ELIZABETHTOWN — Kentucky prosecutors have been working for two decades to make a death sentence stick against Michael Dale St. Clair, 55. They succeeded Wednesday in persuading a judge to apply that penalty one more time against St. Clair for the 1991 kidnapping of a distillery worker who later turned up dead.
Special Judge Thomas O. Castlen ordered St. Clair to be executed for the 1991 kidnapping death of Francis "Frank" Brady of Bardstown.
Prosecutors had sought a death sentence in Hardin County because that's where Brady was last seen. He was subsequently found shot to death in Bullitt County — the last act of a multistate crime spree that began when St. Clair and a fellow inmate escaped from an Oklahoma prison where each was serving time for murder.
St. Clair and the other escapee, Dennis Gene Reese, were the subjects of a nation-wide manhunt when they kidnapped and handcuffed Brady at a rest stop off Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown. The two men took Brady's truck and drove to a secluded area near Lebanon Junction. That's where St. Clair ordered Brady out of the truck and shot him execution style, prosecutors said.
The judge set an execution date of March 30, but prosecutors said that probably would be stayed as St. Clair appeals.
A jury on Jan. 23 convicted St. Clair of capital kidnapping in Brady's death and recommended a death sentence, marking the third time Hardin County jurors have taken such an action against St. Clair. The jury was empaneled after a reversal by the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2010 on an evidentiary ruling. The ruling marked the fourth time St. Clair's conviction or death sentence had been overturned.
St. Clair is also under a death sentence in neighboring Bullitt County. A judge in November condemned him for murder in Brady's death.
Brady's widow, Merle Brady, attended the court hearing, watching as the defendant insulted the court. She said later that the case was far from over; she is expecting years of appeals by the man convicted in her husband's death.
"It's been a long journey, it really has," Brady said after the hearing. "This is not the end. ... We'll hang in there. I'm not a quitter."
During the sentencing hearing, St. Clair vowed to make the court and everyone else wait while he appealed, and he pledged to win a new trial from the Kentucky Supreme Court.
"I've been waiting 20 years for a fair trial, judge," St. Clair told the judge, who denied multiple requests for a new trial. "Of all the trials I've seen, judge, yours is the worstest."
Merle Brady wasn't surprised by St. Clair's comments to Castlen.
"There's a lot of evil in this world," Brady said. "I think he's an evil man."
St. Clair has been convicted of murdering four people and suspected, but not charged, in a fifth slaying.
Todd Lewis, director of special prosecutions for the Kentucky Attorney General's Office, said he was confident that the latest trial would withstand judicial scrutiny.
"I think this case is a perfect illustration why, as long as there is the ultimate punishment in Kentucky, there are cases that call for it," Lewis said.
Until that punishment is carried out, Merle Brady said, she'll push on.
"God has been good to me," Brady said. "He takes care of the birds and he takes care of me."