HARRODSBURG — The preliminary hearing for the man accused of shooting his former business partner to death last month on Herrington Lake was postponed Tuesday while he undergoes a competency evaluation.
James Michael Kelley, 52, of Lexington pleaded not guilty last week in Mercer District Court to the Dec. 22 murder of John “Bud” Dacci and the attempted murder of Dacci’s wife, Mary Ann, inside their home on Ashley Camp Road.
Kelley’s attorney, public defender Susanne McCollough, said Tuesday she requested the competency evaluation after talking to her client for the first time at his arraignment last week. Judge Jeff Dotson granted the request.
Kelley, who shot himself in the head a day after the murder, appeared to be confused and barely coherent during his arraignment, McCollough said.
“He knew his name. He did not know why he was here,” McCollough said. “I told him he was charged with murder. He said, ‘I don’t understand.’”
Kelley is being held in the medical unit of the Kentucky State Reformatory at La Grange where he is still being treated for the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center is also at La Grange, so that might speed up the evaluation process, which takes up to 60 days, McCollough said. Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms said Tuesday that he likely will present the case directly to a Mercer County grand jury on Feb. 7 if it is still held up in district court waiting for the evaluation.
“Anything that results from the evaluation can then be taken up in circuit court,” Bottoms said.
Along with the mental competency evaluation that goes toward determining Kelley’s ability to stand trial, McCollough asked for a criminal responsibility assessment to determine if Kelley knew what he was doing when he allegedly shot the Daccis.
Though Kelley’s lack of mental facilities exhibited during his arraignment would appear to be the result of the self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, McCollough said it’s possible he suffered some sort of medical or mental failure before the shootings occurred.
McCollough said she has spoken with Kelley’s daughter, who said her father did not appear to have any medical or mental issues prior to the shootings.
The daughter also said that the two men who used to be partners in Dacci Heating and Air dissolved that business relationship amicably years ago and that there were no other “stressors” in Kelley’s life, McCollough said.
Kelley left the business to retire, purchased an RV and wintered in Florida.
He was planning to return to Florida the day after Christmas, four days after the shootings, the daughter said.
“She is completely in shock. This is completely out of character for him,” McCollough said. “It’s really out of the blue and, of course, he hasn’t been able to tell me what’s going on.”
Bottoms, who was at the scene the night of the shootings and has discussed the case with investigators, said he did not think a motive has been established.
“To my knowledge, a specific motive has not been brought out,” the prosecutor said.
Because Kelley allegedly was armed when he forced his way into the Daccis’ home on Dec. 22, he is also charged with first-degree burglary. That charge is considered an aggravater that makes the case eligible for the death penalty, McCollough explained.
Bottoms said he has briefly discussed the possibility of seeking the death penalty with members of Dacci’s family, but no determination has been made.
“That’s a decision we’ll have to wait to make,” he said.
According to court records, Kelley allegedly drove to the Daccis’ home and forced his way in. Mary Ann Dacci told police Kelley shot her husband several times and then shot her several times as she was trying to escape.
Mary Ann Dacci, who was also tazed during the incident, was able to call 911, court records show. She has been released from the hospital and is recovering with family.
After the shooting, police sent out a nationwide alert to other law enforcement agencies to be on the look out for Kelley, whom they considered armed and dangerous.
About 24 hours later, Kelley showed up at Pattie A. Clay Hospital in Richmond, where he shot himself outside near the entrance to the emergency room, police said.