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Kentucky Child Helped Solve Chilling Triple Murder in Family-Owned Pawn Shop
Nine-year-old Andrew Hockensmith helped police find the gun-slinging pastor responsible for the murders of his parents and another, all while protecting his baby sister.
A 9-year-old child helped Kentucky police find a gun-slinging pastor responsible for a chilling triple homicide.
Loving parents, Michael and Angela “Angie” Hockensmith, were the co-owners of the ABC Gold, Games & More pawn shop in Danville, Kentucky — a little more than 30 miles southeast of Lexington. The pair homeschooled a 9-year-old son, Andrew, while raising their infant daughter, Naomi, both of whom regularly spent time at the Hockensmith’s place of work.
“The pawn shop, that was basically my home… it was basically a playground,” Andrew Hockensmith told Final Moments, airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen. “I absolutely loved it. It was simply amazing.”
Michael Hockensmith was a Youth Pastor when he and the “sociable” Angie — who was active in singing ministry — first met through the church. The couple moved to Danville in 2013, nearly a decade after marrying, planting roots at a local church, according to Michael’s mother, Barbara Hockensmith.
“When it came to him and church, him being a parent or anything he did, it was his whole heart or nothing,” said the mother.
Michael retained a part-time status with the church when gaining employment with the ABC pawn shop. Soon, the store’s owner, Steve Divine, made Michael Hockensmith a partner in the business.
But on the morning of September 20, 2013, the family arrived at the shop, where Andrew — who’d regularly done his homeschooling at the store — played games. The morning went as planned, even when pawn shop regular Dan Smith came in for a pre-scheduled visit.
Smith, dubbed “The Gold Man,” was known to buy and sell gold between pawn shops around the state. About 15 minutes after opening, as Michael and Smith conducted business, a bearded man entered the store and demanded everyone “get on the ground,” according to Andrew.
Andrew Hockensmith witnesses a triple murder
A “petrified” Andrew told Final Moments that he and his mother retreated and huddled in the corner with baby Naomi, hearing high-pitched sounds “like a dart gun” as the unknown assailant fatally shot Michael Hockensmith and Dan Smith. Angie instructed Andrew to take his sister to the back of the store just before she was shot to death.
Andrew sat with his sister on the couch, later returning to find his parents in their own blood. He called 9-1-1, as recorded on audiotape and published by Final Moments, and told dispatchers that a “robber” had shot his parents and was possibly still on the premises.
“They’re dead, on the ground,” the calm 9-year-old told dispatch when asked about his parents. “Come here quickly because I’m afraid. Please hurry.”
Listeners can hear baby Naomi cooing in the background.
It was all hands on deck for the Danville Police Department, including detectives A.J. Mullins, Lisa Dollins, and Robert Vladd.
“They came very quickly, and I had walked to the door with phone in hand and sister in the other,” said Andrew. “And walking by these dead bodies of people that I loved.”
Det. Mullins took the children back to the police station and notified Michael’s mother. In the meantime, detectives began processing the crime scene, where they found all three adults shot to death, though drag marks indicated Dan Smith was moved from one location to another.
According to Det. Vladd, whoever killed the three victims used a .22-caliber gun to shoot Michael eight times in the legs, chest, and head; Angie Hockensmith three times in the head; and Dan Smith five times in the head. Fortunately for investigators, Andrew gave “a good description of the bad guy,” said Det. Mullins.
Andrew — the child responsible for saving his baby sister — told Final Moments the gunman was “a heavyset dude” wearing sunglasses and a cap, and he had a beard that appeared to be fake. He told Det. Mullins the suspect wore black latex gloves and camouflaged apparel.
Andrew also provided a clear description of the weapon, helping detectives deduce the assailant used a gun silencer.
Investigators examine possible motives
Investigators initially wondered if they had a deadly robbery on their hands, but they soon learned no money was taken from the register, moving them to look in other directions. Because of the silencer, they wondered if the murders were the work of a professional hitman.
While sifting through the possibilities, authorities contacted relatives, including Dan Smith’s daughters, Crystal Keepes and Stephanie Smith, who described Smith as “a kind man” who loved to help others.
Relatives couldn’t understand who would want to harm the victims.
“There is nothing worse than to lose a child,” said an emotional Barbara Hockensmith. “But, if it hadn’t been for Andrew and Naomi, I don’t think I would have survived it.”
A witness told police they saw a man exiting ABC Gold, Games & More shortly after the murders and run for the alleyway, where the suspect entered a silver minivan and sped away from the scene. Though the pawn shop had no security cameras, other area businesses did, helping police track the silver vehicle throughout town.
Surveillance video also led detectives to believe the killer staked out the pawn shop and/or one of the people inside before executing the attack.
Looking into the victims, the police found the Hockensmiths were “just a loving, good family,” according to Det. Dollins. They had no past run-ins to indicate any troubles in their lives.
Detectives then dug into ABC Gold, Games & More, learning the primary owner, Steve Divine, was supposed to meet the Hockensmiths and Smith for the business deal but called in sick that morning, according to police.
“It was definitely concerning that the owner of the business, who was supposed to be there, ironically didn’t show up because of allergies,” Det. Lisa Dollins told Final Moments.
But Divine’s alibi checked out: at the time of the murders, he was at home with his wife.
Next, looking into Dan Smith, Danville police learned Smith regularly traveled between pawn shops with a briefcase.
“He’d have anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000, and he went to known businesses on known days,” said Dollins. “So, really, anybody could have followed him and figured out where he was going to be and when.”
Investigators tracked surveillance footage from multiple businesses that Dan Smith visited on the morning of the murders, including Lawson’s Jewelry in Harrodsburg — 10 miles northeast of Danville. In his Final Moments, Smith appeared in good spirits and unaware that he’d be killed within the hour.
A phone call from Michigan shifts the investigation
Four days later, a Michigan pastor called Kentucky authorities, claiming another pastor based in Danville made suspicious remarks about Michael and Angie Hockensmith
According to Det. Robert Vladd, the Michigan pastor said Kenneth Allen Keith “switched like a light switch,” angry because he’d been owed “a lot of money.”
Kenneth Allen Keith was another pawn shop owner with a store in Pulaski County, neighboring Danville’s Boyle County. He was also a pastor at a Somerset church — nearly 50 miles south of Danville.
Preaching and pawnshops seemed to be the “common denominator” in those involved in the case, Det. Dollins told Final Moments. It wasn’t long, however, until detectives discovered Keith had a different preaching style than those of the Hockensmiths.
“We found one of his sermons that he had on YouTube where he’s on the pulpit, and he’s got a rifle with a sling on, and he’s talking about his past, what he’s done,” Det. A.J. Mullins said. “And the further we looked into Kenneth Allen, the more we’re like, ‘This is a good lead.’”
Keith’s financial history revealed to detectives that Keith and ABC Gold, Games & More owner, Steve Divine, were previously in business with one another. The partnership fell through and resulted in Keith owing Divine money and Divine suing as a result, according to Det. Dollins.
The Hockensmiths, previously employed by Keith, took over as partner of the pawn shop. Divine reportedly felt cheated by the new arrangement, as though the Hockensmiths ripped the business from underneath him.
But that wasn’t all.
“It ended up that there was a silver-slash-gray minivan that was registered and associated with [Keith],” Det. Vladd told Final Moments.
Police requested the Michigan-based-pastor-turned-tipster initiate a conversation between him and the suspect, as recorded on October 9, 2013, and published by Final Moments.
Police narrow in on Kenneth Allen Keith
During the phone conversation, Keith referred to the Hockensmiths as “crooked people.”
“They went into it with the whole point from day one to take over that business from me,” Keith told the informant. “I don’t mean to speak ill, but facts is facts.”
Keith admitted to being in Danville at the time of the murders, stating he was at a pharmacy. Sure enough, Danville police found pharmacy security footage showing Keith inside at around 9:25 a.m., which would have provided enough time for Keith to carry out the shootings.
Prosecutor Richie Bottoms considered it “unusual” that Keith would visit a pharmacy in Danville instead of one of several pharmacies in his Somerset hometown.
Police learned their prime suspect was in Florida as their investigation gained traction. During that time, they obtained a search warrant for Keith’s home, church, and business.
At Keith’s pawn shop, detectives found materials used to design a homemade gun silencer and, outside the store, .22-caliber shell casings used for target practice.
The casings matched those from the crime scene. Upon his return to Kentucky, Kenneth Allen Keith was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Andrew Hockensmith remembered hearing about the arrest on the news, while Dan Smith’s daughters were surprised since Smith and Keith seemed to have a good relationship.
“Dad had a previous relationship with Kenneth Allen Keith. He would come in, and he would buy and sell; they did business,” Smith’s daughter, Crystal Keepes, told Final Moments. “You’re going, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not a real pastor.’ To be able to commit murders on Friday and get up on the pulpit Sunday morning and preach, especially in front of two children.”
For his crimes, Keith faced a possible death sentence. But in hopes of sparing the victims’ loved ones from a lengthy trial, prosecutors offered a deal, which Keith accepted: life in prison without the possibility of parole for pleading guilty to the murders.
“We all come out on the short end of the stick, but that’s OK; I don’t have to answer for what he did,” Michael Hockensmith’s mother, Barbara Hockensmith, told Final Moments. “The man’s going to have his own demons he’s going to have to live with.”
“I’m very thankful for what I have, and in a sense, it’s like I am living through my parents’ life, or kind of like a reimagined one,” Andrew Hockensmith continued. “My parents will always live on within me.”
Watch Season 2 of Final Moments, now available on Oxygen.