The accused killer of a 6-year-old Versailles boy didn’t have any ties to the family, the family’s house or Kentucky, his defense attorney said Wednesday as she emphasized that her client wasn’t a “thug” and that the crime didn’t stem from a drug deal or a robbery.
Public defender Bridget Hofler said she’s no closer to explaining how or why Ronald Exantus might have ended up in Logan James Dean Tipton’s bedroom on Douglas Avenue. Logan was stabbed in the head Dec. 7 with a knife that Exantus is accused of obtaining after he got in the house through the unlocked front door.
Exantus, 32, pleaded not guilty in Woodford Circuit Court on Wednesday to murder, first-degree burglary, two counts of second-degree assault and one count of fourth-degree assault. It was his first court appearance since he was indicted in December.
“This gentleman has absolutely no ties to this family,” Hofler said. “No ties to Kentucky. He’s never been in Kentucky except to drive through it, to get to Florida. We know nothing. Our client is not able to really tell us much of anything.
“This is not a dope deal gone bad, as so many of these murders are. This is not an episode of a thug coming in from out of town, going into someone’s house to rob it. My client is a professional, upper-middle-class African-American man. He’s a nurse who has been gainfully employed all his life. ... This is not the typical murder case. I can’t explain it yet.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordie Shaw has filed notice that he will pursue the death penalty for Exantus.
Shaw and a Versailles police spokesman said they had no additional information to release about the investigation or how and why Exantus allegedly broke into the Versailles home.
Hofler said the Exantus case was unlike any of the eight death-penalty cases in which she has been involved.
“I’ve had numerous physicians from Indianapolis that he works with, other nurses that he works with, that have called me to tell me, ‘This is not possible. This man deals with end-stage renal failure patients. This is the most loving human being we have ever known.’ We know what happened in that house. What we don’t know is why,” Hofler said.
Hofler said her client’s nursing license has been suspended in Indiana, which is routine when a nurse is charged with a felony.
Hofler said Exantus’ mental state is “in and out.” She said he was “actively psychotic” when he was admitted to the jail.
“He obviously has not been himself, nor has he been since I’ve come to know him,” Hofler said. “Today he seemed calm. ... He’s mainly delusional. When he’s not delusional, it’s been very difficult to communicate with him.
Before the arraignment began, Hofler spoke briefly with Heather Pujol Tipton, Logan’s mother, and expressed sorrow for the loss of Logan.
“One thing I did tell Mrs. Tipton was that Ronald’s mother asked me ... to apologize to her and to tell her how very sorry they are,” Hofler said. “And Mrs. Tipton ... looked at me and said, ‘It’s not her fault.’
“What courage and kindness for a mother of a child that’s been killed to be able to look at the attorney representing the alleged killer and say something like that.”
Meanwhile, Logan’s mother gave a brief statement thanking the community.
“On behalf of my family and myself, I just wanted to thank the whole community and everybody that’s behind us for your support and your prayers,” Tipton said. “Please continue to keep us in your prayers, especially my kids.”
The arraignment before Judge Rob Johnson was moved from the county courthouse to a newer annex behind the courthouse where there is a metal detector and better security.
Shaw and Hofler will meet soon so the prosecution can share evidence with the defense.
Exantus remains in the Woodford County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond. Johnson scheduled a pretrial conference for March 2.