James Hunt Murders Bettina Hunt In Kentucky

James Hunt was sentenced to death by the State of Kentucky for the murder of Bettina Hunt

According to court documents James Hunt and his wife Bettina Hunt had split up due to domestic violence. James would track Bettina down and shoot her numerous times causing her death

James Hunt would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

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James Hunt Now

Active Inmate
PID # / DOC #:120215 / 182954
Institution Start Date:8/07/2006
Expected Time To Serve (TTS):DEATH SENTENCE
Minimum Expiration of Sentence Date (Good Time Release Date): ?DEATH SENTENCE
Parole Eligibility Date:DEATH SENTENCE
Maximum Expiration of Sentence Date:DEATH SENTENCE
Location:Kentucky State Penitentiary

James Hunt Case

Hunt and the victim, Bettina Hunt, were married in 1991. During their relationship the couple had recurring problems. Bettina had petitioned for domestic violence protective orders against Hunt in 1998 and 2002. She filed for divorce in 2002, and again in July 2004-four months prior to her murder.

In the months before the murder, the couple was again having considerable problems. Much of the strain was related to Bettina’s preoccupation with her drug-addicted daughter from a prior marriage, Veronica Harris, and Veronica’s newborn baby, Katrina. Katrina was born prematurely and suffered from severe health problems requiring round-the-clock care. After the baby’s birth, Bettina gained custody of the child and during the months preceding her murder spent much of her time taking care of the infant.

In November 2004, Bettina was separated from James Hunt and lived with Katrina at a residence owned by her mother located on Buck Branch Road in Floyd County, Kentucky. Her former sister-in-law, Lula Dillon, came to the residence five to six days a week to help Bettina take care of Katrina, and was there on Tuesday, November 30, 2004. Lula testified that Hunt called several times that day, including a call that came in at about 6:20 to 6:25 p.m. Lula noted that the conversation was argumentative, and that Bettina told Hunt she intended to see a divorce lawyer in a few days and wanted to go through with the divorce. Lula left the residence, just after the phone conversation ended.

Shortly thereafter, Bettina placed a call to her brother.1 He was not home, and Bettina ended up speaking with her sister-in-law, Karen Chaffins. The two talked at length about a variety of issues involving James Hunt. A few minutes after 7:00 p.m., Bettina told Karen that “he”-meaning Hunt-was at the door, that she would send him away, and would then call Karen right back.2 According to phone records, that phone call ended at 7:05 p.m.

Three minutes later, at 7:08 p.m., Bettina called 911. A recording of the call began when emergency dispatch personnel answered the line; however, it appears that Bettina was unaware that the call had been answered, as she did not communicate the emergency to the 911 operator.

On the 911 recording, a threatening male voice and a panicked female voice can be heard. The male voice can be heard saying, “maybe if I shoot you-you (inaudible).” The female voice is heard pleading with the man-stating in a terrified tone-“no, I promise” and “stop-please no.” After additional inaudible conversation and commotion, the same threat to shoot the woman is repeated, and again the woman is heard begging for her life. Subsequently, a gunshot is heard. The woman can be heard crying hysterically and frantically screaming. A second shot is then heard, followed by silence.

A short time later and only a few hundred feet from the murder scene, James Hunt ran his car off of a bridge. The vehicle landed upside down and became partially submerged in the creek below. Various passers-by stopped to assist Hunt. When one of them, Judy Flannery, first observed Hunt, she noticed that he held something in his left hand. Hunt walked behind a nearby tree and when he reemerged, his hands were empty. The next day Judy’s husband, Rabon Flannery, searched the area near the tree where Judy believed she saw Hunt leave something. Rabon found a silver Smith & Wesson .357 revolver later determined to be the murder weapon, in the creek. The confirmation that the weapon was the murder weapon was based upon a matching of the weapon to spent rounds discovered at the murder scene.

Soon after the shooting, police officers arrived at the scene of the wreck and arrested James Hunt, who was visibly intoxicated. He denied any knowledge of the nearby shooting. His vehicle was pulled from the creek. While walking around the vehicle, Detective Dwayne Price observed a shell casing resting on the rubber window seal where the glass for the passenger-side window opens and closes. Price took possession of the shell casing. Later testing determined it to have been fired from the murder weapon. Similarly, ballistics testing of other shell casings found at the murder scene determined that they were fired from the same weapon. The spent rounds were of a relatively unusual type of .38 caliber ammunition.3 It was later determined that Hunt had several unspent rounds of the same unusual ammunition in his jacket pocket.

Other forensic evidence also linked James Hunt to the murder. For example, the clothing worn by Hunt on the date of the murder was examined by forensic experts. DNA testing conclusively determined that blood found on Hunt’s jacket in two locations was Bettina’s. In addition, blood taken from a juice bottle located on Bettina’s kitchen table was conclusively linked to Hunt. Similarly, blood from part of a t-shirt stuffed inside the bottle and a band-aid attached to the bottle were also matched to Hunt.4

James Hunt was originally indicted only for murder and first-degree burglary. A superseding indictment adding first-degree wanton endangerment as a charge was later returned. A jury trial was held beginning May 15, 2006, and concluding June 1, 2006. Hunt’s defense was that someone else committed the crimes. Following the presentation of evidence, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all three charges. Hunt was sentenced to death on the murder charge, and to twenty years and five years, respectively, on the burglary and wanton endangerment charges. This appeal followed. We address the twenty-four enumerated issues raised by Hunt in the order they are presented in his brief.


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