HARRODSBURG — After listening to two psychologists testify Monday about the mental capacity of James Michael Kelley, Mercer Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler will rule soon if Kelley is competent to stand trial for the murder of John “Bud” Dacci.
Kelley, 52, of Lexington shot himself in the head the day after he allegedly shot Dacci to death and attacked Dacci’s wife, Maryann, in their Herrington Lake home in December 2010. The question is whether the brain injury caused by the self-inflicted gunshot wound is healing enough for Kelley to aid in his own defense.
If Peckler decides Kelley is competent, it appears likely prosecutors will seek the death penalty. Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms said after Monday’s hearing that he is “seriously considering” the capital punishment option, and public defender Susanne McCollough is scheduled to start training for death penalty cases later this month.
During Monday’s confidential hearing, which lasted more than an hour, Peckler heard from Dr. Greg Perri of the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center in LaGrange and Dr. Ed Conner of Lexington, who was brought in by McCollough. Both men have evaluated Kelley.
Peckler ruled six months after the shootings that Kelley was incompetent to stand trial but ordered him to be reevaluated at a later date to see if his injuries were healing. A second competency hearing was held in December but not completed because McCollough asked Peckler for more time, apparently because Perri testified that he believed Kelley could stand trial and the defense wanted to have its own expert evaluate him.
Bottoms and McCollough both said they could not discuss Monday’s hearing because competency hearings are confidential by law. Both said they expect Peckler to issue his ruling before Kelley’s next scheduled court appearance on April 10.
Kelley walked into Monday’s hearing under his own power; in December, he was in a wheelchair. McCollough said her client is improving physically but was unsure if his mental faculties are getting any stronger.
“He did remember my last name this time,” she said.
Kelley claims to have no memory of events leading up to the shootings, his alleged rampage at the Dacci home — Maryann Dacci was shot several times and Tazed but survived to call 911 — or shooting himself outside Pattie A. Clay Hospital in Richmond.
Attorneys for both sides have talked to family and friends of the Daccis and Kelley in trying to develop their theories of the case but have come up with no potential motives for the shootings. Kelley and Bud Dacci were former business partners in Lexington but parted ways amicably years before the shootings.