Indiana man found not guilty of murder: Faces 20 years in prison on assault charges
A 34-year-old Indiana man was found not guilty of murder and burglary by reason of insanity on Monday night after nearly 12 hours of jury deliberation.
The jury recommended that Ronald Exantus serve 10 years in prison on each count of second-degree assault for a total of up to 20 years in prison (the maximum sentence). A one-year sentence for fourth-degree assault will run concurrently.
Sentencing was scheduled April 24.
Exantus was facing the death penalty if found guilty of murder. His defense argued that mental illness – and not a psychosis induced by a synthetic drug – led to 6-year-old Logan Tipton’s death.
In his closing argument, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Keith Eardley said, “Was he (Exantus) insane? No. He could control his behavior and he did. And he knew the difference between right and wrong. Mr. Exantus is not insane.”
Logan Tipton, a kindergartner at Simmons Elementary School, was stabbed to death in a bedroom of his family’s Versailles home in December 2015.
During an emotional day of testimony last Monday, Eardley recounted the night of Logan’s murder and what his 11-year-old sister saw that night.
“She’s suddenly awoken by the sound of her little brother, Logan, screaming,” he told jurors. “She opens her eyes and what does she see? She sees a man standing over her brother with a butcher knife…”
The prosecution also played a recording of the 911 call made by Logan’s sister telling a police dispatcher that a robber had entered her room with a knife and that her dad, Dean Tipton, was upstairs fighting with the intruder.
Tipton told a jury that he was not aware of his son’s injuries when he struggled with Exantus and was able to subdue him until police arrived. “I hustle up to the top of the stairs and when I get there he’s standing there. And he’s coming down with a knife to try to stab me with the knife,” Tipton testified.
He later found his injured son. “It wasn’t 10 seconds later, he just … closed his eyes and that was it,” said Tipton pausing as tears filled his eyes. “He died in my arms.”
In his opening statement, Eardley argued that Exantus took a synthetic drug that caused a psychosis and urged the jury to find him guilty of murder.
“Everything changed that night,” said Eardley. “It changed for the Tipton family. Their lives will never be the same. And it changed for Versailles. Versailles will never be the same.”
Public Defender Bridget Hofler said that mental illness and not a drug led to Logan’s death. She asked the jury to find Exantus not guilty by reason of insanity.
“Ron,” she told jurors, “has a mental illness. It is his mental illness that made him drive from Indianapolis, Indiana to Versailles, Kentucky on his way to Florida; enter the Tipton home and kill Logan Tipton.”
The trial was moved from Versailles to Lexington 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.