He got lost and stabbed a child whose family were “strangers to me,” accused murderer Ronald Exantus told Versailles police in a video interview shown to jurors Tuesday.
In the early morning hours when he killed 6-year-old Logan Tipton in bed, Exantus had “resentment” that his 6-year-old daughter was living with her mother and stepfather in Indiana, according to testimony. The recorded interview was played for Lexington jurors in the Exantus murder trial. If convicted of murder, the 34-year-old Indianapolis nurse could get the death penalty.
Exantus admitted he grabbed a knife and stabbed the boy Dec. 7, 2015, inside the Versailles house where he stopped while on the way to see his mother in Florida. But his defense attorneys argue he was mentally ill at the time of the killing.
Prosecutors say Exantus wasn’t insane; his psychosis was self-induced by synthetic drugs he took. He admitted using narcotics and antidepressants when interviewed by police immediately after the killing. In the video of those remarks, Exantus wore dreadlocks; Tuesday, his hair was close-cropped.
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He told police he was driving from Indianapolis to Florida to see his mother, he kept changing his mind about completing the trip.
A Taco Bell receipt found in his car showed that he was in Louisville several hours before the Versailles attack. Exantus said he was lost and could not explain how he wound up in Versailles.
“Who are you here to see?” then-Versailles police detective Keith Ford asked Exantus. “No one,” Exantus replied.
Asked why he parked his red Ford Edge on Gray Street, near the Douglas Avenue home of the Tiptons, Exantus said it reminded him of “Grey’s Anatomy,” a TV drama that his defense team says he binge-watched in the days before the slaying. At one point, when asked where his car was, Exantus said, “It’s out there on a Grey’s Anatomy.”
He also made reference to “Scandal,” another television series.
Exantus told Ford that “Grey’s Anatomy” “made me think of knives for surgery” and that he had “re-enacted surgery” in the Tipton house.
Logan, prosecutors said during opening arguments, was stabbed with a butcher knife in the head repeatedly, leaving the blade bent. The jury also saw a photograph of a knife wound in the back of Dakota, one of Logan’s three sisters.
Exantus acknowledged that Dean Tipton was angry that his son had been attacked. Exantus said he understood why Dean Tipton was angry.
“What do you think should happen to somebody who stabbed a child in the head?” Ford asked.
“They should go to jail,” Exantus said.
What if the child died?
“They should get the chair. ...They should get punished,” Exantus said.
“Ronald, I want to tell you something: The child that you stabbed tonight is dead,” Ford said.
Exantus was silent. He eventually told Ford that he was feeling “pain” at the news of Logan’s death.
In answer to a question from Woodford Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordie Shaw, Ford testified that Exantus “seemed very lucid and candid in his answers to me.”
Versailles officer Jonathan Geilear testified that Exantus “mentioned that he was sorry about what he did” as he was driven from the police station to the jail.
The jury also watched a video of Exantus being booked into the Woodford County jail. His demeanor had changed from the earlier interview with the detective. While he was polite in that interview, at the jail he refused to cooperate with officers when they told him to stand up to get his clothing removed and get into inmate garb.
Laying the groundwork for the insanity defense, public defender Kim Green asked Geilear whether he observed that Exantus could not recall having his rights read to him less than two hours previously. She also noted that Exantus claimed that police had forced him to the side of the road, when there had been no such traffic stop.
Geilear acknowledged checking “yes” on a box of a jail intake sheet that asked whether Exantus exhibited behaviors indicating mental illness. Geilear also checked “no” on a question asking whether Exantus had consumed a dangerous level of alcohol or drugs.
Jason Berry, who analyzes blood and urine samples at the Kentucky State Police lab, said a sample of blood taken from Exantus at the jail tested positive for an inactive ingredient in marijuana. Berry said the lab does not test for synthetic marijuana but does test for some synthetic compounds. Prosecutors say he ingested synthetic drugs that affected his mental status.
There will be no more testimony in the case until March 13, Special Judge Phil Patton told the jury.