Petition - Cornett made death threats

December 05, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

The man charged with planning to murder three people involved in his recently concluded divorce will be arraigned Tuesday.

Ronnie Gay Cornett, 56, is being held without bond in the Boyle County Detention Center on three felony counts of criminal attempt to commit murder.

He had reportedly made death threats against his ex-wife and her family a month ago.

Kathleen Cornett said in a sworn domestic violence petition filed in Boyle District Court that her ex-husband called a son on a cell phone Nov. 6 "and said he was on his way to the house and he was going to kill us all."

A hearing to discuss that matter had been scheduled for Thursday at the Boyle County Courthouse in Danville. Kathleen Cornett was to have met with her attorney and Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie.


Kentucky State Police said they thwarted a plot in which Ronnie Cornett planned to go to the courthouse with a gun to shoot all three.

Kentucky State Trooper Chris Lanham said a third party, who he would not name, gave a letter to police that indicated a murder plot.

"Let's just say the indication was enough to set some alarm bells off and had us immediately investigating. We contacted the appropriate people at family court on Wednesday night to let them know what had been revealed, so that they could take the appropriate measures for safety."

Ronnie Cornett was arrested at his home Thursday and later charged with three counts of criminal attempt to commit murder.

Best known for Triangle Mart

Ronnie Cornett owns five companies in Kentucky and West Virginia. The Cornetts are best known for Triangle Mart in Danville, which they have owned and operated for 14 years.

Kathleen Cornett, 52, filed for divorce in July 2003 after 36 years of marriage. The Cornetts have two sons, Eric and Greg, both attorneys.

The divorce proceedings concluded in August.

Details about the alleged plot continue to emerge since Cornett's arrest earlier this week.

Police say two loaded guns were found, one inside Cornett's residence and one in his vehicle.

The Cornetts' lengthy divorce proceedings included investigations into Ronnie Cornett's business practices during the year his ex-wife sued for divorce.

In January of 2003, court documents say Cornett placed his girlfriend, Sheila Haggin, 35, on the payroll of Collier and Associates Inc., a company he formed with two others in 1993 which provided management services to mine companies.

A hairdresser by training, Haggin was employed as an administrative assistant by Ronnie Cornett, and was paid $4,000 every two weeks by the company, records show. Subsequently, Ronnie Cornett's bi-weekly pay of $6,000 dropped to $2,000.

Haggin was employed to assist Ronnie Cornett's business partner, who is based in Danville, yet was living in West Virginia with Cornett at the time.

"Simply put, it appears that Ms. Haggin's employment was a ruse to permit Ronnie to depress his income and divert assets from the marital estate," the court decree declares.

The document continues: "It is obvious that the conduct was an attempt to make it appear that Ronnie had a very modest income during the year of litigation in this matter when in truth he had the benefit of three times the income reported. The total amount expended on Ms. Haggin in 2003 alone is $121,928."

The distribution of property

The distribution of property, assets and company incomes were split down the middle between the pair, for a total of $1,042,563.50 each. Kathleen Cornett was awarded spousal maintenance in the amount of $1,600 per month.

The Cornetts were married in Dickinson County, Va., in 1967, when he was 19 and she was 16 and still attending Whitesburg High School. By the time she filed for divorce in August 2002, the couple had accumulated an estate worth $2.5 million, according to court records.

The decree also states that most of the legal fees for Kathleen Cornett were a result of the court's motions to compel the conduct on the part of Ronnie Cornett as well as lack of compliance with other prior court orders. The court deemed it appropriate that Ronnie Cornett "make a significant contribution to Kathleen's attorneys' fees beyond the $1,200 previously awarded her as sanctions for failure to comply with a previous Court order."

Kathleen Cornett was awarded legal fees in the amount of $22,000, to be paid by Ronnie Cornett to Stoll Keenon & Park, LLP.

Although O'Brian was not lead counsel for Kathleen Cornett, Lanham said, "She must've been specifically mentioned in the threats or plans as her name was on the affidavit as an intended victim."

Anita Britton, O'Brian's law partner at Stoll Keenan & Park in Lexington, served as lead counsel for Kathleen Cornett.

"One thing I wanted to make clear is that Kathleen is not his estranged wife, but his ex-wife, " Britton said in reference to recent reports on the incident.

Britton declined to comment on the charges against Ronnie Cornett.

No comment from Family Court officials

Boyle Family Court officials were instructed not to comment on the situation.

Leigh Ann Hiatt, the public information officer with the Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort, said that the "no comment" rule is normal protocol in a situation that involves threats "of such a serious nature."

Circuit Court Judge Peckler said that this "too close for comfort" threat has really opened the court's eyes about the lack of security in local courthouses.

"We have already set up a meeting with the AOC for next week to get some direction and help in finding out what we should and can do, what's available and what can be offered to us. It's just a constant quandary. We can say what we need here, but we can't order anyone to pay for it. This type of situation is something that really shows us the seriousness of threats, given what we've learned almost happened here."

Peckler concluded that "like it or not, everything boils down to who's going to pay for it."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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