Robert Markham Taylor could face the death penalty if convicted in the murder of Lexington's Alex Johnson late last year.
Taylor, 29, is charged with murder, kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence.
A trial date in Fayette Circuit Court hasn't been set. But the Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney's office has notified the court that if Taylor is convicted, it will ask that jurors be informed of the full range of potential penalties available, including death.
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson stated in a court filing that kidnapping in which the victim does not survive is a capital offense under Kentucky law.
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Johnson, a chef at the University of Kentucky, disappeared from his Lexington on Dec. 20, 2013. His body was found in the Kentucky River on Jan. 24, stuffed inside a metal barrel.
Taylor's co-defendant, Timothy Ballard, told Lexington police that he saw Taylor beat Johnson to death on Dec. 20, according to documents filed in court.
Ballard, 42, is charged with kidnapping, tampering with evidence and being a persistent felon.
Taylor and Ballard appeared briefly before Fayette Circuit Judge Thomas Clark on Friday for a status hearing. Clark continued the hearing until Aug. 29 after Taylor's new attorney, Sandra Downs, asked for time to familiarize herself with the case.
Downs, who is with the capital trial branch of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, declined to answer questions outside the courtroom, saying she needed to study the case.