Murder sentencing begins for deaf homeless man

Jeston Murray in court Monday, December 12.
Jeston Murray in court Monday, December 12.

Louisville, KY - By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The sentencing hearing started just before 10:00 Tuesday morning, December 13, for Jeston Murray, a death homeless man convicted late Monday night by a jury of two counts of murder.

The guilty verdict came down just before 11:00 pm, wrapping up nearly two weeks of testimony and eight hours of deliberation.  He was found guilty of murder, robbery, burglary and tampering with physical evidence.

"This is a unique case, this is a compelling case," said Murray's defense attorney Dave Mejia after the verdict Monday night.

Both the prosecution and defense could call witnesses during the sentencing proceedings, with a decision possibly coming Tuesday or in the days ahead.

Police say the weekend after Christmas 2008, Murray and Michael Knights killed 72-year-old Darrell Spencer at the Army Surplus store on West Main Street with an ax, they stole from the store.

"I wasn't expecting that to happen," said Mejia as he told jurors what Murray told police. "He asked me to help him steal, not rob, not hurt, not murder, not harm, he asked me to help him steal."

Prosecutor Tom Van De Rostyne strongly disagrees. He says there's no dispute that both men discussed the murder before they entered the store.

"One of them did it, that's what we keep hearing," said Van De Rostyne. "We don't know which person killed him, they could have both dealt blows to him."

During the nine day trial, Knights took the stand. He told jurors, he alone killed Spencer and then a week later, Marcus Penny, at a Manslick Road apartment. He changed his testimony the next day, saying that Murray was the one who did the killing.

"What we do know is that he was killed because of a plan and a robbery that he was in on, that he was in on," said Van De Rostyne.

"All that has been presented to you, overwhelmingly has proven to you that Michael Knights has did this and did this alone," Mejia told jurors.

Knights, who pleaded guilty to both murders, testified both for and against Murray. Knights is serving life with the possibility of parole for 25 years.

As for Murray, the sentencing could range from a few years behind bars, all the way up to the death penalty.

The sentencing hearing started Tuesday morning, December 14, with both the prosecution and the defense urging a judge to clarify and change some of the instructions that would be presented to the jurors, who will for the most part decide Murray's sentence.

After both parties seemed to come to a conclusion, witnesses were called to take the stand.  However, just a few minutes into that part of the hearing, a long recess was ordered.

The sentence hearing could wrap up Tuesday, or could take several days.  WAVE 3 is Working For You with the outcome on WAVE 3 News, on, and on your mobile device with the WAVE 3 app.

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