LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A small-town pastor charged with gunning down three people at a central Kentucky pawn shop wasn't at the store on the day of the slayings, his attorney said Friday.
Kenneth Allen Keith, who is facing three counts of murder and one count of robbery, was in "a number of places other than there" on Sept. 20, when the shootings occurred at a Danville pawn shop called ABC Gold, Games and More, said his attorney, Mark Stanziano.
"I think he'll have people that can back it up," Stanziano said in an interview. He added, "They have the wrong person in a jail cell."
Keith, 48, pastor of Main Street Baptist Church at Burnside in south-central Kentucky, was arrested Wednesday.
He's charged in the shooting deaths of 35-year-old Michael Hockensmith and his 38-year-old wife, Angela Hockensmith, and Daniel P. Smith, 60.
An arrest warrant indicated that Keith had "intimate knowledge" of the shooting. Also, police were given a description of a man seen near the pawn shop that matched Keith's appearance, it said. A witness described seeing a man leaving the area in a gray/silver van. Keith owns a silver minivan, it said.
"You'll notice, they didn't say that anybody identified him," Stanziano said in response. "Nobody says it was him. And nobody says it was his car."
Prosecutor Richie Bottoms said Friday he's "100 percent confident going forward that I can present a case for conviction against Mr. Keith."
Bottoms, the commonwealth's attorney for Boyle County, where the shootings occurred, said the arrest warrant didn't include details that will be presented later.
As for the defense's claim that Keith was not at the store on the day of the shooting, Bottoms replied, "I think the evidence will show otherwise."
Keith's arraignment is set for Wednesday in Danville. He is being held in the Boyle County Detention Center.
Asked if he would seek the death penalty, Bottoms said, "It's on the table and a possibility." The prosecutor said he hadn't yet discussed the matter with the victims' families.
Authorities haven't revealed a possible motive in the deaths.
The Hockensmiths acquired the Danville pawn shop from Keith a few months prior to the shootings there, said Hockensmith's brother, Tony.
The transaction apparently didn't go smoothly, he said, and there had been conflicts over certain terms.
Also, Michael Hockensmith had been selling gold to Keith, who has a gold-buying business in Somerset, but had shifted his business elsewhere, his brother said.
Michael Hockensmith and Keith became friends years ago when Keith was youth minister at Main Street Baptist Church. Michael Hockensmith worked at Keith's pawn shops before purchasing the Danville shop where he and his wife died along with Smith. Michael Hockensmith also served as a youth minister.
Stanziano said his client has been battling brain cancer but that it's in remission.
The attorney also said that Keith didn't attend the Hockensmiths' funeral, as some of the victims' relatives claimed.
Keith was on vacation in Florida with his family at the time, Stanziano said.
"This sort of jacks everybody up," the attorney said. "But it really is a red herring in terms of did he do it or did he not do it. It's an interesting issue, but it really is not central to the case."
Stanziano said his client is upset about being charged "with something he didn't do," but said Keith is ready to fight the charges.
"He's gearing himself up for the marathon that we're going to have to run," he said.