WHITLEY COUNTY - Paul Brock, the man charged with killing three people, one of whom was pregnant, will spend the next 70 years behind bars, after accepting a plea deal from the Commonwealth’s Attorney just as the jury trial in his case was getting underway.
Brock, 41, was indicted by a Whitley County grand jury in April 2018 for an incident that occurred in February of that year. On that date, Mary Jackson, 74, and her pregnant granddaughter, Tiffany Myers, 33, were found shot to death at an Ellison Street residence in Corbin.
Brock was developed as the main person of interest in the killings by the Corbin Police Department, being brought in for questioning the morning of Feb. 18, 2018, before being arrested later that day and charged with three counts of murder.
The body of Myers’ husband, Aaron Byers, 45, was found the following day in a shallow grave in a wooded area off Corinth Cemetery Road. At that time, Brock was then charged with another count of murder and tampering with physical evidence.
On Friday morning, the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling confirmed the plea agreement, releasing a statement confirming Brock had pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, one count of fetal homicide, one count of tampering with physical evidence and one count of being a persistent felony offender in the first degree.
According to the press release, one week prior to trial, an outstanding DNA was returned from the Kentucky State Police’s (KSP) crime lab with the DNA Byers underneath the fingernails of Jackson.
“Brock’s attorneys postured that Byers’ DNA was present because he was the true killer of Jackson and Myers and the DNA was the result of a struggle,” reads Bowling’s release, also noting Brock’s attorneys opined Brock had killed Byers in self-defense after Byers had attacked him.
Bowling said the Commonwealth countered that both victims lived in the same house and that DNA is “attributable to touch DNA by innocent transfer.”
“The Commonwealth also cited no evidence of a struggle, and the quantity of DNA was so minimal, it could not have been present as a result of a violent attack,” the press release also read.
Brock’s deal seemingly came after the 11th hour Thursday evening, as prosecutors and defense attorneys had just wrapped up the second day of the jury selection process. More than 80 potential jurors were whittled down to just around 40 after Bowling conducted the prosecution’s voir dire - a process in which attorneys from both sides ask questions to potential jurors to best select a fair and impartial jury.
Because a previous motion made by the defense for individual voir dire has been granted by the court, half of the 40 remaining jurors were brought back Thursday morning so Defense Attorney and Public Advocate Andrea Kendall could begin that process.
The other half of the jury pool was scheduled to appear Monday morning, but Brock’s last-second plea will see a case three years in the making finally come to an end.
“Brock finally admitted his guilt in lieu of facing a jury of his peers and possibly the death penalty,” reads the press release from Bowling’s office.
In exchange for Brock’s full confession to each of the crimes charged, Bowling said the Commonwealth recommended 70 years, the maximum sentence allowed for by Kentucky law.
As to the final outcome, Bowling noted, “This case was emotionally draining and heartbreaking for two sets of families devastated by the heartless actions of the Defendant.”
Bowling said that in similar cases, there were a lot of things his office had to consider. First, he noted the wishes of the family, as well as the safety of the community. He also noted the importance of his office ensuring they are convicting the right person for the right reasons.
“Too often, these capital cases can drag for decades with endless appeals and retrials; that is nothing more than torture for the families of murder victims,” Bowling said in the press release. “With Brock’s confession of guilt to each and every crime we charged, the victims families have closure, the community is safer, and no one had to endure a trial and the risk of a possible defense verdict due to the late DNA evidence.”
Bowling said his team had enlisted experts to address the aforementioned DNA tests and that he was 100 percent confident they were right on the issue. However, he also noted that it’s hard to predict what jurors will do with forensic evidence.
“The window of reasonable doubt is so narrow, and even smaller where the jury is asked to give the death penalty,” he said, adding that he was relieved of Brock’s admission, but not surprised by it.
“Make no mistake: Paul Brock is a cold-blooded murderer who does not belong in society; this resolution achieved that,” Bowling said.
Bowling said the plea deal was not fully extended to Brock until all members of the victims’ families and the Corbin Police Department had first approved it.
“We only resolved this case with all involved parties’ full approval.”