A 25-year-old Partridge man recently pleaded guilty to stabbing a 72-year-old man to death more than three years ago and could be sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment.
Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright accepted Jonathan Keith Marlow’s plea of guilty on July 29 and set his sentencing for 9 a.m. on Aug. 30.
Marlow stabbed Hobert Elkins, of Partridge, between 15 and 20 times on June 14, 2007 after Elkins retrieved his wallet, according to testimony from Kentucky State Police Det. Randy Combs during a preliminary hearing held in June 2007. Combs, the investigating officer in the case, testified that Marlow had taken $19 from Elkins because he needed money for a pill. A $10 bill, a $5 bill and four $1 bills all appeared to have blood on them.
Authorities were told Elkins was murdered at 10:56 p.m. on June 14 when his niece, Geneva Combs, called the state police post in Hazard to report that Marlow had just killed her uncle and stolen his blue and white 1979 Chevrolet pickup. Elkins’s body was found in the bedroom of his locked house by KSP Trooper Ben McCray and Letcher County Deputy Sheriff Mike Rose.
Marlow was arrested without incident after he went to the home of another Partridge couple, Kathy and Neil Creech of Elkins Branch, and asked them to tell police he was ready to surrender after he had run from them earlier. Shortly after Marlow was arrested he admitted to police that he had killed Elkins.
Other than cash and a pickup truck, Combs believes the only other thing stolen from Elkins was a small pellet rifle found in the pickup truck.
If Wright accepts the Commonwealth’s off er on a plea of guilty, Marlow will receive 50 years in prison for murder, 20 years for first-degree burglary and 20 years for first-degree robbery. All sentences are to be served concurrently. Marlow will be granted credit for time already served in jail and will be eligible for parole consideration after serving 20 years of his sentence.
“Mr. Marlow has accepted the full measure of justice,” said Will Collins, directing attorney for the Department of Public Advocacy. “He admits that he murdered Mr. Elkins, and accepts his responsibility for the crime. It took place when Mr. Marlow was delirious from his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and it wasn’t planned. But he knows that’s no excuse.”
Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks said Elkins’s brother and sister-inlaw agreed to the off er.
“It was at their urging and request we tender this particular off er,” said Banks.
If the case had gone to a jury trial, Marlow could have been sentenced to death.
“I think an understanding of Jonathan’s life would have persuaded a jury to spare his life — but there’s always a chance a death penalty would have been handed down,” said Collins. “But getting a death penalty is not such a good thing, even for the prosecution. It costs millions of dollars to prosecute a death penalty case through its many stages — almost all of them are overturned for errors — so it’s almost always at least two trials and several lengthy appeals. A 10- to 20-year process is normal, which is decades of worry for a victim’s family.”
Collins said when prosecutors are being laid off for lack of funds, spending millions of dollars on death penalty cases doesn’t make financial sense.
“It isn’t the wisest use of the limited tax dollars for the justice system,” said Collins. “It’s just a war feather in a prosecutor’s cap, one we can’t afford.”