJuly 16, 2014 

SOMERSET — The man accused of killing a well-known defense attorney in Somerset told police he received a message through the newspaper telling him to commit the crime, a police detective testified Wednesday.

Clinton D. Inabnit also told police he received messages through music and heard voices that told him to kill Mark Stanziano, said Detective Chris Gates with the Somerset Police Department.

Inabnit, 40, said he heard ringing in his ears and that "these people" told him they would stop the noise if he shot Stanziano, but he didn't identify the people, Gates said.

In an interview by police after the shooting, Inabnit said he understood it was wrong to shoot Stanziano and didn't want to do it, but had to, Gates said.

"He just said he was supposed to kill him," Gates said.

The new information about the high-profile homicide came at a hearing called to determine whether Inabnit's case would go a grand jury to consider indicting him.

Pulaski District Judge Jeffrey Scott Lawless ruled that there was probable cause to forward the murder charge against Inabnit to a grand jury.

Inabnit allegedly ambushed Stanziano, 57, on June 27 as Stanziano arrived for work, shooting him several times in the torso in front of his office.

Gates said witnesses described a shocking scene — a man walking onto a busy downtown street, gun raised, shooting as vehicles passed or approached, and Stanziano falling on the sidewalk.

A sheriff's detective saw the shooting and quickly handcuffed Inabnit.

Inabnit lived in a run-down apartment across the street from Stanziano's office and often stopped Stanziano to talk to him, according to relatives and friends of the slain lawyer.

Stanziano's widow, Bethany L. Stanziano, and others said it seemed Inabnit was disturbed, but that Stanziano listened to him and tried to help him.

Just days before the shooting, Stanziano had bought lunch for Inabnit and offered to pay for him to get treatment, Bethany Stanziano said.

Gates said that the afternoon before the shooting, Inabnit had told Stanziano that people wanted Stanziano dead and wanted Inabnit to kill him.

Inabnit said he was warning Stanziano, but felt Stanziano did not take him seriously and laughed off his warning, Gates said.

The arrest citation said that angered Inabnit.

Inabnit said that after the encounter, he deciphered a message in the Commonwealth Journal, Somerset's newspaper, telling him to kill Stanziano, Gates said.

Inabnit had bought a 9mm Taurus pistol about a year earlier. He admitted that he waited for Stanziano with the gun and shot him, Gates said.

Inabnit moved forward as he shot and was within 4 or 5 feet of Stanziano when he finished firing, Gates said.

There were a number of witnesses, including three employees of a paving company who saw Inabnit, holding a raised pistol in both hands, cross in front of their truck as he walked toward Stanziano, Gates said.

One said he heard Inabnit scream "Hey" at Stanziano.

Two city parks employees coming from the other direction said they saw a man in their lane, shooting at a man on the sidewalk. The driver backed up and fled, Gates said.

Inabnit told police he fired all the bullets in the gun, Gates said.

Video from a security camera in the area showed Inabnit reaching into his pocket and then apparently trying to push another bullet into the gun, Gates said.

However, John Hutchinson, a detective with the county sheriff's office, ordered Inabnit to put down his gun.

The shooting happened about a block from the county courthouse, in view of the entrance to the sheriff's office.

Hutchinson testified he had just gotten out of his car and was walking to a small convenience store across the street from Stanziano's office when he heard a shot and then saw Inabit firing at Stanziano.

Hutchinson said he drew his gun and ran toward Inabnit, taking cover behind the gas pumps as he told people coming out of the store to get back inside and call 911.

When he yelled at Inabnit to drop the gun, Inabnit turned and looked at him, Hutchinson said.

When he ordered Inabnit a second time to drop the gun, Inabnit complied. Hutchinson then had Inabnit walk toward him and lie down, then handcuffed him.

An employee from the convenience store asked Inabnit why he shot Stanziano, but he didn't answer, Gates said.

Police found 10 bullets in Inabnit's pocket, Gates said.

Police tried to help Stanziano at the scene, and paramedics rushed him to the nearby Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, but he was pronounced dead a little more than an hour after the shooting.

Inabnit has been charged a number of times with drunken driving and with being drunk in public, but Gates said Inabnit showed no signs of being drunk on the morning of the shooting.

Inabnit also has faced charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, terroristic threatening and, once, carrying a concealed weapon.

He allegedly kicked the back window out of a police cruiser during an arrest in 2007.

The next year, his wife said he had bruised her arms and legs, hit her on top of the head "real hard" and threatened to kill her if she ever came back. The couple later divorced.

At Wednesday's hearing, Inabnit's attorney, Richard B. Leary, acknowledged the eyewitness accounts of the shooting.

However, Leary argued the facts don't justify a charge of murder. The testimony about Inabnit hearing voices calls for a lesser charge such as second-degree manslaughter, Leary said.

Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield, however, said the evidence, including the fact Inabnit emptied the gun and may have been trying to reload, was sufficient basis for the murder charge.

Lawless kept the murder charge in place in sending the case to the grand jury.

Inabnit's mental state is likely to continue to be a key issue in the case, however.

A person has to be able to form the intent to kill someone in order to be guilty of murder, Leary said after court.

The evidence about Inabnit receiving messages to kill Stanziano lends credence to the argument that he was not in his right mind, which raises a question about his ability to form the required intent to commit murder, Leary said.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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