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August 21, 2013

Guilty plea for wreck killing McCreary man

Stephens died in March

SOMERSET —  A Pulaski County man pleaded guilty to amended charges in connection with a March wreck that left one man dead.

    Justin I. Litton, 36, appeared Thursday before Pulaski Circuit Judge Jeffrey T. Burdette and pled guilty to one count of second-degree manslaughter, one count of first-degree wanton endangerment, and first-degree criminal mischief in connection with the March 16 fatal accident on West Ky. 80.

    Litton was arrested on March 18 and initially charged with murder after police say he intentionally drove into the path of another vehicle, causing the death of Levi Stephens, 33, of Somerset and originally from Pine Knot.

    Investigators with the Somerset Police Department said the incident began at around 10 p.m. Saturday, March 16 when Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Molen noticed a black 1998 Nissan car parked in the lot of a closed business on Ky. 80 without its headlights on. Molen reportedly shined a spotlight on Litton’s car as he passed, and attempted to turn around to investigate. That’s when Litton apparently left the parking lot and headed eastbound on West Ky. 80.

    Molen turned his emergency lights on and was attempting to make a traffic stop when the accident happened. Litton’s vehicle reportedly crossed the center line just west of the intersection of West Ky. 80 and WTLO Road and struck head-on a westbound white 2005 Suzuki driven by Stephens.

    SPD Detective Larry Patterson testified during a preliminary hearing in late March that a dashboard camera in Molen’s vehicle shows Stephens’ approaching head-lights — and Stephens’ attempts to avoid the collision. Patterson testified that the dashboard camera also shows Litton entered into the westbound lane and remained there for around five seconds before the crash.

    After the accident, Litton was airlifted to the UK Medical Center. Stephens was trans-ported by ambulance to the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead by the Pulaski County Coroner's Office.

    Molen was one of several law enforcement officers in the area on the look-out for Litton’s vehicle when the accident occurred. According to testimony given by Patterson, Litton’s family had called Pulaski County 911 and reported that Litton left a home on Limestone Street in Somerset less than an hour before the accident. Litton’s family reported that he’d left intoxicated, and he indicated he would intentionally drive head-on into a tractor trailer in an attempt to take his own life.

    Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy F. Montgomery said he’s recommending 10 years for the manslaughter charge, five years for the wanton endangerment charge, and three years for the criminal mischief charge, all to run consecutively for an 18-year sentence.

    A sentencing hearing has been set for Sept. 19.

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