Jessamine County

Judge awards nearly $3 million to murder victim's estate

NICHOLASVILLE — A Jessamine Circuit Court judge awarded a civil judgment of nearly $3 million against three people serving prison sentences for the 2000 shooting death of a fast-food restaurant employee.

The ruling, which could be appealed, was issued Oct. 31 by Jessamine Circuit Court Judge Hunter Daugherty against Charles Denton, Joel "Joey" Blackburn III and Amber Foster.

But because the defendants are in prison, it is questionable whether the estate of Timmy June Peel Jr. will be able to collect.

Peel, 19, was shot to death on Dec. 1, 2000, as he worked the drive-through window of the Nicholasville Burger King on North Main Street, which has since been torn down.

"This was an unjustified, unprovoked and senseless murder by the defendants," Lexington attorney Stephen J. Isaacs said in a written statement. He and Elizabeth R. Seif represented the estate in the suit filed by Peel's father in 2002.

"The death of the victim, Timmy J. Peel Jr. has devastated his family, and even after all these years, his family continues to grieve his loss," Isaacs wrote.

After a bench trial in which only Daugherty heard evidence, the judge issued a judgment awarding $2.5 million in punitive damages to Peel's estate.

The judge also awarded $398 in medical expenses, $5,000 in funeral expenses, and $482,040 in estimated future earnings that were lost by Peel's death.

That brought the total judgment against the three defendants to $2.98 million. Denton would pay 60 percent of the judgment, Blackburn would pay 30 percent; and Foster would pay 10 percent, according to the apportionments set by the judge.

Daniel James of Nicholasville, the court-appointed attorney for Blackburn, said collection is unlikely from his client.

Blackburn, 30, who supplied the gun, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in West Liberty.

Denton, 25, the shooter, is also serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in La Grange.

And Foster, 25, is serving a 15-year sentence at Otter Creek Correctional Complex in Wheelwright.

Adam Zeroogian, the Nicholasville attorney who represented Foster, said she knew of the plan to rob the restaurant, but "it was clear she did nothing to further it."

In court records, Foster said her boyfriend, Blackburn, who had once worked at the same Burger King, gave a loaded pistol to Denton to use in the robbery.

Court documents say Blackburn drove Denton and Foster to the restaurant. Because the dining room had already closed for the night, Blackburn ordered food at the drive-through window and then Denton approached the window on foot. Blackburn had instructed Denton to shoot if the drive-through employee refused to hand over the money.

This is not the largest civil judgment in Jessamine County. In 2006, a jury awarded $16 million to a girl who had been sexually abused.