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Suspect in shooting of Ky. mayor appears in court

HICKMAN, Ky. (AP) – A 30-year-old western Kentucky man remained jailed without bond Tuesday after a court entered a not guilty plea for him in the shooting death of a small-town mayor.

Attorney Dennis Null of Mayfield said he was hired to represent Thomas Joseph “Tommy” Lattus on a charge of murder. Lattus is accused of killing 68-year-old Mayor Charles Murphy of Hickman, a town of about 2,500 people in extreme southwestern Kentucky.

Null said Tuesday he had spoken only briefly to the suspect. Lattus is due back in court in Fulton County on Jan. 31 at 1:30 p.m. CST for a preliminary hearing.

Hickman Police Chief Tony Grogan said Lattus walked into the police station early Monday morning and officers that he shot Murphy.

An officer went to Murphy’s house and found the side door broken in and Murphy dead of a shotgun blast.

The 68-year-old Murphy was a well-liked former educator who had dated Lattus’ adoptive mother on and off over the years.

“It wasn’t random or anything like that; it’s personal,” Grogan said in an interview Monday. “As far as clear motive, I would assume that it’s just that he didn’t like him.”

Multiple shots were fired, but Grogan wouldn’t say how many times Murphy was hit.

Grogan said Lattus may have been upset with Murphy over the relationship with his adoptive mother, Carole Lattus. Carole Lattus had adopted her son as a child when she was married to his father, who died several years ago, friends said.

“From Tommy’s point of view, I think he might have had some friction, from things that happened in the past,” Grogan said.

The mayor’s brother and neighbor, Fred Murphy, said his nephew told him Monday that the mayor had asked his son to call periodically to check on his welfare when Lattus came to visit him in recent days.

Grogan said Lattus had been staying at his mother’s home.

Murphy was in his second term as mayor of the town of 2,500 in extreme southwestern Kentucky near the Mississippi River. He previously served on the city board of commissioners.

Visitation for Murphy is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. CST Thursday, Jan. 26 at West Baptist Church in Hickman. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. CST Friday at West Baptist Church.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)