Crime

Ex-preacher competent to stand trial for three slayings in Danville pawn shop

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

DANVILLE — The former preacher charged with three counts of murder in a shooting in a Danville pawn shop in 2013 was found competent Monday to stand trial.

Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Bottoms said Kenneth Allen Keith's trial will move forward starting with a status hearing Sept. 1.

"We're glad on behalf of the family of the victims to move forward," Bottoms said shortly after the ruling in Boyle Circuit Court. "They would like closure."

The competency hearing suffered several delays because of changes in Keith's defense attorneys. His first attorney, Mark Stanziano, was shot to death outside his Somerset office in June 2014. Stanziano's wife picked up the case but asked to be replaced. Brad Coffman of Bowling Green also left the case.

A public defender, Sandra E. Downs, was appointed. Keith has pleaded not guilty.

Keith was a pastor at Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside. He was evaluated at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Hospital in La Grange.

He is accused of shooting Michael Hockensmith, 35, and his wife, Angela Hockensmith, 38, both of Stanford, and Daniel Smith, 60, of Richmond, in the Hockensmiths' pawn shop, ABC Gold, Games and More, in September 2013. He was charged on Oct. 9, 2013.

The Hockensmiths were shot in front of their son, then 9, and their 14-month-old daughter. The son dialed 911 and reported the shooting to police.

According to an affidavit from Danville police detective Kevin Peel, Smith had a briefcase containing an estimated $40,000 that was missing from the shooting scene.

In December 2013, Peel testified that police found a .22-caliber shell casing inside Gold Rush Gold Buyers, the Somerset pawn shop that Keith operated, and it matched casings found in the Danville pawn shop where the shooting took place.

Keith had no criminal history at the time but did have a license to carry a concealed weapon, according to the affidavit.

Bottoms said Keith could face the death penalty if convicted of murder. Keith also is charged with robbery and burglary.

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