January trial set for man charged with murder and assault

A trial date for an Owensboro man facing charges of murder, burglary and first-degree assault in separate incidents has been scheduled for trial early next year.

Talen M. Johnson, 23, of the 700 block of Walnut Street, has been incarcerated at the Daviess County Detention Center since June, 2019.

Johnson, and a second man, Demartez D. Thurston, were charged with murder in the March 2019 shooting of a Hopkinsville man, Kevin D. White, at a home in the 1000 block of West Eighth Street.

White was killed when gunshots were fired through the window of the home.

Court records say White is not believed to have been the intended victim; instead, the shooting is believed to have been caused by a rivalry between members of the “Gangster Disciples” and the “Bloods.”

Court records say Johnson claimed to be a member of the “Bloods,” while a member of “Gangster Disciples” was in the home at the time of the shooting. Investigators believe Johnson drove himself and Thruston to the scene, while Thruston allegedly did the shooting, court records say.

Thruston’s trial is set for October, assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Quattrocchi said.

Johnson appeared in court Wednesday on a motion to reduce his bond. Johnson’s attorney, Jason Hays, wrote in his motion that Thruston is not currently incarcerated, and said Thruston “is on bond and has been on bond for the entirety of this case.”

Johnson is being held on a $250,000 cash bond.

According to Hays’ motion, Johnson has already served more time than he could receive if he were convicted at trial of the lesser sentence of facilitation to commit murder.

Hays told Circuit Judge Tom Castlen Johnson “has an excellent chance of defending the murder by complicity charge.”

Johnson also faces a 2019 charge of first-degree assault (domestic violence), for a case involving a juvenile, for an incident unrelated to the West Eighth Street shooting.

Castlen denied the motion to lower Johnson’s bond. Castlen said when Johnson was released on bond on the assault charge in March of 2019, he committed a new offense within three days, and later violated the conditions of his release by attending a party in Whitesville where two teens were shot and killed in an unrelated incident. Johnson was rearrested in June of that year for contempt of court.

“The bond is commensurate with the offense charged,” Castlen said.

A trial date was set for Jan. 27, which was the earliest available date that would fit with the attorneys’ schedules.

Castlen said he didn’t want to set the trial date into next year, but that, “we don’t have a choice.”

Quattrocchi said later his hope is to hold Johnson’s trial on the murder charge before Johnson is tried for assault.