TRIGG COUNTY, Ky. - The prosecutor in the case steps down and fears he'll have to testify for the other side. The prosecution, defense, and sheriff involved in a murder case from 11 years ago are pointing fingers at each other, and the prosecutorm, who spent years on the case, says he's through.
Commonwealth Attorney G.L. Ovey said he doesn't want to walk away from the case against Claude Russell, but feels he must out of concern he might be called to the stand to testify.
In June of 2002, 33-year-old Chantell Humphries was found shot to death in a rural Trigg County pasture. In November of 2002, police arrested and charged Claude Russell of Cadiz, Kentucky with her murder. In February of 2003, those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. In July of 2011, Russell was re-arrested and charged again. Months later, jurors couldn't reach a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial.
Trigg County Sheriff Ray Burnam conducted a parallel investigation on his own and refused to hand his findings over to the court. After a court order in December, Burnam handed that information over in January. After reviewing Burnam's investigation, the defense said the evidence 'tended to show someone other than the defendant caused the murder" and accused the prosecution of withholding information.
If Commonwealth Attorney G.L. Ovey is allowed to step down, both sides say this will delay the case even more.
Ovey knew this case so well, he'd worked on it for years, now someone else must be caught up to speed.
He also said he prayed for justice for Chantell Humphries' family, that's why it was with tear-filled eyes he announced he legally cannot serve as prosecutor on this case anymore.
"I am obligated to the rules that govern my professional career," Ovey said in a news conference on Thursday.
Ovey fought back tears as he asked to step down from a case that's stayed close to his heart since Humphries was found dead here more than a decade ago.
He blamed Trigg County Sheriff Ray Burnam, whom he says withheld information.
"If a case is that important to get involved with, disclose immediately whatever info you have received to the lead agency. You have a duty and a responsibility to do so," Ovey said.
Now Claude Russell's attorney wants the case dismissed because information was initially withheld. Ovey said he was trying to get his hands on the information all along. He said he hates to step down and hates that his decision means a grieving family will have to wait even longer to get the closure they deserve.
Ovey had to ask the Kentucky Attorney General for permission to step down, and the A.G. will then appoint another prosecutor. Ovey said he has to do this because state law prohibits him for prosecuting and testifying in the same case. Russell's attorney told Local 6 that decision was very presumptuous of Ovey and he's disappointed that Ovey "jumped ship" and says he doesn't if know if he will call Ovey to testify.
Ovey had strong words for Burnam Thursday. Burnam told Local 6 that Ovey was a liar. Other than that, he said he promised the judge he wouldn't talk about this case until it's finished.
Russell's next court appearance is set for May 31, but Ovey says that'll likely be postponed, as the Attorney General searched for Ovey replacement.