Defense seeks to continue Exantus trial
The defense attorneys for an Indiana man accused of murdering a 6-year-old Versailles boy are seeking a continuance for a jury trial set to begin on Aug. 11. In the motion filed on behalf of Ronald Exantus, attorneys Bridget Hofler and Kim Green offered several grounds for a continuance. One cited former Woodford Circuit Judge Rob Johnson's appointment to the Kentucky Court of Appeals after he was already assigned the case and had set an August trial date for Exantus. The defense argued in its motion for a continuance, filed on May 3, that pending motions (with no judge assigned to the case) make moving forward with the current jury trial problematic. "We would like the judge situation resolved as quickly as possible," said Commonwealth's Attorney Gordie Shaw during a telephone interview last Thursday. "You're going to need a judge seated to handle all of the different motions that can come up in a capital case." His office has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. "All the pieces of the puzzle aren't together yet," Shaw said, "but it's certainly possible, the potential is there for us to still be able to have a trial date (as currently scheduled) if we can get a judge appointed in a timely fashion." "I can tell you right now," he added, "this office is planning on the trial occurring in August." The Commonwealth's Attorney has filed a motion for a second mental evaluation of Exantus by the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center (KCPC) after being notified by the defense of its intention to assert a defense of insanity. Special Judge Jeffrey M. Walson asked about the commonwealth's motion during Woodford Circuit Court's rule day proceedings on Wednesday, May 3. Exantus was found competent to face a murder charge at trial by Johnson after his first KCPC evaluation. He has pleaded not guilty to murder, first-degree burglary, two counts of first-degree assault and fourth-degree assault. Six-year-old Logan Tipton was stabbed to death in his bedroom at his family's Versailles home in December 2015. Two of his siblings suffered non-life threatening lacerations. His father, Dean Tipton, scuffled with Exantus and got a kitchen knife away from the Indiana man before police officers arrived, according to authorities. In its motion seeking a continuance, the defense stated that work had begun on gathering documentation to file a motion for a change of venue prior to Johnson's appointment to the Court of Appeals. "Counsel for (the) defendant have been concerned that the immense amount of media coverage received by this case would make trying it in any contiguous county (in the same media circuit) problematic, if not impossible," the motion for a change of venue stated. "Likewise, social media regarding this case has illustrated that there is a racial component, which must be examined in order to obtain a fair and impartial jury in this case." Hofler cited a Facebook post that Exantus should be hung by a tree, when she explained why the defense was considering a motion for a change of venue in an April 2016 interview. Exantus was scheduled to return to Woodford Circuit Court for a status hearing on its next rule day, Wednesday, June 7, at 9:30 a.m. The former Indianapolis, Ind., nurse remains lodged in the Woodford County Detention Center, with his bond set at $1 million.