SOMERSET — As Burnside barber Don Thompson gave Kenneth Allen Keith his regular haircut last Tuesday, he never suspected that Keith would be accused of killing three people only days later.
“Unbelievable,” said Thompson, owner of Don’s Barber and Style Shop, just across South U.S. 27 from Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, where Keith lives and serves as pastor.
“He’s one of the last people in the world I would expect something like that from,” added Thompson. “He’s just a fine, upstanding citizen when he was in my shop.”
Now, as 48-year-old Keith remains lodged in the Boyle County Detention Center, more details are emerging in the Sept. 20 triple homicide of Angela Hockensmith, 38; her husband, Michael Hockensmith, 35, both formerly of Pulaski County; and Daniel P. Smith, 60, of Richmond.
Keith is charged with three counts of murder and one count of first-degree robbery in the case. Investigators say Keith entered the ABC Gold, Games and More pawn shop in Danville, owned by the Hockensmiths and Steven Devine, on the morning of Sept. 20 and shot and killed the couple and Smith, who was a regular customer at the store.
The Hockensmiths’ two children, 9-year-old Andrew and 14-month-old Naomi, reportedly hid in a closet in the store when the murders occurred. Andrew reportedly called 911 after the shootings, and he and his sister escaped unharmed.
Friends and relatives of the Hockensmiths said the couple knew Keith, who known to his friends as “Allen.”
Tony Hockensmith, Michael Hockensmith’s brother, said Keith served as a former pastor to his brother who became friends years ago when Keith was youth minister at Burnside’s Main Street Baptist Church.
“My brother followed him into the ministry and served as a youth minister at a Baptist church near Danville. Michael saw the pawn shop as an opportunity to reach out to those who might be in financial trouble,” Tony Hockensmith said. “"He didn't feel like you had to be in a church to be able to minister.”
Hockensmith's mother, Barbara Lewis, said Keith showed up at the Hockensmiths’ funeral
“He just said he was so sorry for our loss. It's kind of like he was trying to play innocent.”
According to the citation filed by the Danville Police Department, witnesses at the scene stated a man with physical characteristics similar to Keith’s was in the area when the murders happened. They also told police that a silver or gray van was seen in the area as well.
Police say Keith owns a silver 2008 Dodge Caravan van.
“Investigation revealed that the defendant entered the business known as ABC Gold, Games and More, and shot and killed Michael Hockensmith, Angela Hockensmith, and Daniel Smith,” said the police citation. “(Keith) then removed property belonging to Daniel Smith from the business. Numerous witnesses gave descriptions of a man seen nearby and leaving the business at the time the crimes were committed that match the defendant’s physical characteristics.
“Additionally, a witness described seeing the man fleeing the area in a newer model gray/silver van,” the citation continues. “The defendant owns a 2008 Dodge Caravan, silver in color. Several surveillance cameras at nearby locations captured images of a silver van that resemble the one owned by the defendant in the area of ABC Gold, Games and More during the time frame in which the crimes were committed.”
Police also say Keith, who owns the Gold Rush Gold Buyers store at Monticello Street and U.S. 27 in Somerset, had detailed knowledge of the crime to which the public was not privy.
“Through interviews with witnesses, investigators learned that [Keith] possessed intimate knowledge pertaining to the specifics of the crime, including the number of wounds sustained by one of the victims, and details pertaining to the robbery of the business and its occupants,” the citation said.
Tony Hockensmith told the Herald-Leader that Keith once ran a pawn shop called King’s Corner at the location where ABC Gold, Games and More now sits. He said Michael Hockensmith worked with Keith and helped manage that store before the store changed hands earlier this year from Keith, to the Hockensmiths and co-owner Steven Devine.
Tony Hockensmith also said Keith may have been having financial troubles, and Devine told the Danville Advocate-Messenger that there may have been some issues between Keith and the Hockensmiths after Michael Hockensmith began buying gold from Smith, the customer who was killed in the store, instead of Keith.
Public documents accessed at the Pulaski County Judicial Center reveal that FIA Card Services sued Keith in Sept. 2010 for $17,160.41 in unpaid credit card debt. That case began in Boyle County, where Keith’s address was listed as King’s Corner, but it was transferred to Pulaski Circuit Court after he changed addresses. The case was settled in January of this year.
Somerset criminal defense attorney Mark Stanziano is representing Keith and met with him Thursday. Stanziano maintains that his client isn’t guilty of the charges filed against him, and that he was not at the ABC store in Danville at the time of the incident.
“We deny having done any of this,” said Stanziano. “ ... We intend to fight it.”
Stanziano said that Keith “seems like a very nice guy” and is “in good spirits,” though he expressed concerns when meeting with his counsel Thursday about how the case would affect his wife and daughter, his congregation and his business.
Stanziano said that he doesn’t know why his client has been identified as the suspect in the case. “They (Danville Police) claim that they’ve got all this evidence, but I don’t know what it is,” he said.
“The affidavit says ... the description of the person who (killed the three victims) was the same sort of description of (Keith),” he continued. “It’s a big guy, which eliminates all the little guys, but means the big guys are still suspects. The vehicle looked like (Keith’s), which means it looks like whole bunch of people’s too.”
Stanziano said he suspects that the state will say there was motive in Keith’s prior business relationship with the Hockensmiths, but that “as soon as someone comes forward with some claim of evidence, we’ll have more to talk about in terms of a response.”
Keith was arrested Wednesday at Gold Rush Gold Buyers pawn shop where he bought and sold precious metals. Police executed search warrants at Keith’s Somerset business, Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside and at Keith’s home.
Investigators offered no details about what, if anything, was discovered during the searches.
Rumors began swirling not long after Keith was transferred to Boyle County that he may have attempted suicide at the Pulaski County Detention Center. Pulaski County Jailer Mike Harris said a large slash on his throat — seen in the Pulaski mugshot and in more detail in the Boyle County mugshot — was there when he arrived at the Pulaski County Detention Center.
“He had the cut when he got here,” said Harris. “Medical looked at it.”
Harris said Keith was at the Pulaski jail for less than two hours on Wednesday, and he was monitored during that time. Sources stated that Keith may have tried to cut himself with a soda can, and Harris said inmates don’t have access to such items.
“He wouldn’t have a pop can in jail,” said Harris. “We don’t have cans in jail because of that reason.”
Stanziano said that the claims of attempted suicide had “been blown out of proportion.”
“I keep hearing that,” said Stanziano about the alleged attempt. “I think he’s on suicide watch because I think that’s standard procedure when someone is arrested for a crime such as he’s charged with.”
Keith is being held without bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday in Boyle Circuit Court. Family members said they will be there.
Lisa Moore, a former parishioner at Main Street Baptist Church when Keith was youth director there, said the news of his arrest stunned those who knew him.
“My dad would go on visitations with him...we’re trippin’—he was a good guy,” Moore said.