Pulaski minister enters not guilty plea in Danville triple slaying, robbery

Terra Hockensmith, left, sister-in-law to slain pawn shop co-owner Michael Hockensmith, and Barbara Lewis, Michael's mother, wore Superman T-shirts to the arraignment of Kenneth Allen Keith.
Terra Hockensmith, left, sister-in-law to slain pawn shop co-owner Michael Hockensmith, and Barbara Lewis, Michael's mother, wore Superman T-shirts to the arraignment of Kenneth Allen Keith. Lexington Herald-Leader

DANVILLE — The attorney for a Pulaski County minister entered a not guilty plea Wednesday to the Sept. 20 robbery and triple homicide at ABC Gold, Games and More, a Danville pawn shop.

Kenneth Allen Keith, 48, pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, is charged with three counts of murder and one count of first-degree robbery in the deaths of Michael Hockensmith, 35, his wife, Angela Hockensmith, 38, both of Stanford, and gold broker Daniel Smith, 60, of Richmond.

Boyle District Judge Jeff Dotson scheduled a preliminary hearing for Oct. 23. At that hearing, the judge will hear testimony and decide whether there is probable cause to send the case to a grand jury for possible indictment.

Keith, wearing an orange-and-white-striped shirt and pants, was not in the courtroom but was arraigned by closed circuit TV from the Boyle County jail, where he remains without bond.

Mike Hockensmith's mother and sister-in-law, Barbara Lewis and Terra Hockensmith, both of Burnside, attended the arraignment wearing T-shirts with the Superman "S" logo. Lewis said that was her son's favorite superhero.

Lewis has said in interviews that Keith expressed his condolences to her at Mike and Angela's funeral. But on Wednesday, Lewis said, "I'm not positive if that was him or not. I just know someone introduced himself as the pastor of Main Street Baptist Church."

And she said, "in my heart, I'm not sure" if Keith is the person responsible for the shootings and robbery.

Lewis said there are only five people "who really know what happened" at ABC Gold Games and More on the day of the shootings, and that's the shooter, God and three people who were killed.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Mark Stanziano said Keith is "scared" about his situation and disappointed that he can't be with his family. Keith is "girding up" to the idea that this will be a long ordeal as it wends through the court system, Stanziano said.

Keith has a brain tumor, but Stanziano said it's too early to say whether that will factor into the defense.

"We don't know if that plays into anything yet," Stanziano said. He said he has met with Keith only three times.

Stanziano was asked about a large amount of cash found in a "back safe" during a police search of Gold Rush Gold Buyers, a Somerset store Keith operated. An inventory of evidence collected at the store listed $35,000 in currency and "a ledger page with 'Tracy's account' written at the top" that was found in one compartment of the safe, and $60,000 in currency "and a trust document in the name of Kenneth Allen Keith" found in another compartment. An additional $3,800 in loose currency was also found.

"We're allowed to have cash in our safes," Stanziano said.

In a police affidavit for a search warrant, a Michigan caller told police that Keith said he knew gold buyer Daniel Smith, and that he knew Smith came to ABC Gold, Games and More "to do business on Fridays, and it was not uncommon for the broker to have $30,000 to $40,000 in a briefcase."

Detectives determined that a metal briefcase Smith carried was missing from the Danville shooting scene, according to the affidavit filed in court by Danville police Detective Kevin Peel.

During the hearing, Stanziano filed a motion asking the prosecution and investigators to preserve all evidence related to the case.

Stanziano defended John Paul Works, who was convicted of killing a female police officer in Harrodsburg in 1998.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty in that case, but a Boyle County jury — the trial was moved to Danville — found him guilty of wanton murder and sentenced him to life in prison.

Works shot Harrodsburg police officer Regina Woodward Nickles in October 1998 after she was called to a factory to investigate a report of a prowler. She shouted at the prowler, and shots were fired. Two bullets struck Nickles in her neck, above the bulletproof vest she wore.

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