Crime

Pastor's attorney says wrong man has been charged in Danville triple homicide

Police investigated the scene where three people died after a possible robbery at a Danville pawn shop on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013.  Boyle County Sheriff Marty Elliott said the three dead included one customer. (AP Photo/The Advocate-Messenger, Clay Jackson)
Police investigated the scene where three people died after a possible robbery at a Danville pawn shop on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Boyle County Sheriff Marty Elliott said the three dead included one customer. (AP Photo/The Advocate-Messenger, Clay Jackson) AP

The attorney for the pastor charged in a triple homicide at a Danville pawn shop said Friday that police have the wrong man.

"They have the wrong guy, and my concern is that the people of Danville are not safe as long as they've got an innocent man in jail and some ... nut is running around with a gun," said Mark Stanziano, the attorney for Kenneth Allen Keith.

Keith was charged Wednesday in the deaths of Michael Hockensmith, 35; his wife, Angela Hockensmith, 38; and gold dealer Daniel Smith, 60. An arrest warrant said Keith had "intimate knowledge" of details of the shooting. Witnesses told investigators that Keith knew "the number of wounds sustained by one of the victims" and "details pertaining to the robbery of the business and its occupants," the warrant said.

But Stanziano said that someone "inside the investigation, inside law enforcement has been talking," and the information had spread into the community.

Boyle Commonwealth's Attorney Richie Bottoms said Thursday that he was "100 percent convinced that Mr. Keith did this, so I feel confident going forward with the prosecution of the case."

However, Eugene Hollis, a former business partner and longtime friend of Keith, told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that the alleged actions of the pastor were "extremely out of character for him."

Stanziano said his client told him that he was innocent.

The attorney said Keith was not at Michael Hockensmith's funeral, as one of Hockensmith's family members told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday. Stanziano said Keith was in Florida during the funeral.

Stanziano said Keith had brain cancer twice and has gone into remission and is cancer-free. But he said Keith still has a brain tumor.

In addition to shooting the three at ABC Gold Games and More on Sept. 20, the warrant said Keith removed property belonging to Daniel Smith from the business. That property was not identified in the warrant. Smith was known to frequent the shop, which Michael Hockensmith co-owned, to buy gold.

Keith, 48, of Burnside, has been charged with three counts of murder and one count of first-degree robbery. Arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 16 in Boyle District Court. He is being held at the Boyle County jail.

According to the arrest warrant, Keith's physical appearance matched numerous witness descriptions of a man seen nearby and leaving the business at the time the crimes were committed.

Witnesses said a man fled from the area in a newer model grey/silver van, and Keith owns a silver 2008 Dodge Caravan, the warrant said. Moreover, surveillance cameras captured images of a silver van that resembles Keith's near the pawn shop during the time of the killings, according to the warrant.

But Stanziano said, "Nobody described it as being him, nobody described the vehicle as being his."

Investigators conducted searches at three locations in Pulaski County: Keith's store; Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, where Keith serves as pastor; and a parsonage where Keith lives next to the church.

Stanziano said he had concerns about the search of the parsonage.

"They ransacked the parsonage, and I mean ransacked it," Stanziano said. "It was like the Vikings went in. They turned over things, destroyed things. They made a pig's breakfast of about everything in the house. It was a big mess."

Stanziano said Keith was ready to prove his innocence.

"He's ready and willing to go through what he's going to have to go through to get to the point where he's found innocent," Stanziano said. "... He has a lot of supporters in the community."

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