Tip foils alleged courthouse murder plot

December 03, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

A timely tip and quick action by Kentucky State Police helped avert what authorities believe would have been a deadly shooting spree Thursday in Boyle Family Court.

Ronnie Gay Cornett was arrested about 7 a.m. Thursday, shortly before he was to appear in family court for a hearing in his divorce case. Cornett was planning to gun down his ex-wife Kathleen Cornett, her attorney Eileen O'Brian of Lexington, and Judge Bruce Petrie, said Trooper Chris Lanham.

"There is no doubt in our minds we probably saved several lives yesterday," Lanham said.

Cornett, 56, was charged with three counts of attempt to commit murder. He is being held today without bond in the Boyle County Detention Center and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in district court.

Lanham said KSP received the tip Wednesday night alerting them to Cornett's alleged plot. They arrested him Thursday morning at his residence on Sea Biscuit Drive on an outstanding warrant for civil contempt of court that had been previously issued by Petrie, Lanham said.


One gun was recovered from Cornett's residence and another from his vehicle, said Lanham, who declined to identify the types of weapons or say whether they were loaded.

"We believe he was going to use a firearm to carry it out," Lanham said.

Kathleen Cornett said today that her divorce from her ex-husband became final in August. She said she was warned of the threat but did not want to discuss the case further.

"I was told that my life was in danger and that's about all I really know and the only thing I want to say at this point," said Kathleen Cornett from behind the counter of Triangle Mart, 532 S. Fourth St., which was awarded to her as part of the divorce settlement.

Poor security at courthouse

Lanham declined to identify the source of the tip but indicated the information was credible. It is likely Cornett could have carried out his alleged plot because of poor security at the Boyle County Courthouse, suggested Lanham, a spokesman for the KSP post in Richmond who used to cover Boyle, Lincoln and Garrard counties as a trooper.

"It's always concerned me, going back to when I worked Boyle County, about the lack of security at the courthouse," he said. "There aren't any metal detectors or anything. Hopefully, they'll address that after this."

Sheriff LeeRoy Hardin, who is in charge of courthouse security and supplies courtroom bailiffs, agreed that the courthouse isn't as secure as it should be.

"I've always said we're running on luck so far and our luck is going to run out some day. It almost did yesterday," Hardin said today. "It's kind of scared me to death. We don't have enough bailiffs or metal detectors. I don't know what the solutions are, but we've got to make something happen quick. I'm glad that (KSP) got that tip and acted on it, because it could have been really bad."

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