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Trial could still be a year away for accused great-grandmother murderer

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By Calen McKinney

 

It could be another year before Jesse Durham’s murder trial begins.

Attorneys, however, will soon meet to continue negotiations in the case in hopes of settling it.

DNA testing is still pending in the case that accuses Durham, 20, of 102 Eads St., of killing his great-grandmother with a hammer last February.

Durham’s case was called Tuesday before Taylor Circuit Court Judge Allan Bertram for a pretrial hearing. The hearing lasted about 15 minutes.

Durham pleaded not guilty to the murder last March. If found guilty, he faces as much as life in prison. The prosecution has said Durham likely won’t face the death penalty.

Public Defender C.B. Bates, who is representing Durham, told Bertram during Tuesday’s hearing that DNA testing is still being processed. He said he has been told the testing could take six to eight more months to process.

A trial date was set in the case for Feb. 26 in hopes of speeding up the testing, though Bates said that appears to have not been successful. Bertram said he has been given the impression that criminal caseloads have risen.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Shelly Miller, the prosecutor in the case, suggested setting Durham’s other criminal case for trial and continuing to negotiate in that and the murder case until word is received about the DNA testing.

Durham has remained incarcerated on a $500,000 cash bond since his arrest last February. He was indicted last June and charged with assaulting a corrections staff member while in custody.

According to court records, last May 13, Durham refused to be escorted out of his cell and struck
Deputy Daniel Miller on his face. Durham was charged with third-degree assault and being a sec-
ond-degree persistent felony offender. If convicted of those charges, Durham could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison. The charge of being a persistent felony offender could increase any sentence he might receive.

On Tuesday, Miller asked if Durham’s current trial date, Feb. 26, could be used as the trial date for the assault charge.

Bates said a date can be set for Durham’s assault trial, but asks that he and Miller continue negotiating in both cases.

“I believe we can resolve both these cases,” Bates said.

Miller suggested setting a date in April for the assault trial, which Bertram set for April 30.

Bertram canceled the Feb. 26 trial date because Miller and Bates said they are confident DNA testing won’t be complete by then.

Bates suggested setting another pretrial conference in Durham’s murder case for before the April 30 date to see if negotiations in the cases have been successful.

A pretrial conference date was set for Tuesday, April 9, at 1 p.m. At the rate DNA testing is going now, Bates said he believes it will be at least a year before the murder case is ready for trial.

According to court records, Durham told law enforcement that he had argued with his great-grandmother, Elizabeth Arinsmier, on Feb. 10 and then struck her with a hammer until she died.

A Campbellsville Police report states that the department received a phone call from Matt Blaine of Cincinnati, Ohio, reporting that he hadn’t had contact with Arinsmier, his 77-year-old mother living at 105 Daisy Drive in Campbellsville, for a few days. Blaine asked officers to check on her.

After officers received no answer at Arinsmier’s home, they entered and found her unresponsive.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy ruled the cause of her death was blunt force trauma.

• An indictment is a legal accusation only. It does not establish guilt.