Franklin County

Trial begins in slaying of victim's advocate in Frankfort

Alastair Couch
Alastair Couch

FRANKFORT — Tomma Graves, a Franklin County victim's advocate, was shot to death by Alastair Couch, the man with whom she'd had an on-again, off-again relationship for years, an assistant prosecutor told a Franklin County jury Monday.

Couch's murder trial, which is being heard before Judge Thomas Wingate, is expected to last about eight days. Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson is the special prosecutor.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Shawna Kincer said Couch, 34, was charged after police, acting on a tip last fall, found a black-and-silver revolver that was thought to be the murder weapon.

The gun had been thrown from a cliff off Steadmantown Lane. Test firings of the gun matched slugs taken from Graves' body.

On Aug. 2, 2010, Graves, 37, was found shot three times in her pickup truck in a parking lot off Washington Street in downtown Frankfort. She had been shot in her left hand, her upper right arm and in the back of the head.

Kincer said the evidence will point to Couch as the person "guilty of the intentional murder of Tomma Graves."

"Everything kept coming back to one person — this defendant," Kincer said.

But in his opening statement, defense attorney Mark Bubenzer cautioned the jury to listen carefully.

"None of the reports, none of the pictures are going to show you that Alastair Couch murdered Tomma Graves," Bubenzer said. And witnesses will give conflicting testimony, Bubenzer said.

"The evidence will show that not one of them will say that they know Alastair Couch killed Tomma Graves," he said.

In opening testimony, friends and relatives said they became concerned when they had not seen or heard from Graves and could not contact her on July 31, 2010.

"I told my husband something ain't right," said Ramona White, Graves' mother.

Lorene "Beanie" Jackson, a cousin, said she and Graves had planned to have lunch at Applebee's on July 31, but she never heard back from Graves. After driving around Frankfort in an unsuccessful search for Graves, Jackson testified, she texted Couch.

The text message she sent was: "We can't find her (Graves) and I was wondering if you have seen her?"

Jackson said Couch replied in a text: "No, I haven't seen my baby."

On the day that Graves' body was found, Jackson said, she called Couch and told him that Graves' body had been found.

"He didn't have a response," Jackson said. She said Couch asked her why people on the street were saying he was a suspect in Graves' death.

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the temporary courthouse at 669 Chamberlin Avenue, near Frankfort Regional Medical Center.