Judge denies motion to dismiss Carlisle County manslaughter case

Turnbow

BARDWELL -- A judge declined to throw out the case against a Carlisle County man accused of manslaughter after his attorney argued Tuesday that his client's actions were protected under the state's "castle doctrine."

Matthew Turnbow faces manslaughter, assault, domestic violence and other charges related to the Aug. 11, 2018, incident that resulted in the death of Kelly Clanahan and injuries to Doug Compton.

Kentucky's code allows for a property owner to use potentially deadly force if a person is illegally and forcibly entering a home or vehicle, but that section doesn't apply if -- among other factors -- the property owner is engaged in an unlawful activity or using the home to further an unlawful activity.

Kentucky State Police Detective David Dick testified at a motion hearing, regarding a motion to dismiss brought by defense attorney Daniel Thomas.

Dick said Tabitha Cunningham, Turnbow's ex-girlfriend, came with Compton and Clanahan, with the intent to retrieve a baby changing table Turnbow said she could have.

Dick said Cunningham told investigators Turnbow was grilling her about her relationship with Compton, at one point calling her a derogatory name.

Dick said Turnbow previously turned away Compton and Clanahan because Cunningham wasn't with them, and said he would only turn over the table to Cunningham if she was there in person.

He said Turnbow admitted in an interview he used the changing table as a reason to get Cunningham to come over so he could try to "save the relationship."

Basing the timeline on his interviews with Compton, Cunningham and Turnbow, Dick said when the three arrived at the house, Cunningham went in first.

Turnbow said Cunningham attempted to take the changing table, and he tried to stop her.

Clanahan and Compton observed an altercation from outside, and according Compton, Clanahan said, "He's beating the hell out of her, Doug. He's got a gun," Dick testified.

Compton told Dick he initially tried to enter the house to help Cunningham, and broke in the back door with his shoulder, at which point Turnbow pointed the shotgun at him and he retreated.

A few minutes later, Dick said, Compton and Clanahan entered the house as Cunningham and Turnbow were struggling over the gun.

"Mr. Turnbow turned the weapon as Ms. Cunningham had a hold of it, and he fired it in the direction of Mr. Compton," Dick said.

The buckshot from the 12-gauge shotgun struck Compton in the abdomen, while two pellets struck Clanahan and killed her instantly, Dick said.

Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Stacy asked what Turnbow told Dick regarding his motivation for shooting Compton.

"He made the comment that he was fearful that Mr. Compton was going to knock him out," Dick said.

Dick said Turnbow recalled Compton walking in his direction, with his hands at his sides and unclenched fists.

He also said Cunningham had observable injuries, including scratches, bruises and missing fingernails.

Thomas asked Dick questions regarding Cunningham's injuries and whether there were text messages confirming Turnbow planned to give the table to Cunningham.

Thomas argued to Judge Timothy Langford the fear of being knocked unconscious was enough to justify the shooting.

"If a concussion isn't a serious physical injury, then I don't know what is," he said."Mr. Turnbow was doing everything that any reasonable person would do."

He also said, as no testimony indicated anyone other than Turnbow owned the changing table, he was within his rights to refuse to give it to Cunningham, and asserted her injuries came as a result of the struggle over the gun or Turnbow's "reasonable force" to protect his property. He called the assault claims made by Cunningham "phony."

Langford, in denying the motion to dismiss, said he found the castle doctrine application tenuous, considering Turnbow didn't shoot Compton when he actually broke in a few minutes before, but only shot him when he walked through the front door.

He added, even if the castle doctrine applied to the shooting of Compton -- a decision he said was best left to a jury -- no testimony indicated that Clanahan was a threat at all.

"I haven't heard anything about her entering illegally. She didn't bust the back door down," Langford said.

Turnbow is set for a jury trial on Nov. 18. In addition to the assault, manslaughter and domestic violence charges, he also faces one count each of possession of methamphetamine and buying or possessing drug paraphernalia.

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