Two teenagers, each facing murder charges in separate cases, have entered guilty pleas to amended charges. Dustin Smith entered his guilty plea on Oct. 26, and Elijah Barkley entered his guilty plea on Nov. 5, in Bourbon and Scott County courtrooms, respectively.

Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sharon Muse, who prosecuted the Smith murder cases said of her responsibility as a prosecutor, “I am responsible to the public to hold violators of the law accountable, prosecute fairly, and provide support and dignity to victims and survivors of crime. This role is unique as I must see that every defendant is treated fairly and that every crime victim receives the benefits of rights guaranteed by the Kentucky Crime Victim Bill of Rights.”

In Circuit Judge Brian Privett’s Scott County Courtroom Friday, Nov. 5, Elijah Craig Barkley entered a plea of guilty to charges of First-Degree Manslaughter, First Degree Criminal Attempt Manslaughter, Second Degree Assault, and Second-Degree Animal Cruelty related to death of his grandfather, Richard Barkley, on July 3, 2019.

In addition to the murder of his grandfather, Barkley, who was 16 years old at the time, was originally charged, as an adult, with the attempted murder of his grandmother, Eloise, who was attacked at the same time. In addition, a family dog was shot and killed, resulting in charges of animal cruelty.

Due to a conflict of interest with Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sharon Muse, special prosecutors Eric Finkle and Lou Anna Red Corn handled Barkley’s case. Barkley is represented by public defenders Amy Robertson and Larry Doucet.

Barkley’s plea deal means he agreed to serve 15 years for the First-Degree Manslaughter charge, 10 years for the First-Degree Criminal Attempted Manslaughter charge to be served concurrently with the first charge, five years on the Second-Degree Assault charge to be served consecutively to the first charge, and 12 months on the Animal Cruelty charge, for a recommended total of 20 years. However, it is the judge’s discretion to change or amend the sentencing recommendations at final sentencing, which is scheduled for December.  As a condition of the plea deal, Barkley is to have “no unlawful contact” with several siblings

On Oct. 26, Smith entered a plea of guilty in Judge Privett’s Bourbon County District Courtroom of Second-Degree Manslaughter, as well as one charge of intimidating a participant in the legal process. Smith, who was 17 years old at the time of the shooting, was originally charged, as an adult, with capital murder, and five counts of first-degree wanton endangerment related to the shooting death of his father, Michael Ray Smith, Sr. on April 7, 2019, in their Stamping Ground residence. If found guilty of the capital murder charge alone, Smith could have faced 20-50 years or life in prison.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Muse noted that the investigation into the shooting death of Michael Ray Smith, Sr. did not end when the grand jury indicted Dustin Smith, but continued, with the help of Scott County Detective, Sgt. Brandon Rector.

“As the investigation progressed, the family of the victim, including his mother and sister, provided compelling evidence of ongoing violent abuse perpetrated by the victim against the defendant and multiple witness statements providing evidence that pointed to two valid defenses: extreme emotional distress and imperfect self-defense,” Muse said in a statement provided following the guilty plea.

The evidence of a history of abuse perpetrated by the victim upon the defendant in this case led to the amended charges, she said. As a result of the plea, Smith has agreed to serve 10 years probated to five on the manslaughter charge with the charge of intimidation to be served concurrently with the first charge.

Conditions of his probation include a requirement that Smith get a mental health evaluation and follow all recommendations, “successfully complete trauma therapy as recommended by a licensed mental health professional,” maintain employment and pursue his G.E.D., not residing with several individuals related to the case, and not committing any other offenses.

Through mediation that included the defense, Judge Privett, and Muse, the commonwealth attorney said she hoped it served to “hold accountable the defendant and provide the opportunity for a better future with the shared goal that he will remain out of custody and live a productive life, not repeating the abuse he experienced in his home as a juvenile.”

Kentucky law explicitly states that anyone who suspects or has reasonable cause to believe that a child is experiencing abuse or neglect has a duty to report it. To report suspected child abuse or neglect in Kentucky, call (800) 752-6200.

Smith and Barkley will both be formally sentenced on Dec. 4, 2021, in Scott County Circuit Court.


Mike Scogin can be reached at 

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