Menu

US

Relative says Ky. pastor charged in pawn shop triple slaying had attended funeral of 2 victims

A small-town pastor charged in a triple slaying at a Kentucky pawn shop had attended the funeral of two of the victims, offering condolences to relatives who say they're now sickened by the arrest of the man who seemed to be a sympathetic mourner.

Kenneth Allen Keith, pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in the south-central Kentucky town of Burnside, was arrested Wednesday. Authorities said Keith has been charged with three counts of murder and one count of robbery following the Sept. 20 triple slaying in Danville, a small college town.

Keith had gone days after the shooting to the funeral of Michael Hockensmith, 35, and his wife Angela, 38. Daniel P. Smith, 60, also had died in the shootings.

Keith and Michael Hockensmith had struck up a friendship in church years ago that led to business dealings, relatives said. Michael Hockensmith had counted Keith as a close friend and fellow Christian, according to relatives, who said Keith's arrest jolted them.

"To find that out, it made me sick," Hockensmith's brother, Tony Hockensmith, said in an interview Thursday. "It was like somebody kicked me in the stomach."

Keith, 48, showed up for the couple's funeral, shook hands with Hockensmith's mother and told them he had known Hockensmith well, relatives said.

"He just said he was so sorry for our loss," said Hockensmith's mother, Barbara Lewis.

Police haven't disclosed a possible motive in the slayings. Keith was being held at an area detention center.

The criminal complaint indicated that during the investigation, police learned Keith had "intimate knowledge" of the shooting, including the number of wounds sustained by one of the victims and details about the robbery at the business. Also, police were given a description of a man seen near the pawn shop that matched Keith's appearance, according to the complaint.

Keith's arraignment is scheduled Wednesday in Danville in central Kentucky. There was no indication yet whether Keith had obtained an attorney, according to the local circuit court clerk's office.

No one answered calls at the church where Keith served.

Relatives of the victims said they wondered what happened to land Keith in jail on charges of killing a close friend, his friend's wife and another person.

Michael Hockensmith and Keith became friends years ago when Keith was youth minister at Main Street Baptist Church, Hockensmith's brother said, adding the friendship turned into a business relationship.

Michael Hockensmith worked at Keith's pawn shops in Danville and in another community, Somerset. Wanting to run a business of his own, Hockensmith and his wife acquired the Danville pawn shop from Keith a few months ago, Tony Hockensmith said.

Michael Hockensmith saw the pawn shop as an opportunity to reach out to those who might be in financial trouble, his brother said and added: "He didn't feel like you had to be in a church to be able to minister."

The transaction apparently didn't go smoothly, the brother said, but he didn't know the details.

The Hockensmiths had two children, a 9-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl. Both were at the store at the time of the shootings but were unharmed. They are now living with their grandparents.

___

Associated Press Writer Brett Barrouquere in Louisville contributed to this report.