By KEVIN BOWDEN
A brief pre-trial conference was held Thursday in Fulton County (Ky.) Circuit Court for murder suspect Tommy Lattus, who is still undergoing a mental evaluation in Louisville, Ky.
Lattus, 30, has been charged with the Jan. 23 murder of Hickman, Ky., Mayor Charles Murphy, and is also charged with first-degree burglary. He was indicted by the Fulton County Grand Jury in March and has entered a not guilty plea.
Lattus’ murder trial has been set for Sept. 10 in Hickman.
A second pre-trial conference has been scheduled for June 21 to update the court on Lattus’ mental status.
Mayfield, Ky., attorney Dennis Null, who is representing Lattus, explained Thursday’s pre-trial conference was scheduled to allow both sides in the case to report their progress to Circuit Court Judge Tim Langford and for a possible plea agreement to be reached.
In court Thursday, Null informed Langford, “He (Lattus) is not doing very well.”
Lattus has been undergoing a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center in Louisville, Ky.
He has been held on a $1 million bond in connection with the early morning shooting death of Murphy on Jan. 23. It was on that date that Lattus entered the Hickman Police Department and, according to court testimony by Hickman police officer Phillip Burnett, “He said he killed Charles Murphy.”
Burnett’s account of the events in the early morning hours of Jan. 23 detail his investigation into Lattus’ claim. Burnett has stated he had Lattus detained at the police department while he went to Murphy’s residence and found the mayor at the foot of his bed in the master bedroom, dead from a gunshot wound to the head. The door to Murphy’s residence had been forced open and a 12-gauge Beretta was discovered on the porch at the murder scene.
Burnett has testified in court that he summoned Hickman Police Chief Tony Grogan and the coroner to the crime scene, and he has also stated in court he read Lattus his rights, after which Lattus repeated his murder confession on tape.
At the heart of the court proceedings leading up to Lattus’ September trial date is his mental competency to stand trial.
Null explained the case is “very complicated.”
“I’ve talked to him (Lattus) a couple of times,” Null told The Messenger outside the courtroom.
He went on to discuss the process used in Kentucky to deal with criminal defendants with mental health issues. “We don’t handle those problems very well,” he said as he explained changes need to be made to the system to deal with clients such as his who have mental illness problems.
Asked whether he has talked to Lattus’ family, he replied they are “devastated … about as bad as it can be.”
“It’s affected the whole community, not just Tommy’s family,” Null said.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.11.12