Kentucky

Prosecutor to seek death penalty in Perry doctor's slaying

John C. Combs, 46, of Redfox in Knott County, Kentucky, is charged with murder in the death of Dennis Sandlin, 57, who was shot and killed Dec. 8 at Leatherwood/Blackey Medical Clinic in Cornettsville in Perry County. Combs has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
John C. Combs, 46, of Redfox in Knott County, Kentucky, is charged with murder in the death of Dennis Sandlin, 57, who was shot and killed Dec. 8 at Leatherwood/Blackey Medical Clinic in Cornettsville in Perry County. Combs has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The Perry County prosecutor intends to seek the death penalty in the case of a man accused of killing Dr. Dennis Sandlin in December.

Commonwealth's Attorney Teresa C. Reed said in filings Monday that two aggravating factors contributed to her decision: the burglary charge also filed against John Carles Combs, and the fact that the shooting took place when other people were around, putting them in danger.

Combs is accused of entering Leatherwood/Blackey Clinic in Perry County on Dec. 8, after visiting as a patient seeking a prescription for painkillers, and shooting Sandlin in a hallway. Combs was arrested the same day and later evaluated by a state psychologist. Last month a judge ruled that Combs is competent to stand trial.

Combs' attorneys have said he has mental health problems and should not be considered criminally responsible for his actions that day.

His attorney Jim Baechtold said Combs needed mental health care that day and didn't receive it.

The defense attorney said Reed's claims that a revolver was a threat to others in the clinic and that burglary was an aggravating factor in the shooting are "stretching" the law. The clinic was a semi-public place, and Combs had been a patient, Baechtold said.

Burglary can be defined as remaining in a place you're not authorized to be.

Reed said she didn't come to the decision lightly, and she talked with Sandlin's family before filing notice of her intention to seek the death penalty.

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