A Midway man who pleaded guilty to driving a man accused of killing a 39-year-old Frankfort woman to the scene of the crime and helping to dispose of the murder weapon was sentenced Friday to five years of probation on the condition that he testifies in the case of the alleged gunman, Derek Garten.
Billy Joe Turner, 38, pleaded guilty in Franklin County Circuit Court in August to amended charges of criminal facilitation of murder, a Class D felony; criminal facilitation of tampering with physical evidence, a Class A misdemeanor; and criminal facilitation of violation of Kentucky EPO/DVO, a Class B misdemeanor. He has been closely monitored in the two months since being released from custody, officials said.
“Based upon the evidence in this case, there was a substantial issue as to criminal intent on the part of (Turner),” Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland said at Turner’s plea hearing, noting that he would cooperate with the prosecution. “… He’s given police his statement. We would expect him to testify consistently to that statement at trial.”
Originally faced with more serious charges, including complicity to murder, a capital offense, which carries a life sentence; complicity to tampering with physical evidence, a Class D felony; and complicity to violation of Kentucky EPO/DVO, a Class B misdemeanor, Turner served 13 months of the five-year sentence, which makes him parole eligible. As conditions of his release, he has been wearing an ankle monitoring device, living with family and is employed full time.
Turner admitted giving Garten a ride to the Meadow Glen Drive home of Meg Smith, where Garten is accused of shooting and killing her on July 3, 2018. Then, according to Turner’s testimony, he gave Garten a ride to an undisclosed location to dump the reported murder weapon.
Turner was arrested at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office later that night.
Smith had several protective orders — including one filed a few weeks before her death — against Garten, who eluded local law enforcement agencies for a few days after the homicide.
A manhunt ensued and as police closed in Garten posted comments on his Facebook page, including one that read, “I shot meg and would do it again.”
Following an hourslong standoff at Bryant Station Inn in Lexington on July 6, 2018, then-Frankfort Police Capt. and current Franklin County Sheriff Chris Quire, who knew the suspect from high school, was able to talk him into surrendering.
Garten admitted to breaking into the home of an Owen County couple and stealing two firearms, a case of .22 caliber bullets, collectible coins, pocket knives and a lawnmower while he was evading police, according to The News Herald. No one was home at the time.
In August 2018, Garten, 38, pleaded not guilty to murder, a capital offense, tampering with physical evidence, a Class D felony, and violating a Kentucky Emergency Protection Order/Domestic Violence Order (EPO/DVO), a Class A misdemeanor.
Four months later, in an unrelated case, he was indicted on a charge of making a false statement to obtain an increase of unemployment benefits (more than $100), a Class D felony.
Though there are no future court dates set for his Franklin County cases, Garten is expected to appear in Owen Circuit Court on Dec. 10 at 8:30 a.m. for a competency hearing.