By: Cris RitchieEditor
December 17, 2012
HAZARD –The trial of a Knott County man accused of murdering a Perry County physician was pushed back several months during a hearing Monday in Perry Circuit Court.
Three years have passed since Dr. Dennis Sandlin was shot and killed while working in the Leatherwood-Blackey Clinic. It was Dec. 8, 2009 when then 46-year-old John Carlos Combs of Red Fox was arrested and jailed after police say he walked into the clinic and fatally shot Dr. Sandlin. Combs was indicted the following month on charges of murder, first-degree burglary, tampering with physical evidence and third-degree terroristic threatening.
Combs was set to go to trial on Jan. 7, but on Monday special Judge John David Caudill approved a motion for a continuance filed by the defense. He is now scheduled to go to trial on Monday, May 13, 2013.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Teresa Reed had filed to seek the death penalty, though she will not prosecute the case after losing her bid for re-election last month.
John Hansen is the commonwealth’s attorney-elect and will be sworn into office early next month. He did not attend Monday’s hearing, noting that he is continuing to work in his private law practice until he takes office, but added that he has been in contact with the family and is familiar with the case.
“We’ve been meeting with the family, so we’re up-to-date with everything,” Hansen said. “The May date will be fine.”
To date, the trial has been continued at least twice now, and several other motions have been filed. Combs was found competent to stand trial in June 2010, and two months later Judge Caudill placed a gag order on the case, preventing any participants from publicly commenting on its details.
In Oct. 2010, Caudill declined to approve a defense motion that would have disqualifed the death penalty, and in March 2011 declined a defense request for a change of venue. The trial remains scheduled to take place in Perry Circuit Court.
Combs pleaded not guilty during his initial arraignment, and remains lodged in the Kentucky River Regional Jail on a $1 million bond as he awaits trial.