A Fayette Circuit Court judge has given prosecutors two weeks to respond to a request by Shannon D. Houser to return to Houser the pickup truck that struck and killed University of Kentucky student Connie Blount in 2008.
Judge James Ishmael, in a hearing Friday, granted Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Cindy Rieker the time to prepare a response to Houser's request, which was made Monday.
Houser's attorney, Jerry Anderson, told the judge he had no objection to the prosecutor's being given the time to respond.
The judge scheduled another hearing for Nov. 18. He asked that the response be submitted to the court by Nov. 10.
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Blount, 18, was struck by Houser's truck the night of April 13, 2008, after she and a friend had spent the evening at Two Keys Tavern. Blount started to cross South Broadway at West Maxwell Street against the traffic signal, then stopped and knelt in the street, and she was hit by the truck. She was pronounced dead a short time later at UK Chandler Hospital.
The 1991 silver Chevrolet pickup truck that struck Blount was found outside Houser's home on Detroit Avenue in Lexington a short time later. The truck's bumper, front grille and head lamp assemblies had been removed, police said. The truck was impounded by police and has been in impoundment since then.
Houser, 40, has been out of jail on charges stemming from the 2008 case since Sept. 1, but Blount's family didn't know that until Monday, when they learned he wanted his truck back.
Blount's father, Jack Blount of Park City, Utah, expressed outrage that Houser, who was sentenced to five years in prison for tampering with evidence — a felony — and leaving the scene of an accident — a misdemeanor — was out of prison. Houser served a little more than 21/2 years in prison. His participation in various prison system programs and good behavior resulted in time being shaved off his sentence.
Anderson said that Houser, who was not in court Friday, has not been doing well since he was released from prison. Houser's wife has left him and he's afraid a tumor in his lung is cancerous, Anderson said.
Houser is a nice fellow and has been a hard worker, Anderson said.
"He's a mechanic and a very good one," he said, adding that Houser once had his own business.
The 2008 fatality marked the second time that Houser, who has gotten into trouble with the law on several occasions, faced criminal charges stemming from a vehicle-related fatality.
On Feb. 20, 1993, he was charged with second-degree manslaughter. His friend, Thomas W. Kiszka, 21, of Paris, died when the vehicle Houser was driving hit a concrete block wall on Russell Cave Road and caught fire. Houser accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to reckless homicide. He received a two-year sentence that was suspended, and he was placed on probation for five years.
Kiszka's father, John Kiszka, told the judge in a letter that his family considered the wreck an accident and did not think Houser should shoulder full blame for it.
The circumstances of Connie Blount's death spurred the Kentucky General Assembly to pass legislation making it a felony to drive away from a car wreck that involves serious injury or death. Gov. Steve Beshear signed the measure into law just a couple of weeks after Blount died.
Houser, who was eligible for parole after serving 20 percent of his sentence in the 2008 case, was denied parole after he had served the 20 percent.
Ishmael denied a motion for early release for Houser in December. In April, the State Court of Appeals upheld the final judgment and sentence in Houser's case in Fayette Circuit Court. In May, Ishmael denied Houser work release.