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Rival Candidate Charged in Killing of Ky. Sheriff

Associated Press

SOMERSET, Ky. - A candidate for sheriff was charged today in connection with the sniper-style assassination of the incumbent -- his chief rival in next month's primary and his former boss.

The candidate, Jeff Morris, 34, and a campaign worker were charged with complicity to murder. A third man, also tied to the Morris campaign, has been charged with the shooting of Sheriff Sam Catron at a weekend fish fry and political rally in front of more than 300 people.

The three suspects were being held without bond and could face the death penalty, prosecutor Eddy Montgomery said.

"Complicity to commit murder carries the same penalty as the murder itself," he said.

State Police Capt. Paul Hays said he doesn't expect any more arrests, but refused to discuss an alleged motive. He said only that the election campaign tied the three men together. Morris was Catron's deputy until last summer.

Catron, 48, was shot in the head on Saturday shortly after he finished a campaign speech in Shopville, a small town 70 miles south of Lexington. He was running for a fifth term as Pulaski County sheriff and faced Morris and others in the May 28 open primary. He and Morris were both Republicans.

The alleged shooter, Danny S. Shelley, 30, who was charged with capital murder, was caught after the shooting when he wrecked a motorcycle that was registered to Morris. In court, he pleaded not guilty earlier today.

Prosecutors say Shelley was one of two witnesses who signed candidate filing papers for Morris. The other man charged with complicity, Kenneth White, 54, had helped in Morris's campaign.

"Mr. White was a door-knocker, sign putter-upper," said Todd Dalton, a State Police detective.

Jim McWhorter, the chief deputy who was sworn in as sheriff, said Morris was a deputy under Sheriff Catron from 1996 to July 2001.

McWhorter declined to comment on why Morris left his job at the sheriff's office, but said he knew of no ill will between Catron and Morris.

Catron had been sheriff of the sparsely populated south-central Kentucky county since 1985. He was known for personally piloting a helicopter to search for marijuana plots and patrolling the streets into the wee hours.

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