Daviess Circuit Judge Jay Wethington refused a motion Thursday to reduce the bond on Arnett B. Baines, the Owensboro man charged in the fatal shooting of three men last year in an Audubon Avenue home.
Baines’ bond is set at $265,000 full cash, and he faces charges of murder, first-degree assault, tampering with evidence and more in the January 2019 incident. Baines was charged in the deaths of Robert D. Smith, 35, Jay Michael Sowders, 43, and Christopher Carie, 18. All died of gunshot wounds to the head the morning of Jan. 17 in the basement of Sowders’ home in the 900 block of Audubon Avenue. A female in the home was also shot, but survived.
Baines, 32, and a co-defendant, Cylar L. Shemwell, 33, also of Owensboro, could face the death penalty if convicted.
Sara Zeurcher, one of Baines’ attorneys, argued her client was at heightened risk of contracting the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In a motion filed with the court, Zeurcher said being in jail and unable to post bond during the pandemic amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The defense requested Baines’ bond be reduced from $265,000 cash to $100,000, with Baines released if he could post 10%. Zeurcher said the release was necessary “because of the spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.”
“July has seen the most cases of any month” in Kentucky, Zeurcher said, adding that the virus is spiking in state prisons. Six inmates have died of COVID-19 at Kentucky State Reformatory.
“County jails are reporting cases as well,” Zeurcher said. Baines has asthma, and is at “high risk” if he contracts the virus, she said.
Wethington said Baines is “also at high risk of not being here.”
A risk assessment found Baines has a 78% chance of appearing at future hearings if he were released.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Kuegel said rather than reducing Baines’ bond, he should be held without any bond at all.
“There should not be a bond based on the fact that death is a possibility,” Kuegel said.
Wethington said Baines was already out on bond on 2018 charges of receiving stolen property and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon when he was charged in the Audubon Avenue shooting.
“He’s too much of a risk,” Wethington said, denying the defense motion.
Baine is next scheduled to appear in court on the charges in September.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse