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Murdered doctor case may soon go to trial

By: Matthew Rand Email
By: Matthew Rand Email

CORNETTSVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Three years ago Saturday, Doctor Dennis Sandlin was working at the Leatherwood-Blackey clinic in Cornettsville when police say John C. Combs of Knott County shot and killed him. Now, Combs may soon have his day in court.

Police say Combs went to the Leatherwood-Blackey clinic for a doctor's visit, left and returned with a gun. Prosecutors say the family of Doctor Dennis Sandlin is still waiting for justice.

"They've been grappling with the loss of their loved one for three years now, and the whole community has," said Teresa Combs Reed, Perry County Commonwealth's Attorney.

The process leading up to a trial for Combs has been a lengthy one, which the prosecuting attorney says is not uncommon for this type of case.

"Any time you have a death penalty case, that complicates the legal matters, so that death penalty cases typically take longer to get to trial," said Reed.

Another factor delaying the case, Reed says, has been a request from the defense for funding for expert witnesses, despite the fact that Combs did not use a public defender.

"They can get funds to pay an expert witness, but if you hire your own lawyer, then those are not available to you," Reed explained.

Combs's lawyers have appealed that rule all the way to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which has ruled Combs must be tried first. After that, his legal team could appeal a guilty verdict.

A status conference is set for January 2nd, and the trial could begin as early as January 7th, although it is not clear whether John Hansen, who defeated Reed in the November 6th election, will need more time to prepare before he leads the prosecution.

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