Whitesburg KY
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Man pleads not guilty in death of neighbor

A man accused of murdering his neighbor in October pleaded not guilty last week and his bond was set at $250,000 cash.

During an arraignment on Nov. 30 in Letcher Circuit Court, Samuel Todd Collier, 31, pleaded not guilty to charges of shooting and killing his neighbor, 48-year-old Mark Joseph Sturgill, on Oct. 7.

Before the bond hearing on Dec. 1, Collier, who is being represented by Whitesburg attorney James W. Craft, was being held in the Letcher County Jail without bond. Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright set the bond at $250,000 cash with electronic monitoring and home incarceration. Wright included in the order that Collier must live at least one mile from Sturgill’s residence. Collier testified that if bond is met he will live with his grandfather, former Jenkins City Councilman Leo Fugate, who lives at Lakeside in Jenkins.

Collier was still in the county jail as of Dec. 7.

Melissa Sturgill, the widow of Mark Sturgill, testified during the hearing last week that she and her two teenaged sons are scared of Collier living near their home at Jenkins. She said Collier’s house stands only about 100 feet from her home.

“Me and my children have been totally traumatized by Mark’s murder and my children are in fear for their lives and so am I if he gets out,” said Mrs. Sturgill.

Mrs. Sturgill testified that Collier made threats to kill her, her husband and two children months before the shooting happened.

Denise Damron, who lives near the Sturgill and Collier residences, testified that she believes Collier is “volatile”.

“He doesn’t get along with anyone in the neighborhood,” said Damron. “At his mother’s funeral Todd was so disrespectful. I have been afraid of Todd for quite some time. Anyone that knows me knows I am not afraid of much, but I am afraid of Todd Collier.” She said Collier’s actions at the funeral involved “screaming with spit flying.”

Damron said she is afraid for her own and her grandchildren’s safety if Collier is able to post bond.

“I’m afraid that his bitterness and resentment of these proceedings will bleed over,” said Damron. “Maybe he will do something to my grandchildren. I am afraid and I don’t know what else to say.”

Collier testified that he never screamed or spit at Mrs. Damron during his mother’s funeral.

“I never cussed or spit in her face or nothing,” said Collier. “She hugged me and told me that my mommy loved me. I told her, ‘Denise I don’t know why she loved you all more than she loved me.’ (Mrs. Damron) never liked me. She never liked my daddy. That’s all it boils down to, sir.”

Police charge that Collier shot Sturgill in the head around 8:30 p.m. on October 7 while Sturgill was out for a walk with his mixedbreed dog, Jake, at White Wolf Drive. Kentucky State Police Det. Scotty Sandlin said Collier fired two shots from a small-caliber handgun, killing both Sturgill and the dog. Sources familiar with the case say that Collier told authorities he was bitten by the dog and was acting in self-defense.

Mr. Sturgill, who had worked as a field engineer for Kentucky Educational Television (KET) since 1999, found the dog near a transmitter on top of Buffalo Mountain in Hazard last spring and started feeding it. Mrs. Sturgill said her husband eventually asked if he could bring the dog home with him because winter weather would make it harder to visit and feed it every day.

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