• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Simmons Elementary honors 6-year-old's memory

On a windy Thursday before spring break, fifth-graders at Simmons Elementary School were eating lunch on a picnic table made of recycled plastic bottle caps. Five picnic tables and two benches on the playground at Simmons Elementary are now a reality because of an outpouring of community support for a memorial honoring Logan Tipton. The 6-year-old Simmons kindergartner was murdered in his family's Versailles home last Dec. 7. Logan's mom, Heather Tipton, said she and her family have seen the picnic tables, Logan's Bench and a second bench donated by an elementary school in Lexington. Her oldest daughter was "a little tearful" when she saw her brother's bench. And when Tipton later asked if she was crying "sad tears or happy tears," Koral responded, "A little bit of both." "She felt closer to Logan when she was able to sit on the bench," added Tipton during a telephone interview last week. A dedication ceremony for the memorial honoring Logan is being planned for some time after spring break. Tipton said her entire family, including Logan's grandparents, plan to attend. "It just adds to what the community has already done (to help our family through this)," she said. "To have something that will be there forever . even when my kids are out of Simmons those picnic tables, those benches will still be there and Logan will still be remembered." A tree, which she described as "a sign of life," is also being planted in her son's memory. Plastic bottle cap donations for the Logan Tipton memorial were accepted by Simmons through last January. The outpouring of support from people in the community and elsewhere resulted in 7,200 pounds of plastic bottle caps being donated, which Heather Tipton described as amazing. As a result of the amazing support, Simmons was able to do a lot more than what was originally planned for the memorial. The benches and picnic tables were delivered to Simmons on March 18. The picnic tables will provide students with a place to eat and learn when the weather's nice. Logan's Bench will give a student a special place to sit when he or she needs a buddy, according to Principal Larry Caudill. "Logan Tipton," he said in an earlier interview, "would be the first to come over and play with anyone sitting on one of those benches . He was a special little boy that had a big heart and shared his love with anyone who needed it." Asked how her family has been doing in recent weeks, Tipton said, "It's a one day at a time kind of thing. Some days are better than others, but for the most part we're hanging in there." She said her children are still going to counseling to help them through the trauma of their brother's murder. "We're coping and we're doing it together," said Tipton. She said they are still staying with family and hope to have a home of their own soon. A trial date has not yet been scheduled for Ronald Exantus, the Indiana man charged with murdering her son. That frustrates Tipton, but she has been assured by the Commonwealth's Attorney's office that they are making sure no mistakes are made as they move forward with this case. "We've already started the healing process . We feel like every day we're getting a little bit better so waiting on this trial to happen - I feel like once it does (go to trial) it's going to be like ripping a scab off and starting all over again (with our healing). And that's frustrating. That's something that we're talking to counselors about and trying to learn to cope with," said Tipton. Tipton said she plans on being in the courtroom whenever Exantus appears in court because "I want him to have to look at the mother of the son that he murdered. Every time he walks into that courtroom I want him to have to look at me." As of Tuesday morning, Exantus was on the docket for a status hearing on Wednesday, April 6, in Woodford Circuit Court. Commonwealth's Attorney Gordie Shaw has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Exantus, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, first-degree burglary, two counts of first-degree assault and fourth-degree assault. With the commonwealth's notice of intent to seek the death penalty as an appropriate punishment, a jury would also have the option of recommending life without parole or life without parole for 25 years. A judge cannot increase the penalty recommended by a jury, but can reduce a penalty, according to Shaw.

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