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TAYLORSVILLE -- A Mount Eden woman serving time for the 1998 murder of a Shelbyville man will wait for at least another month to hear if she will be granted a new trial — and she'll do her waiting in prison.
After a suspect being questioned by Louisville Metro Police on separate charges claimed he — not Susan Jean King, 52 — committed the murder of Kyle "Deanie" Breeden in 1998, King's attorney filed a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Hickman spent the majority of Thursday and Friday hearing about that newly discovered evidence as the defense, Linda A. Smith of the Kentucky Innocence Project, and the Commonwealth's Attorney Laura Donnell and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney David Nutgrass called over a dozen witnesses to testify.
King, of the 2000 block of Van Buren Road, was indicted on murder charges in regard to Breeden's death in April 2007.
Breeden's body was found in the Kentucky River near the Owen-Henry county line in November 1998. According to court documents, Breeden and King were in an on-again, off-again relationship. Two months after her indictment, a grand jury charged her with tampering with evidence.
In September 2008, King told Hickman she wanted to enter the amended plea of second-degree manslaughter pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford — meaning she did not admit guilt, but she believed it was in her best interest to enter the plea due to the evidence against her. At the time of King's plea, Hickman told King that by entering a guilty plea, she waived all rights to entering a plea of not guilty in a higher court. King is currently serving a 10-year sentence for the manslaughter charge and 5 years, to be served concurrently, for the tampering charge.
In May of this year, when being questioned about a separate case in Jefferson County, Richard Thomas Jarrell Jr., 34, most recently of south Louisville, admitted to police that he killed Breeden and could offer specific details in the case. Jarrell told police he had met Breeden through King and that he heard about King's case on the Internet.
Nearly a month and a half later, Jarrell recanted his statement in an interview with Lt. Jeff Medley of Kentucky State Police Post 5.
Recordings of several police interviews were played over the course of the hearing on Thursday and Friday, including interviews where Jarrell confessed to the murder and interviews where he said his confession was a lie and that he had found details of the murder on the Internet.
Hickman told the court Thursday that before even considering allowing King's desire to withdraw her Alford plea, he would need to hear additional evidence.
"Before we can even get to that, we're going to need to hear some evidence," he said. "The difference really in this case, at this point, is in the fact that there was a plea of guilty. As opposed to a jury entering a guilty verdict — that's the pretty distinguishing factor that I think everybody recognizes in this."
Jarrell — who is currently incarcerated in Louisville — was called to the stand Thursday to testify, but invoked his fifth amendment rights and was escorted almost immediately back out of the court room.
In the recording of Jarrell's confession, he was forthcoming about the fact that he wanted investigators to pass along that he cooperated in providing information about crimes, in hopes it would help his brother get leniency on drug charges he is facing in Arkansas.
"It's important for me to get closure for my family, too," Jarrell said to investigators, referencing his brother's case.
The hearing, which lasted approximately eight hours Thursday and 10 hours Friday — accounting for recesses and lunch breaks — left few questions answered for King.
Because of the hearing's lengthy nature, Hickman asked both sides to present their closing arguments in legal briefs. Smith is to turn in her brief by July 30, and the commonwealth will turn in its brief by Aug. 17.
Smith asked Hickman to consider releasing King on her prior bond with home incarceration pending the judge's decision about the new trial. However, Hickman said he would rule on both motions at the same time as he believed they were connected.
Upon the conclusion of the hearing Friday, King was audibly sobbing in the courtroom surrounded by the legal team from the Innocence Project, as well as friends and family.