Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Announces Life Sentence in Knott County Murder Case
Commonwealth v. Justin Keith Conley
Attorney General Greg Stumbo announced today that a Knott Circuit Court jury rejected an insanity plea and recommended a life sentence for Justin Keith Conley, age 22, of Mousie, for the 2004 murder of Jessica Newsome, his 21-year-old girlfriend, of Galveston, in Floyd County. The case was tried by Assistant Attorney General Barbara Maines Whaley.
The trial, which concluded yesterday after six days of testimony, focused on the defendant’s claim that he was insane at the time he shot the victim in the head at his home on December 17, 2004. Witnesses testified that Ms. Newsome, deaf since birth, had telephoned her mother via a TTY system for help but when her mother arrived, she could not find the victim or Conley in the house.
A Kentucky State Police detective testified that Conley told him he killed his girlfriend because God told him to do so. Evidence revealed that Newsome was shot in the front yard and dragged over an embankment. She was taken back inside the home by Conley after the mother left. Conley also told police he threw the murder weapon, a .357 Magnum, across the road near a creek.
“Justice has been served in the trial of this brutal killer,” said Attorney General Greg Stumbo. “My Special Prosecutions Division works tirelessly to protect Kentuckians from vicious criminals. This conviction takes another savage murderer off the streets and puts him behind bars where he belongs.”
Several friends of the victim, former students with her at Kentucky School for the Deaf, testified via interpreters that they witnessed prior abuse of the victim by Conley, including one instance where he “finger-spelled” the word “kill” and pointed to the victim.
The jury also convicted Conley for assaulting two deputy jailers on the day after his arrest.
The jury heard testimony from three psychologists and a psychiatrist during the course of the trial, as well as friends and family members of the defendant, and other employees of the jail regarding the issue of Conley’s mental state at the time of the murder.