Crime

Madison judge sends fatal shooting case to grand jury

Matt Denholm, 27, leaves the Madison District Court room after a preliminary hearing in his case on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011 in Richmond. Denholm is charged with murder, attempted murder and first-degree burglary in connection with a Nov. 21 shooting in Berea that left one man dead and another seriously wounded. Denholm is accused of killing Zackary Flower, 25, and wounding Flower's roommate, Kevin Price. Photo by Greg Kocher | Staff

gkocher1@herald-leader.com
Matt Denholm, 27, leaves the Madison District Court room after a preliminary hearing in his case on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011 in Richmond. Denholm is charged with murder, attempted murder and first-degree burglary in connection with a Nov. 21 shooting in Berea that left one man dead and another seriously wounded. Denholm is accused of killing Zackary Flower, 25, and wounding Flower's roommate, Kevin Price. Photo by Greg Kocher | Staff gkocher1@herald-leader.com Greg Kocher | Staff

RICHMOND — A judge on Wednesday sent to a grand jury the cases of four people charged in a Nov. 21 shootout in Berea in which one man died and another was seriously wounded.

Berea police detective Daniel Brewer testified during a preliminary hearing that eight shots were fired from three weapons.

He also testified that Matt Denholm, 27, who is charged with murder and attempted murder, scoped out the apartment building for as long as four hours before shots were fired. Zackary Flower, 25, was killed, and his roommate Kevin Price was wounded.

Others charged in the shooting are Denholm's brother, Ryan, 30; Ryan Denholm's girlfriend, Sherry Bratten, 31; and their roommate, Randall Burgess Jr., 18.

The shooting came after a fight the night before, Brewer testified. Matt Denholm got into a scuffle with two Latino men, identified during the hearing as "Chuey" and "Alejandro," in the parking lot behind the Chestnut Street apartment building where the shooting happened.

Alejandro left the scene, but Flower and roommate Marcus Leslie intervened to help Chuey, Brewer said. Price threw a chair onto Matt Denholm from a second-story outdoor stair landing when it appeared that Denholm was about to get something from his back pocket, Brewer said.

Burgess walked Matt Denholm, an Iraq war veteran and a former Berea college safety officer, back to the apartment where they lived with his brother, Ryan Denholm. As he left, Matt Denholm made several threatening comments that he would return to the Chestnut Street apartment, Brewer said.

Early Nov. 21, possibly about 3 a.m. — about four hours before the shooting started — Matt Denholm returned to the Chestnut Street apartment, apparently to scope it out, Brewer said. Burgess was waiting nearby.

Brewer testified that Ryan Denholm shot into the door of the apartment where Flower, Price and Leslie lived. Ryan Denholm also wounded Price with a shotgun blast. Then Matt Denholm took the shotgun and fired twice, striking Flower once in the chest and once through his hand and into his head, Brewer said.

The roommates inside the apartment were also armed, and Flower, a National Guard veteran who had served in Iraq, shot a 9mm Ruger twice. One shot went into the door of the apartment across the hall, and another went into the apartment across the hall and ricocheted off a stove, Brewer said.

Leslie fired a .38-caliber handgun but apparently did not hit anything. Price had a shotgun that was not fired.

Price was shot in the right leg. Brewer said Price is now in "satisfactory condition" and is walking.

A witness who lived downstairs saw Matt Denholm coming down the outside stairs, and said Denholm told him, "You may want to go back inside. It's not safe for you here."

Before the shooting began, Matt Denholm sprayed pepper spray into the apartment through a kitchen window.

Bratten was charged with complicity to murder because "she had a very clear idea of what was about to happen," Brewer said.

The Denholms and Bratten were arrested in Jefferson County later on Nov. 21. They were found in the Monte Carlo that Burgess typically drove.

Burgess was charged because he, too, knew what was going to happen, Brewer said. In addition, Burgess had reported his car stolen to Berea police and said he "had no idea who Matt Denholm was," Brewer testified. Teresa Whitaker, a public defender for Burgess, said he was intimidated by the older co-defendants.

Brewer said the Den holms and Bratten had gone to Louisville to do some Christmas shopping.

Police later learned through a cellmate of Ryan Denholm's in Jefferson County that Denholm had asked, "Do you think God will forgive you for murder?" Denholm then proceeded to give details about the shooting to the inmate, John Kettig, who was in jail for driving under the influence, Brewer said.

Tim Despotes, the defense attorney for Ryan Denholm, asked Brewer whether the Denholms might have taken weapons in a defensive capacity, but Brewer said there was no indication the Denholms knew that the Chestnut Street roommates had weapons.

Madison District Judge Charles Hardin sent the cases to a Madison County grand jury for possible indictment. The cases probably won't be heard before late January, Commonwealth's Attorney David Smith said.

Madison District Judge Brandy Oliver Brown recused herself because her father owns the building where the shooting occurred.

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