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Lexington's latest homicide victim served time for murder in 2003 slaying

2003 file photo of Walter D. Gray, who was charged with the murder of Andrea W. Tiller on Monday, June 2. Gray was also charged with trafficking cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
2003 file photo of Walter D. Gray, who was charged with the murder of Andrea W. Tiller on Monday, June 2. Gray was also charged with trafficking cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. HO

A man who died after being shot Sunday afternoon in Lexington had been sentenced to 45 years in prison a decade ago for killing a woman during a drug deal.

The Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney's office confirmed Monday that Walter Gray, 31, had been sent to prison in 2004 for the 2003 murder of Andrea Tiller in Lexington.

Gray was released from prison in late 2012 after a series of appeals.

Police found him about 2:20 p.m. Sunday, lying in the street near Warnock and Goodloe streets, with multiple gunshot wounds. He died a few hours later at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

When Gray died Sunday, he was awaiting trial on another indictment returned against him last July in Fayette County. A status hearing in that case had been scheduled for Friday.

"There is a percentage of folks who are convicted of serious crimes but never get their acts together and choose to continue to commit crimes. Walter Gray was one of them," said Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson, who prosecuted Gray in 2004.

Larson's office also was handling the most recent indictment against Gray. It charged him with trafficking in cocaine and synthetic marijuana, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, and being a second-degree persistent felony offender. The charges were from June, Larson said.

Gray was arraigned and pleaded not guilty in late July. His initial $62,500 bond was reduced to $30,000, and Gray was set free after putting up 10 percent of that amount.

The court ordered that he be placed on electronic monitoring, directed that he get regular drug testing, and told him to find a job or go to school.

Gray was 21 in 2004 when he was convicted by a Fayette County jury of fatally shooting Tiller, who was trying to buy cocaine in a parking area at the Arbor Grove housing project. The shooting happened in June 2003.

According to testimony, Tiller was killed when Gray, a rival dealer, pulled a gun and shot her six times.

Witnesses testified that Gray stated, "If I can't make no money, nobody else is."

Gray broke into tears when the jury returned a guilty verdict after more than six hours of deliberation in April 2004.

After being sentenced to 45 years, Gray filed a series of appeals. The Kentucky Supreme Court denied the first in 2006. He later filed an appeal with the state Court of Appeals, contending his lawyer represented him incompetently at trial.

The appeals court eventually upheld Gray's murder conviction but reversed the penalty phase of his trial and sent it back to Fayette Circuit Court. During a retrial, the Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney's office offered to let Gray plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter with a recommended 10-year sentence. Gray did so, and he was released on time served in December 2012.

But he continued to get into trouble with the law.

"I'm sorry he died," Larson said Monday. "But he probably lived a lifestyle that put him in dangerous situations.

"We probably would have spent the rest of our careers catching him, trying him and convicting him. Somebody would release him as a result of our laws ... and then we would do it all over again."

Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Monday morning that no arrests had been made in Gray's death.

Police said they had no leads.

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