|Murder suspect appears in court |
|Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 10:00 pm |
| By KEVIN BOWDEN |
Murder suspect Tommy Lattus sat silently next to his defense attorney Tuesday afternoon. Dressed in a faded orange jail jumpsuit and a bullet-proof vest, he expressed no emotion as he sat in the third-floor district courtroom in Hickman, Ky., and listened to the testimony of Hickman police officer Phillip Burnett.
In 15 minutes, Burnett’s testimony was complete and Lattus was bound over to the March 8 term of the Fulton County (Ky.,) Grand Jury. He has been charged in the shooting death of Hickman Mayor Charles Murphy, who was killed at his home in the early morning hours of Jan. 23.
Fulton County District Court Judge Hunter Whitesell presided over the brief hearing and declared there was enough probable cause to send the case to the next grand jury.
Lattus, 30, is being represented by Mayfield, Ky., attorney Dennis Null, who briefly cross-examined Burnett.
A mental evaluation was requested by Null for his client, but that issue will be dealt with by the court at a later date.
On Tuesday, Lattus’ court appearance was dominated by the testimony of the only Hickman police officer on duty the night Lattus arrived at the Hickman Police Department and confessed to killing Murphy.
Burnett testified in court that Lattus showed up at the police department around 1:20-1:25 a.m. claiming to have killed Murphy.
“He said he killed Charles Murphy,” Burnett said from the courtroom witness chair.
The officer said he summoned emergency medical services workers to detain Lattus while he went to the mayor’s residence to verify Lattus’ statement. Burnett said Lattus, who was wearing a knife holster on his hip that night, was compliant as he was handcuffed in the foyer of the police department.
Burnett said he checked Murphy’s residence and found the town’s mayor dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Burnett stated Murphy was found at the foot of his bed in the master bedroom and that a side door had been “forced open.”
The coroner and Police Chief Tony Grogan were summoned to the murder scene, according to Burnett.
He stated in court that Lattus was read his rights before being questioned about the murder and he repeated his confession on tape.
Burnett said Lattus made a claim, “something about the Lord’s tongue” as for his motive in the shooting of Murphy.
The officer said when he interviewed Lattus, he claimed Murphy said, “stop it, stop it, stop it” before being fatally shot.
A 12-gauge Beretta was found on the porch at the murder scene, according to Burnett, who also stated shots had been fired at Lattus’ mother’s house. Carol Lattus was in Austria at the time of the shooting, but has since returned to Hickman.
In a related development, the Hickman City Commission met Monday night and appointed mayor pro-tem David Lattus to serve as mayor until the Nov. 6 General Election. Murphy was in the final two years of his term in office and his replacement, elected in the Nov. 6 election, will serve the remainder of his term in office. The city commission has 30 days to appoint a replacement to fill David Lattus’ vacancy on the commission, according to city commissioner Charles Choate.
David Lattus, 67, is a Goodyear retiree and is serving his second term on the commission.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 2.1.12