MURRAY — The special judge in the case of a Murray man accused of killing two women in early 2019 once again set a trial date in the case Tuesday.
In a video conference made necessary because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, McCracken Circuit Judge Tim Kaltenbach set the case for Shannon Scott for March 15, 2021 in Calloway Circuit Court in Murray. This comes less than a month after the defense asked for a continuance with the original trial date,which was for September of this year.
However, there have been negotiations between the prosecution and the defense as to a possible settlement in the case. With that in mind, Kaltenbach also set a status hearing for 1 p.m. Aug. 28 that likely will be via video conference as well.
“The Commonwealth did make an offer so I think I almost would need to schedule an in-person visit at (the Calloway County Jail),” said Scott’s lead attorney, Doug Moore of Paducah. Scott has been incarcerated since the night of Feb. 7, 2019, when Murray police officers arrested Scott after the bodies of two women were discovered at locations on Catalina Drive.
“I know that our investigator was able to meet with him (Monday), but I’m not sure about the size of the room. It could be that just one of us can go in at a time. I don’t think the entire defense team can be there so I may need to schedule Mr. Scott very soon.”
Kaltenbach took over the case shortly after Scott’s arrest on charges of two counts of murder in the death of Tera Todd, 37, and Evelyn Scott, 77, as well as tampering with physical evidence and cruelty to animals in the second degree. Calloway Circuit Judge James T. Jameson recused himself shortly after Scott’s arrest because of a conflict of interest in the case.
“I think it would be good if we went ahead and gave this a trial date today, then set another status conference in the near future,” said Calloway Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Foust. “We’re not taking our offer off the table right now, but we would like to know sooner rather than later, so that we could start our trial preparations.”
The Aug. 28 status hearing would seem to be the final chance for a settlement in the case. Kaltenbach made it clear Tuesday that his intensions are for the March 2021 trial date to stick this time.
“I don’t like to schedule trial dates and then not use those dates because it’s especially harder now than it has been for me to give up three weeks of cases,” he said, invoking the ever-present coronavirus into the mix. “We want to be absolutely sure with this. This is not going to be a ‘we’re going to move it’ business. We’re going to try it and I want both sides to understand that, with this trial date, unless a settlement is made (before or on Aug. 28), that’s what this court plans to do.”
Even though the trial date is now in place for less than a year from now, there already is concern on all sides that the virus could cause issues. That is why Kaltenbach began the process toward dealing with the first part of the trial on Tuesday - jury selection.
He asked Jameson’s secretary, Sarah Sager, who also was part of Tuesday’s proceeding, to notify Jameson that between 150 to 200 prospects will probably need to be part of the available jury pool. Sager said Calloway Circuit Court Clerk Linda Avery could also help with making sure that the jury pool for January and February in Calloway could be held over for March.
Foust, a former circuit judge himself, thought this was a good idea.
“I’m basing this on my experience (16 years serving Kentucky’s 42nd Judicial Circuit that covers Calloway and Marshall counties). The only time I had trouble seating a jury in a high-profile case in Calloway County was when we had fewer than 100 to start with,” he said. “I think at least 150 certainly would be sufficient.”
Kaltenbach said he had a similar problem not too long ago.
“I had a case down in Carlisle County where we had 50 jurors and I found out that’s not enough to try a case, so I want to be sure we have at least 150 jurors. I want to see if there’s anything I can do to be sure we’ve got 150 jurors for March,” he said.
In addition to the murder case, Scott is also charged with theft by unlawful taking of an automobile - $10,000 or more but under $1 million. This stems from a case in which Scott is accused of having illegally taken a vehicle from a Murray dealership about a month before the women died. That case will not be included in the August hearing as Foust said the murder case will probably dictate the theft case.
Todd’s body was discovered the night of Feb. 7 near a garage by the property’s homeowners. Scott was discovered inside her home and that is where officers say they found Shannon hiding when he was arrested. In addition, Scott’s dog was found deceased.
Individuals facing charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.