SOMERSET, Ky. (WKYT) - Shock and sadness among many that knew Mark Stanziano.
“We have lost not only a good friend but a colorful character,” said Bruce Singleton a friend a fellow member of the local bar association.
Singleton says he was running late Friday morning but would have walked to the courthouse with Stanziano when the defense attorney was shot multiple times just outside his Somerset law office.
“Well respected, aggressive, very well known in the criminal field,” said Singleton.
Police say the shooter, 40 year old Clinton David Inabnitt, approached Stanziano Thursday night. A police citation says he was mad the attorney wouldn’t help him with a problem.
“We have been told by a witness that there was some kind of threat made last night by Inabnitt to Mr. Stanziano,” said Somerset Police Captain Shannon Smith.
Stanziano was in many high profile criminal defense cases. Most recently he represented Kenneth Keith, charged in a Danville triple murder. Police say that case, nor any other high profile case he had represented, had anything to do with the motive.
But Inabnitt was familiar with police. Court records show multiple arrests on resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and alcohol related charges. Now he’s charged with one count of murder for allegedly taking the life one of southern Kentucky’s most prominent defense lawyers.
“He was boisterous and loud spoken, but he backed it up with the knowledge of the case and statute law,” said Singleton.
“A fierce defense attorney. You should probably have your homework done when you are in the witness stand across from him,” said Smith.
Inabnitt is in jail under no bond and will answer to the charges Monday morning.
Early Friday evening, Stanziano's widow, Bethany, released a statement, saying, " My husband talked with Clinton on numerous occasions. He never avoided talking with him. On many occasions he offered him help, even buying him lunch. I know he spoke with Clinton about his emotional problems and offered to help find him medical treatment."
Bethany Stanziano also said she was with her husband on many occasions when he was approached by Inabnitt.
“Today I lost my best friend. His four daughters lost their father. Three grandchildren lost their grandfather. Aside from that, the legal community lost a great mentor and a great teacher," Bethany Stanziano also said in the statement.
Before first moving to Kentucky, Mark Stanziano practiced law in Columbus, Ohio. After a brief stint with the Minnesota Public Defender system, Stanziano returned to Kentucky in 2008. In 2010, he and his wife opened offices in Somerset and Columbia.
Stanziano earned a bachelors degree in economics from Ohio State in 1979 and a law degree from the University of Louisville in 1982.
He was a past-president of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In 2000, he was the group's youngest recipient to be honored with its Frank E. Haddad, Jr. Award for criminal defense work in Kentucky.
In 2013, Stanziano was named one of the top 100 trial attorneys in Kentucky by the National Trial Lawyers.
In 2002, Stanziano represented Danny Shelly, the man who confessed to shooting Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron. Stanziano didn't shy away from controversy. In 2005, he represented Ronnie Cornett, a Danville man convicted of attempting to kill his ex-wife and a Boyle County family court judge. In 2011, Stanziano represented Jason Singleton. Singleton admitted to holding four people hostage at a Pulaski County trucking service. Singleton pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment. Later on with a different attorney representing him, Singleton was indicted in Madison County for the murder of his wife.