Crime

Family members struggle to explain why Lexington teen shot his father

Verdis Pennington Jr. and his son were rarely seen apart.

Verdis Kyle Pennington III, known as Kyle, had just gotten his driver's license and constantly chauffeured his father, who was disabled because of health issues, wherever he needed to go, the family has said.

By the family's accounts, the two men adored each other, which is why members say they are struggling to comprehend what led to an argument that apparently resulted in the elder Pennington's death last week.

Verdis Pennington Jr., 50, was buried Tuesday after a quiet service at Bluegrass Memorial Gardens in Nicholasville. Kyle Pennington, 18, remained locked up at the Fayette County jail without bond, charged with murdering his father.

Police have said only that evidence shows "a family issue" led Kyle Pennington to shoot his father in the head with a .357 handgun.

Tommy Pennington, Verdis Pennington Jr.'s brother, said he thinks the argument stemmed from a typical family conflict: Verdis Pennington Jr. wanted his son to get a job and help out around the house.

Tommy Pennington said the pair began to argue after Verdis Pennington Jr. came home from shopping to find his son lounging on the couch.

"From what I gathered, he was just getting on him for not working, for not doing anything a young man ought to be doing," Tommy Pennington said.

Angela Pennington, wife of Verdis Pennington Jr. and mother of Kyle Pennington, said she witnessed the shooting but couldn't say much about the case; her son asked her not to for legal reasons.

Of her husband, she said only that he had been abusive in the past to both her and their son.

Tommy Pennington said that he had never seen signs of physical abuse but that his brother was known to "cuss" at his kids during arguments.

The family had several heated arguments before, and some resulted in the filing of emergency protective orders that were generally quickly dismissed. They always seemed to resolve their differences quickly, Tommy Pennington said.

"If this didn't happen, 10 minutes later they would have been laughing and forgot all about it," he said.

Caroline Pennington, mother of the slain man, said her grandson did not mean to shoot; he had grabbed a handgun and pointed it at a window near his father to scare him.

Verdis Pennington Jr. moved at the last second and was hit with the bullet, she said. She said she didn't know what caused the argument to become so heated.

"Something snapped in him," she said.

Kyle Pennington was not a problem child, she said. Caroline Pennington had custody of Kyle and his brothers and sister for several years. She said Kyle was a "good kid," "quiet" and "young for his age."

Caroline Pennington said her grandson is devastated by his father's death. When she went to visit Kyle Pennington in jail the day after the shooting, he asked "How's Dad doing?" she said.

"I said, 'Honey, he's dead,'" she said. "He just started bawling."

Verdis Pennington Jr. was a graduate of Tates Creek High School, where he was an All-America wrestler, Tommy Pennington said.

He was also a successful bodybuilder, winning Mr. Kentucky Power Lifter and several other bodybuilding titles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the family said.

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