• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Public defender: murder case 'nowhere near ready for trial

The attorney for an Indiana man accused of murdering 6-year-old Logan Tipton in his family's Versailles home last December told The Sun that she does not anticipate the case against Ronald Exantus going to trial for at least two years. "This is nowhere near ready for trial," said attorney Bridgett Hofler. "It takes two or three years to get these (types of cases) ready for trial. "This is a death penalty case." With Exantus receiving mental health treatment at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center in LaGrange, Hofler said she does not anticipate setting a trial date "any time soon." Because of what she termed "racial remarks early on" - citing a Facebook post that Exantus should be hung by a tree - Hofler said a change of venue "is probably going to be considered." "It's always a possibility in a capital case," she added. Exantus was on the docket for a status hearing yesterday, April 6, but he was not expected to appear in Woodford Circuit Court. "He's receiving anti-psychotic medication and he won't reach therapeutic levels by then so he won't be back (in the Woodford County Detention Center)," said Hofler, a public defender in the Capital Trials Branch's Lexington office. She's currently handling eight death penalty cases. During a telephone interview two weeks ago, Heather Tipton talked about her family's frustration with delays in setting a trial date and resolving the case against her son's alleged murderer. "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)," she said. 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, Shaw said. With numerous homicide cases set for trial in his three-county circuit the rest of this year, Shaw acknowledged that it will "be a little while" before the judge can find available dates to schedule a trial for Exantus. "The capital cases will take longer just because of the jury selection and the different motions," said Shaw. "All things considered, (a trial will typically last) 10 days, two weeks."

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