Ex-Deputy Gets Life in Ken. Sheriff Murder
SOMERSET, Ken. -- A former Kentucky sheriff's deputy was sentenced Monday to life in prison for helping plot the assassination of his chief political rival -- an incumbent sheriff killed by a sniper at a campaign rally.
Jeff Morris won't be eligible for parole for at least 25 years in a plea bargain that spared him the possibility of the death penalty. He pleaded guilty to complicity to murder Sheriff Sam Catron to improve his chances of winning election.
"I am sorry that it went as far as it did," Morris said in court, turning to Catron's family. "I hope and pray to God that you can forgive me sometime in your heart."
Catron was shot minutes after delivering a re-election speech April 13, 2002, at a volunteer fire department in Shopville. He was struck in the head by a single bullet fired from a nearby hillside.
As part of Morris' plea, he agreed to testify against a remaining defendant, Kenneth White, a campaign donor to Morris who allegedly was angered by the longtime sheriff's anti-drug efforts.
A third defendant, the gunman, pleaded guilty in March to murder and also received a life sentence.
White faces trial Nov. 3 on a murder charge, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Morris told Pulaski County Judge Paul Braden last month that White came up with the plan to kill the sheriff. He said he went along with it because he feared White might harm his family.
Morris also admitted giving Danny Shelley, the triggerman, his motorcycle as a getaway vehicle.