Garrard murder suspects told police they were after drugs

October 29, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - A Liberty man accused in the death of a Garrard County man and the beating of a woman June 19 told police that he and his alleged accomplice broke into the man's house on Harmon's Lick Road to steal the woman's drugs.

That's according to a recorded interview between capital murder suspect Danny Dwight Poff, 22, and Kentucky State Police detectives Monte Owens and Sam Agee, which was played in court during a pre-trial hearing before Circuit Judge Hunter Daugherty Tuesday. The recording was made July 21.

A recording of testimony from Det. Owens during the July 16 grand jury hearing, from which Poff was later indicted, was also played during the hearing Tuesday.

Poff, of Carmen's Spur in Liberty, was indicted by a Garrard County grand jury July 18 and his alleged accomplice in the crimes, Jonathan Dyer, 17, of Harmon's Lick Road, Crab Orchard, was indicted Oct. 19.


Dyer also appeared in court Tuesday for arraignment. Daugherty waived formal arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty.

In the recorded interview with the detectives, Poff said that he and Dyer broke into Burdette Earls' home to steal drugs that belonged to Sandra Jernigan, who was staying with Earls that night. Poff stated that after entering the residence through a window, he hit Jernigan in the head with a 2x4 and Dyer struck Earls in the head, also with a 2x4. The wood had been found outside Earls' residence from a nearby house that had recently burned down.

Earls died later that day at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center and Jernigan was treated and released from Garrard County Memorial Hospital.

In the tape of the grand jury testimony, Owens stated that Poff and Dyer timed out their alleged attacks of Earls and Jernigan.

"On the count of three, they struck (Jernigan and Earls)," Owens said. Dyer and Poff took her purse, Earl's pistol, and some prescription drugs, Owens told grand jurors. The only money taken was $20.

Owens said that Poff first denied involvement in the murder of Earls and assault of Jernigan.

"He said he was working on a car until 2 a.m., then he heard screams and saw the lights go out (in Earls' house). He became concerned and felt it was his civic duty (to call police.)," said Owens.

But later Poff changed his story, Owens said.

In the recording with Dets. Owens and Agee, Poff said after he struck Jernigan and Dyer hit Earls and took several things belonging to both victims, the two burned their T-shirts and shoes outside. While Dyer took a shower, Poff went back to "check on" Earls and Jernigan.

"Burdette was in the floor ... blood was all over his head. Sandy was in bed. She was sitting up and looking around," Poff said.

"I don't understand why you went back up there," one of the detectives is heard saying to Poff on the tape.

"Just to check on them, to make sure we didn't hurt them that bad," he said.

Poff said later that he had his girlfriend call police.

Poff told the detectives that he and Dyer assaulted Earls and Jernigan to see what kind of pills she had and to possibly take them. He indicated that it was on impulse that there was never any scheme or plan.

"Our plan was to look at the pills," Poff said. "If it was the kind we wanted, we were going to take them."

Poff said he thought Jernigan had Xanax or Loratabs in a duffle bag.

"We wanted to see what was in there, grab the bag and get the hell out of there," he said.

In the recording, in which Poff used numerous expletives to describe his and Dyer's actions on June 19, he said that he was not drunk, but that he and Dyer had taken several shots of whiskey and had "a Loratab or two." Poff said they were not interested in robbing the couple.

"All we went up there for was the pills. We weren't interested in their dang money."

Poff's attorney George Sornberger called three witnesses to testify in attempts to set a bond for Poff.

The first was Sandra Jernigan, who told Sornberger that on June 19, she remembers waking up and realizing that she had been hit. She said she didn't know by whom, though.

Sornberger asked if police detectives asked her if she knew who hit her.

"I told them I didn't know," she said.

Jernigan also said she was questioned by police in Casey County. Det. Owens seemed angry and asked questions with a raised voice, she said. Later, while in jail on a probation violation, Jernigan said she wrote down some notes on a piece of paper describing her interview with detectives. Sornberger submitted that paper as defense exhibit "A."

Sornberger next called Marshall Smith to the stand, who had been Poff's probation officer since February. Poff complied with everything asked of him, Smith said.

"If the judge decides to set bond ... if Danny lives with his father, would you agree to supervise him?" asked Sornberger.

"I'd do anything I'm capable of," said Smith.

Sornberger next called Poff's father, Raymond Lee Poff to the stand, who said he would accept his son into his home if bond is granted.

Sornberger told Daugherty that he believes Poff should get bond because he doesn't think Poff committed a capital crime, probable cause wasn't determined until after the grand jury met in July, no gun or knife was used, the killings weren't planned and that Poff said it wasn't him that delivered the fatal blow to Earls.

But Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Lockridge argued that Poff should not receive a bond because he entered a residence armed with a weapon to get drugs.

"Burdette Earls died from a blunt force impact. Multiple skull fractures caused his death," said Lockridge. Burdette Earls was not struck one time."

Judge Daugherty agreed with Lockridge and refused to set bond.

Another pre-trial hearing was set for Dec. 22.

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