A former Kentucky State Police officer has been charged with lying while testifying in a federal court case involving a gruesome Clay County murder.
A federal grand jury in Lexington indicted Charles Jeff Senters, 41, of Manchester on three counts of making false statements while under oath.
Senters was indicted in May but the charges were not unsealed until this week. He had his initial court appearance Thursday and pleaded not guilty.
Senters was a detective with the state police when he led the investigation of the murder of Eli Marcum in December 2012.
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A Clay County drug dealer named Jimmy D. Benge allegedly paid to have Marcum killed because of a suspicion that Marcum had given police information about Benge’s activities.
An accomplice, Gerald Lee Sizemore, allegedly stabbed Marcum to death and a third man, Renus Vernon “Red” Delph, helped dispose of Marcum’s body on an all-terrain vehicle trail.
Delph said Sizemore cut Marcum’s throat and stabbed Marcum so savagely that he effectively skewered Marcum’s midsection, then set Marcum’s body on fire.
Senters sent several pieces of evidence to the state police lab to be tested for DNA evidence, but did not send a piece of telephone cord found close to Marcum’s body and a small knife found on the trail, according to court records. He threw away the items in October 2013.
Senters said he did not believe the items had any value as evidence in the case, but attorneys for Benge and Sizemore argued Senters should have had the cord and knife tested to see if there was evidence that might show someone else killed Marcum.
At a hearing on the issue in July 2014, Senters testified that he had checked with Clay County Coroner Danny Finley and with a state police analyst to make sure it was OK to dispose of the items, and that a supervisor had witnessed him getting rid of them, according to the indictment.
All three statements were false, the grand jury charged.
If convicted, Senters could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Senters, who resigned from the state police, was released on bond. His trial is scheduled in October.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville is handling the case because Senters allegedly lied in a case involving people being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Kentucky.
Benge and Sizemore pleaded guilty to drug charges, while Delph pleaded guilty to being involved in disposing of Marcum’s body. All three are in federal prison.