SOMERSET, Ky. (AP) — A man accused of gunning down a prominent Kentucky defense attorney told police he had deciphered messages from a newspaper and music instructing him to carry out the killing outside the lawyer’s office, a police detective testified Wednesday.
Clinton Inabnitt, charged with murder in last month’s slaying of Mark Stanziano, told police he believed that if he carried out the killing, the ringing in his ears would stop, Somerset Police Detective Chris Gates said at a court hearing.
“He was told through the newspaper voices and he was told that the ringing in his ears would go away if he did this,” Gates testified.
A judge sent the case to a grand jury after hearing testimony from Gates and a sheriff’s detective who witnessed the shooting that rocked the south-central Kentucky town of 11,000 situated a few miles from the banks of Lake Cumberland, a popular tourist haven.
Soon after the slaying, Inabnitt vaguely told his police questioners that he was following orders from “these people,” Gates said.
Police found out during about 45 minutes of questioning that Inabnitt warned Stanziano the day before the shooting that there were people who wanted him killed, and they wanted Inabnitt to carry out the slaying, Gates said. Inabnitt told police that Stanziano laughed off the warning.
“Later that evening … he stated that he had deciphered a message in the paper that this was something that he had to do,” said Gates, who participated in the questioning. “He made it very clear to us that he said this is something I don’t want to do but it’s something that I had to do.”
Inabnitt, 40, also said he had received messages through music to target Stanziano, Gates said. The detective didn’t mention any songs. Police later executed a search warrant at Inabnitt’s residence and seized a box of ammo, a newspaper, iPhone and laptop computer, Gates testified.
When Inabnitt’s pockets were emptied by police, they found about 10 bullets, he said.
Inabnitt purchased the handgun about a year before the shooting, the officer said.
Police also have reviewed surveillance video from a business that has aided the investigation, Gates said.
Inabnitt, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, sat quietly during the testimony.
His attorney, Richard Leary, argued that the charge should be reduced to manslaughter.
Afterward, Leary told reporters that Inabnitt’s comments to police “tend to lend credence to the fact that he might have been not in his complete right mind when this happened, and we’re going to get into that.”
“That’s a mountain that has to be climbed to see what the mental state was here of my client during the alleged commission of this crime,” he said.
Stanziano was shot repeatedly as he arrived at his law office. Inabnitt’s apartment is across the street from the law office, and police have said the two were well acquainted. Convenience store clerks said Stanziano sometimes paid for Inabnitt at the store.
Stanziano, 57, was known for taking high-profile cases. Before he died, he was representing Kenneth Allen Keith, a pastor charged with the murder of three people last year. He also represented a man charged with killing a former sheriff in a plot at a political rally in 2002.
Pulaski County sheriff’s Detective John Hutchinson, a witness to Stanziano’s shooting, on Wednesday described the harrowing moments when the rapid-fire shots rang out in downtown Somerset.
He said he was crossing a street when he heard what sounded like a vehicle backfiring but dreaded that it was a gunshot.
“I looked to my left and saw Mr. Inabnitt shooting Mr. Stanziano,” Hutchinson testified.
Hutchinson said he ran toward the shooter, took cover behind a gas pump at a convenience store, told customers to get back inside and called 911. He then ordered Inabnitt to drop his weapon, he said.
“At one point he turned toward me, I guess it was to see who it was,” Hutchinson said. “On the second command, he dropped his weapon.”
Hutchinson then handcuffed the suspect.
Hutchinson said he didn’t recall if Inabnitt said anything to him. He said he didn’t know how long it took police backup to arrive.
“It seemed like an eternity,” he said.
One witness remembered hearing Inabnitt scream “Hey” at Stanziano before the lawyer was gunned down.
(Copyright 2014, The Associated Press, All rights reserved.)