Defense attorney says Scott man did not shoot his parents, names alternative suspect

Photo of James Anthony Gray who was arrested for the murder of his parents James and Vivian Gray.  Jail Handout Photo
Photo of James Anthony Gray who was arrested for the murder of his parents James and Vivian Gray. Jail Handout Photo

GEORGETOWN — James Anthony Gray did not kill his parents in 2007; the man who did is Peter Hafer, who sold Anthony's father some guns, a public defender said Tuesday in an opening statement.

Hafer, who is in federal prison in Maryland on a firearms conviction, is best known for punching another public defender as they stood before a Scott district judge in 2008.

Public defender Rodney Barnes alleged in open court that Hafer is the real culprit in the 2007 shooting deaths of James and Vivian Gray, who were found dead in their northern Scott County home. Anthony Gray, 42, the couple's only child, is charged with two counts of murder. His trial began Tuesday.

Commonwealth's Attorney Gordie Shaw did not mention Hafer in his opening statement, but he indicated that Anthony Gray was correctly accused of killing his parents. Anthony Gray told girlfriends about plans to kill his parents, whose estate was worth $700,000 to $1 million, according to court records.

Shaw said Gray boasted after his parents were dead that "I'm rich. I'm never going to have to work again."

Barnes, the defense attorney, said Gray and Hafer would testify during the trial.

"Anthony Gray is going to tell you his side of the story," he said.

The defense's alternative theory of the crime was unveiled after a jury of 13 women and two men was sworn in. Three alternate jurors will be dismissed after all the evidence has been presented but before deliberations begin.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks.

The prosecution will take the rest of this week and possibly Monday to present its case. The defense will present its case next week and possibly into the week after that.

Shaw's opening statement lasted barely 15 minutes and mentioned only a few specifics about what the prosecution's case would show. But Shaw did mention that, on the day the elder Grays were found dead in their home, Anthony Gray and a girlfriend spent the night in his parents' bed. Shaw also said Anthony Gray gave three confessions to investigators.

Barnes cautioned the jurors not to make up their minds about Anthony Gray until the defense finished presenting its case.

"You need to wait to hear from us and you need to wait to hear from Anthony," Barnes said.

Barnes characterized the police investigation as having "serious flaws." And he said an expert would call into question the validity of Anthony Gray's confessions to police.

But the introduction of Hafer as an alternative culprit was information that had not been made public previously.

After he was found in possession of a number of handguns stolen in 2006 from a Cynthiana pawn shop, Hafer, 34, pleaded guilty in November 2010 and is now serving a sentence at a federal prison in Maryland.

A July 2008 affidavit by an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says Hafer sold "a large number of stolen handguns to James Gray." The affidavit is in Hafer's court file in U.S. District Court in Lexington.

Barnes said Hafer was scheduled to meet James Gray on the day of the killings. Hafer also tried to "enlist somebody to rob the Grays," who were said to have kept large amounts of cash in their house, Barnes said.

Hafer gained national attention in February 2008 when he decked public defender Doug Crickmer in Scott District Court. Hafer continued to hit Crickmer in the face and stomach after knocking him to the floor.

That court appearance, recorded on a court camera, came after Hafer and an accomplice were charged with taking more than $51,000 worth of jewelry from the Georgetown Kmart.

Crickmer did not press charges, but Hafer was sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court in connection with the assault.

The Gray trial will resume Wednesday in Georgetown before Scott Circuit Judge Paul Isaacs.

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