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Pulaski Co (KY) sheriff's killer gets life in prison
Lexington Heral-Leader ^ | 03/04/2003 | Bill Estep

Posted on 03/04/2003 5:16:57 AM PST by briarjumper

Pulaski sheriff's killer gets life in prison


By Bill Estep


Associated Press

Danny Shelley, who fired the shot that killed a rural Kentucky sheriff at a political rally and fish fry was sentenced to life in prison Monday, March 3, 2003, as part of a plea agreement in Somerset, Ky. Shelley, 31, agreed to testify against the two other men charged with plotting to kill Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron.

SOMERSET - The man who murdered Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron apologized yesterday before going to prison for at least 25 years.

Later, Danny S. Shelley's defense attorney said Shelley was hooked on drugs and was manipulated into pulling the trigger by two other men, one who was supplying him painkillers and the other who was running for sheriff against Catron. Both were charged along with Shelley.

In a short hearing yesterday, Circuit Judge Paul Braden sentenced Shelley, 31, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 25 years. When the judge asked Shelley whether he wanted to say anything, he offered a brief apology for one of the most stunning crimes in the area's history.

"I'd like to say," Shelley started, then turned to face Catron's family in the courtroom, "I'm terribly sorry for what has happened, for what I've done."

Sheriff Todd Wood and Chief Deputy Larry Wesley took Shelley to a state prison classification center after the hearing, according to Wood's office.

Several friends and family members of the slain sheriff, including his 87-year-old mother, Jennie Rachel, were in the courtroom. They later said Shelley's apology seemed sincere.

"It's nice to know there's some admittance of guilt, and some sorrow," said Catron's sister Nancy Catron-Hruneni. "The reality is I'd still rather have my brother back."

Shelley pleaded guilty last month to avoid the death penalty. He is to testify against the two men charged with helping plot the crime, Jeff Morris, 35, and Kenneth White, 55, both of Pulaski County. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

Shelley was a regular in softball leagues around Pulaski County for years and was nicknamed "Pup" because he got along with everyone. But by April 2001, he was addicted to prescription pain drugs because of problems with his knees, and White was supplying his habit, said Mark Stanziano, Shelley's attorney.

White, who once lived in Perry County, has a history of arrests on drug and robbery charges. He was also helping Morris in his bid to unseat Catron in the Republican primary last year as Catron sought a fifth term.

Stanziano said Shelley refused an offer of money to kill Catron, but White and Morris kept the psychological pressure on him. For instance, Stanziano said he understood White reported Shelley to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, then apparently used his influence with the DEA to cool the investigation of Shelley.

A number of factors went into Shelley's pulling the trigger, Stanziano said: his knowledge or suspicion that he faced arrest, his drug problem, and emotional appeals by White and Morris as they used the twisted logic of the drug world to try to convince him that a pre-emptive strike against Catron was the right thing to do.

"If you've got a guy on drugs, it's easier to get him to believe these kinds of crazy things," Stanziano said. "He was preyed upon by the other two."

White's real goal was "creating a (drug) pipeline into the area," Stanziano said.

Attorneys for White and Morris could not be reached last night to respond to Stanziano's comments.

Earlier, however, Corbin attorney David Hoskins, who represents White, said Shelley has reason to embroider his comments about White in order to make his information more valuable.

Yesterday, Braden set a Sept. 2 trial date for Morris and White, who have denied involvement in Catron's murder.

The slain sheriff's brother Lewis Catron said the family signed off on the plea agreement with Shelley because it would help the case against Morris and White.

Hoskins said he anticipates filing motions to separate the trial for the two men. If Braden grants the motion, it could mean only one of the men would be tried in September.

Morris nearly pleaded guilty last year to avoid the death penalty, but he backed out at the last minute. Morris and White now maintain their innocence.

Morris was once a deputy under Catron before being forced out in 2001 over a disciplinary problem.

Police officers and prosecutors suspect drugs and politics motivated scheming by the three to eliminate Catron, a popular incumbent: Morris so he could be sheriff, and White so he would have a friend in the office.

For his part, Shelley said he had been promised a job if Morris won, Kentucky State Police Detective Todd Dalton has said.

Stanziano said it's doubtful Shelley would have gotten a deputy's job. He said there was some talk that Shelley might be in charge of the evidence room, which would have given him access to destroy evidence if necessary.

Shelley, who had received training in the Marine Corps, hid on a wooded hillside and killed Catron with a single rifle shot to the head from about 80 yards last April 13 as the 48-year-old sheriff left a rural fire department fish fry where he had been campaigning.

Spectators saw a man speed away on a motorcycle. Police found Shelley and his rifle within minutes after he wrecked the bike, which was registered to Morris, a few miles from the shooting.

Stanziano said that since Shelley has gotten off drugs, he can't believe he did something to cause so much pain to the Catron family and his own.

However, Shelley is in good sprits even though he faces at least 25 years in prison, Stanziano said. "What he said to me today was, 'I've almost got one down.'''

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; US: Kentucky
KEYWORDS: catron; ky; shelley
One down - Two to go.
1 posted on 03/04/2003 5:16:57 AM PST by briarjumper
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To: briarjumper
This was a shocking murder. I don't know if 25 years is enough, but the family of the murder victim signed off on it, and if he helps put away the plotters either for life or putting them on death row, justice has been done in his case.
2 posted on 03/04/2003 5:23:07 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: Catspaw
I believe Morris is the ultimate target for a death penalty sentence, and Shelley is how the prosecution achieves it.
3 posted on 03/04/2003 6:23:19 AM PST by briarjumper
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To: briarjumper
What a jerk! Why didn't he find a good orthopedic surgeon, or a specialist in pain management? Well, he'll be on those aching knees of his a lot when he gets to the Big House!
4 posted on 03/04/2003 9:11:24 AM PST by Frank_2001
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To: briarjumper
What if Shelley was lying to avoid the death penalty. I don’t like these plea bargaining deals…
5 posted on 03/04/2003 10:14:49 AM PST by babygene (Viable after 87 trimesters)
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To: babygene
The penalty for murder should be death. I would recommend a public hanging or a televised firing squad.
6 posted on 03/04/2003 7:19:20 PM PST by Check6
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To: babygene
What if Shelley was lying to avoid the death penalty. I don’t like these plea bargaining deals…

I'm not a fan of plea deals either. But, I strongly believe White & Morris were the driving force of this assination and the cops know this. I believe the prosecutor will make a deal with Shelley to nail those two.
7 posted on 03/05/2003 5:37:38 AM PST by briarjumper
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