McCreary woman beaten to death; suspect charged

Police think robbery was the motive in the murder of a McCreary County woman beaten to death with a cast-iron skillet.

Ronnie D. Laxton, 41, was charged late Monday with robbery and murder in the death of Patricia A. Stephens, 61, who lived on Miriam Ross Road in Pine Knot.

Laxton was Stephens' next-door neighbor, said state police Detective Billy Correll.

The fatal beating occurred sometime Saturday. Stephens lived alone and was recovering from foot surgery.

Her daughter, Renee Stephens, said she became concerned when she couldn't reach her mother on the telephone Saturday.

Renee Stephens said she went to check on her mother early Saturday night and found her lying in the hallway of her mobile home. There was blood on her head, and it was obvious she was dead because her skin was so pale, Renee Stephens said.

Patricia Stephens apparently put up a fight before her death. There was blood in the kitchen, and items in the kitchen and living room were broken or overturned, Renee Stephens said.

The attacker hit her mother so hard with the skillet that it broke, Renee Stephens said.

"The person that done this to her was a monster," she said.

Renee Stephens said her mother's attacker took her car, a jewelry box, two police scanners, a broken carpet cleaner and a coffee can that held about $90 in change.

Laxton allegedly traded some of her mother's property for drugs, and he got a haircut after cashing in the loose change from the coffee can at a local bank, Renee Stephens said.

Laxton was seen driving Patricia Stephens' car and apparently tried to sell it.

Police questioned Laxton because he was seen in the car and got a warrant to search his home after details of his story didn't add up, Correll said.

Correll arrested Laxton at 11:27 p.m. Monday.

Laxton has a criminal record, including a reckless homicide conviction.

Renee Stephens said her mother, who received disability payments, was a talkative woman who sometimes helped care for elderly people. She had moved to Kentucky from Ohio 18 years ago to be near her daughter and grandchildren.

"She loved life," Renee Stephens said.