The mother of Jared Banta, a Pizza Hut manager who was shot and killed in his vehicle while parked at Country Hills Apartments 4½ years ago, passed away last month before the case against the final defendant accused in her son’s murder was resolved.
Ann Banta, who made every court hearing, sentencing and Zoom meeting in her fight for justice against the five people charged in the death of her 21-year-old son, passed peacefully Aug. 6 after a battle with cancer.
The lone remaining defendant, Kedrick Burton, 25, is facing charges of murder, a Class A felony, and first-degree robbery, a Class B felony.
The case was scheduled for a jury trial on Aug. 24 but Burton’s attorney, Kevan Morgan, asked for a continuance at a status hearing last week. Morgan told Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate that he has yet to meet with Burton face-to-face due to COVID-19 precautions at the Franklin County Regional Jail, where Burton has been held since Jan. 10, 2017, on a $500,000 full-cash bond.
“Attorneys are not able to meet with clients for meaningful trial preparation,” Morgan explained.
Wingate replied that the next available trial date likely wouldn’t be until January.
“This (the COVID-19 pandemic) is supposed to be over in December,” the judge added. “Everybody will either be dead or vaccinated.”
A trial date has not yet been scheduled.
At 10:48 p.m. on Dec. 26, 2016, Victorya “Paige” Young, Brooke Kennedy and Cameron Montgomery lured Jared Banta to the Schenkel Lane apartment complex parking lot under the guise of a marijuana deal.
Young told investigators that location was chosen because there were no security cameras in the vicinity and she said the women were promised a share of the money from the robbery that Krishaun Mays, 22, and Burton planned on Banta.
Kennedy sent a text to Montgomery saying “they are gonna point the gun at bantas head and Paige is gonna have to get out of the car,” according to text messages recovered during the investigation.
Montgomery later texted Kennedy to ask where she was and asked her to “discreetly FaceTime and I will put myself on mute.” A video recording allegedly made from Young’s vehicle was later uncovered by police.
In another text, Young instructed Montgomery to shoot video of the robbery from her apartment window after turning off the lights “so no one would see the blinds move.”
Mays — who last year pleaded guilty to murder, a capital offense, and second-degree robbery, a Class C felony — was identified by police as the shooter who fired a bullet into the right side of Banta’s back. Autopsy records indicate the gunshot exited out the left side of his chest.
Banta’s body was discovered in his locked Honda Accord at 8:09 a.m. the following day by an apartment complex resident whose girlfriend phoned authorities.
The handgun used to kill Banta — a Ruger 9E — and an iPhone were located on the driver’s side floorboard under his legs. A box of ammunition was found in the trunk and a spent bullet was recovered from the inside of the driver’s side door panel.
Charges and plea deals
On Valentine’s Day 2017, a Franklin Circuit Court grand jury indicted Kennedy, Young and Montgomery on charges of complicity to murder and complicity to first-degree robbery. Mays and Burton were indicted on murder and first-degree robbery charges.
However, the murder charge Mays faced and the complicity to murder charges the others were indicted for carry the same maximum penalty — life without parole for 25 years.
The five were termed “youthful offenders” but prosecuted as adults. Due to their youth, none of the defendants can face the death penalty.
In the time since, four of the five — with the exception of Burton — have entered into plea deals.
Kennedy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for complicity to first-degree robbery, a Class B felony, and facilitation to commit murder, a Class D felony.
She is being housed in the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Pewee Valley.
During her victim impact statement at Kennedy’s sentencing, Ann Banta pointed to an oversized photo of her son that his former girlfriend, Lauren Knarr, held and said, “This is all I have left of my son — pictures and memories.”
Montgomery also pleaded guilty to facilitation to first-degree robbery and complicity to reckless homicide, both Class D felonies. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was granted shock probation, which allows defendants — typically first-time offenders — to avoid long-term incarceration if they stay out of trouble, and sent to a treatment program.
Young pleaded guilty to complicity to commit second-degree robbery and complicity to second-degree manslaughter, both Class C felonies, and agreed to a potential maximum sentence of 20 years. Part of her plea agreement requires her to testify against Burton.
She is currently serving her time in the Woodford County Detention Center.
Mays makes a deal
In addition to the murder charge, Mays — the triggerman — was originally charged with first-degree robbery, a Class B felony. However, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge as part of a plea deal reached with the prosecution last year.
On July 8, 2020, while delivering her victim impact statement at Mays’ sentencing, Ann Banta, told the court she had been silent and waited a long time for justice in this case.
She was quick to place the blame on Mays, who she called “a coward” for shooting her son in the back. She also made it known that probation should not be an option for her son’s murderer.
“The greatest robbery that went down was when you took Jared Banta from his family and friends,” she said. “These defendants’ families get to see them and talk to them and maybe hug them.”
Wingate sentenced Mays to a total of 25 years in prison for his part in the crime — 20 years on the murder charge and five years for the robbery charge. Mays also received credit for time served.
Two months after his sentencing, Mays’ attorney filed a motion for shock probation.
State statute prohibits shock probation in murder cases and for crimes involving a firearm, special prosecutor in the case Ronnie Goldy told The State Journal, but allows it for youthful offenders.
Mays and Young were both 17 years old at the time of the crime, but were indicted as adults.
In an order issued on Nov. 18, 2020, Wingate denied Mays’ request for shock probation.
“Eligibility aside, (the) defendant seemingly continues to glaze over his admitted offenses, murder, a capital offense, and robbery, second degree, a Class C felony,” the judge wrote.
“Despite being a juvenile at the time of these offenses, (the) defendant committed violent and reprehensible crimes, which resulted in taking the life of another.”
In mid-January, from the Franklin County Regional Jail, Mays filed a hand-written second motion for shock probation on pieces of notebook paper.
In the motion, Mays told the judge he has used his time in jail wisely and obtained a GED and a National Career Ready Certificate.
“I understand the seriousness of my crime,” Mays wrote. “If probated, there is no likelihood I will commit another crime.”
He went on to add that he would not be involved with the same people, would enroll in school, get a job, complete any programs he was referred to and be a productive member of society.
“I understand I made a mistake. I have to live with that the rest of my life and I wholeheartedly apologize,” Mays added.
“I’ve been incarcerated (for) four years and I plea the court relieve and grant me shock probation.”
In a one-paragraph order issued the same day, Wingate denied Mays’ motion for a second time stating that the court stands by its November 2020 order.
While wrapping up her testimony at Mays’ sentencing last year, Jared’s mother told the judge that she forgives the five defendants responsible for taking her son’s life.
“Do I feel it? No. Will I ever? Probably not,” she stated. “I hate these people for what they did. But I did it for myself and my loved ones.”