Southworth murder trial set for January; his attorneys want it sooner

Donald Wayne Southworth, booking mug from June 1, 2011 at the Fayette County Detention Center. Charged with murder.
Donald Wayne Southworth, booking mug from June 1, 2011 at the Fayette County Detention Center. Charged with murder.

The murder trial of Donald Southworth Jr., who is accused of beating his wife to death with a piece of wood, is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 9 to 19.

The trial date was set Friday afternoon during a status hearing in Fayette Circuit Court.

Defense attorneys asked the judge to hold the trial sooner — possibly in November. But Judge Kimberly Bunnell, flipping through a calender, said she didn't have two consecutive free weeks in November or December.

Southworth, 48, was charged last month with murder in the death of Umi Southworth, who died June 10, 2010, a day after she was found beaten outside the Meadowthorpe Avenue home she shared with her husband and daughter.

On Friday, defense attorney Tucker Richardson objected to prosecutors' suggestion that the trial would take two weeks. It shouldn't take longer than one, he said.

"I personally don't think it's going to take two weeks unless (prosecutors) are planning on calling everyone they've talked to" in the year since the crime occurred, Richardson told the judge.

Richardson said Southworth would be agreeable to a January trial date if his bond was reduced from $500,000 to 10 percent of a $300,000 bond. Southworth was a year from retirement as a UPS truck driver when he was arrested and provides for two daughters, attorneys have said.

Bunnell said the trial date could be discussed after defense attorneys file a written motion for a speedy trial.

Afterward, Russ Baldani, who also represents Southworth, said their client needs an earlier, shorter trial because Southworth thinks he will be vindicated when his case goes before a jury, and he's eager to tell his side of the story.

Southworth was indicted June 8 by a Fayette County grand jury for murder. It was the same day he filed to be administrator of his wife's estate, indicating that he planned to sue the city for his wife's wrongful death.

Umi Southworth's death made international headlines because Lexington police officers, investigating the case as a homicide, did not realize for more than three hours that she was alive.

When Fayette County Coroner officials realized she was alive, she was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, where she died the next day.

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