HARRODSBURG — Its been nearly two years since John “Bud” Dacci was gunned down inside his Herrington Lake home, and a trial date for the man accused in his murder was further delayed Tuesday when a new attorney was assigned to the case.
Lexington attorney Tom Griffiths was named lead attorney for James Michael Kelley, replacing local public defender Susanne McCollough, who had represented Kelley since Dacci’s murder in December 2010.
The move comes after Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms filed a “notice of aggravators” last month in Mercer Circuit Court, allowing him to seek the death penalty against Kelley if convicted. Griffins has experience defending death penalty cases while McCollough does not, Bottoms explained.
It will take some time for Griffins to get up to speed on the case, Bottoms said. Judge Darren Peckler set Jan. 15 as the next hearing, but Bottoms sounded doubtful the case would be set for trial at that time.
Along with Dacci’s murder, Kelley, 52, of Lexington is accused of the attempted murder of Bud Dacci’s wife Maryann, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, the aggravating factors needed to increase the murder charge from a Class A felony to a capital charge.
Police said Kelley drove to his former business partner’s home, broke in and opened fire, shooting Bud Dacci several times. Maryann Dacci also was shot but survived and called 911.
Kelley fled but shot himself in the head the next day outside Pattie A. Clay Hospital in Richmond.
The resulting brain injuries led Judge Darren Peckler to initially declare Kelley incompetent to stand trial, but Kelley’s condition improved and Peckler ruled Kelley was competent earlier this year, after hearing testimony from two psychiatrists who had evaluated him.
McCollough challenged that ruling to the state Court of Appeals, but the appellate court ruled last month that the case can go forward.
Bottoms has not declared he will seek the death penalty in the case but said it remains an option if Kelley stands trial.