• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Exantus murder trial moved to Fayette County

The Ronald Exantus murder trial, scheduled to begin in August, has been moved from Woodford County to Fayette County by Special Judge Phil Patton. In his order granting the defense's motion for a change of venue, Patton ruled that it would be impossible to seat a fair and impartial jury in Woodford or in the other adjoining counties (Bourbon and Scott) that comprise the 14th Judicial Circuit. "The Court finds Fayette County to be the closest contiguous county where a fair and impartial jury can be seated," Patton wrote in his order transferring the trial to Fayette County. "Even though television coverage of the case originated in Lexington it is doubtful that Fayette viewers would have been impacted as viewers residing in the 14th circuit." Exantus 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 injuries before their father got a kitchen knife away from Exantus, according to Versailles Police. In a motion seeking the change of venue, defense attorneys argued that the "immense amount of media coverage received by this case would make trying it in any contiguous county (in the same judicial circuit) problematic, if not impossible. "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." A footnote in Patton's order transferring the trial addressed a possible racial component to the case. He wrote, "The Court wants to be clear that this transfer is not in any way based upon the numerous inappropriate and racist comments posted on social media. There is no credible evidence that the views expressed by unknown persons represent the racial attitudes of the citizens of the 14th Judicial Circuit." Commonwealth's Attorney Gordie Shaw has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Exantus has been found competent to face a murder charge at trial by former Woodford Circuit Judge Rob Johnson, who was appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in March. A pretrial conference is scheduled on Aug. 11 at 8:30 a.m., with the Exantus trial and jury selections to begin on Aug. 17 at 8:30 a.m.

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