Juvenile's taped confession of murder played at Garrard hearing

December 23, 2003|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - In a chilling tape-recorded confession played Monday in Garrard County Circuit Court, 17-year-old Jonathan Dyer recounted how he and Danny Poff, 22, snuck into the home of Burdette Earls and beat Earls and Sandra Jernigan with 2-by-4 boards. Earls died from his wounds.

"We done it," Dyer says early in the recording.

Kentucky State Police Detective Monte Owens, who interviewed Dyer in the tape, played the recording in a hearing in which Dyer's attorney, Public Defender Susanne McCollough, sought bail for her client. McCollough, noting that Dyer was not arrested until a week after confessing, had sought a $25,000 property bond for her client.

Circuit Judge Hunter Daugherty denied the motion, citing Kentucky law that prohibits bail to persons whose crimes could make them subject to the death penalty.

Poff and Dyer are charged with the capital murder of Earls, 65, and assaulting Jernigan, 43, during a burglary June 19 on Harmon's Lick Road. Both are also charged with two counts of robbery and tampering with evidence. In addition, Poff is charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and being a persistent felony offender.


In the tape, Dyer, who is being prosecuted as an adult, tells Owens that he and Poff decided to rob Earls because they believed the victim kept a large sum of money in his house.

With Poff wearing a ski mask, Dyer said, the two went to Earls' house, each grabbing a charred length of 2-by-4 board from the ruins of Earls' burned main house. Earls and Jernigan were inside a garage that had been converted to living quarters.

"We'll just knock 'em out and take the money," Dyer said in the tape.

The two climbed through an unlocked window, he said, and found Earls asleep in a chair and Jernigan dozing on a bed. Dyer stepped behind Earls and Poff stood beside Jernigan. On the count of three, Dyer said, they struck Earls and Jernigan simultaneously.

Earls slumped over unconscious, Dyer said, while Jernigan screamed.

Poff struck her "three, four times" until she was quiet, he said. Earls was alive, he said.

The two then searched the house for money, but found only $20 in Jernigan's purse. Poff found an unloaded handgun, Dyer said, and "stuck it in his britches."

Before leaving the house, he said, they checked on Earls and Jernigan. Both were alive, he said.

They took Jernigan's purse, the handgun and the boards when they left, he said. They later burned the purse, the boards, Poff's mask and their clothes, Dyer said.

Responding to questions by Commonwealth Attorney Thomas Lockridge, Detective Owens said that Poff had largely confirmed Dyer's account.

Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty for Poff.

No such decision has been made for Dyer.

Dyer is in juvenile detention until he turns 18 on Feb. 24, when he will be transferred to jail.

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