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By CINDY DiFAZIO
Landmark News Service
Henry County District Court Judge Karen Conrad ruled Monday that there is enough probable cause to proceed with a murder case involving a New Castle man.
Robert Elston, 54, is charged with second-degree murder in the July 6 shooting death of Joseph Burch, 31, at the New Castle apartment complex where Elston resides. Burch died of a single gunshot wound to the chest that entered his left lung and exited through his ribcage in the back.
Kentucky State Police Detective Kevin Johnson testified that a witness, Harlan Henson, told police he was with Burch prior to the incident and heard an argument escalate between Elston and Burch. Johnson further testified that Henson said he was doing yard work when he saw Elston walk down from his residence, raise the pistol and shoot Burch. Johnson also stated that another witness, James “Peewee” Chadwell, Elston’s next door neighbor and friend, told police that after the shooting Elston told Chadwell he had messed up and the police would be coming to get him.
Johnson testified that KSP Detective Todd Harwood digitally recorded an interview with Elston at around 4:30 p.m. Elston allegedly made statements at that time that he shot Burch. He also stated that he wished things had turned out differently.
According to Johnson, a Ruger .44-caliber magnum handgun was recovered on the second step leading to Elston’s residence. The gun, along with ammunition retrieved from the apartment, are in police custody.
According to Johnson, just one shot was fired. Gun shot residue and intoxicant screens were performed on Elston, but results are not yet back.
Bond remains set at one million dollars. Public Defender, Melanie Lowe, has been assigned to represent Elston.
This is not the first time Elston has been arrested in a gun-related incident. In July, 2007 he confronted James Gilbert on Hill Street in New Castle brandishing a .44-caliber handgun and demanding money he said Gilbert owed him. According to the police citation, “Subject pointed at Gilbert according to witness. Gilbert grabbed the top of the gun as the two started to wrestle in the yard. The gun went off, hitting Gilbert’s right hand.” The citation further stated that the witness, Robert Phillip, said that he then grabbed the gun. Phillip told police that Elston tried to retrieve the gun and told the injured man that when he comes back he will shoot to kill.
Circuit Clerk Mary Lou Roberts said that although murder trials are rare in Henry County there are three, including Elston’s, currently pending. She said prior to this year the last murder trial held here was in 1992. “We just haven’t had that many,” Roberts said.
Elston’s current case will go before the grand jury in August.