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Kentucky pastor charged with murder attended victims' funerals

This undated photo provided by the Boyle County Detention Center shows Kenneth Keith.
This undated photo provided by the Boyle County Detention Center shows Kenneth Keith.Boyle County Detention Center via AP

A Baptist pastor was charged Wednesday in connection to a September triple homicide at a Kentucky pawn shop he once owned, according to police — just two weeks after he reportedly attended a funeral for two of the victims, consoling their family and friends.

Kenneth A. Keith, 48, the pastor at Main Street Baptist Church in Burnside, Ky., allegedly shot and killed gold-buying store proprietors Michael and Angela Hockensmith, and a customer, Daniel P. Smith, on Sept. 20.

And just days later, Keith paid his respects at a Sept. 24 funeral service for the slain couple, who left behind a 9-year-old son and a 14-month old daughter. He offered his condolences to the devastated mourners, showing no sign that he perpetrated what authorities say was an act of cold-blooded violence, relatives said.

For the kin of the victims still reeling from the slayings, the allegations against Keith are like a punch in the gut — with his sympathy call adding insult to irrevocable injury.

"To find that out, it made me sick," Michael's brother, Tony, told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Keith was a longtime friend of the Hockensmiths, according to local reports.

Michael Hockensmith, 34, was a youth pastor at another Baptist church and had managed the store for Keith before he and Angela, 38, assumed part ownership, according to NBC News affiliate WAVE 3 in Louisville.

"It's fair to say that he (Keith) had owned the business prior to this and they had a working relationship," Commonwealth Attorney Richard Bottoms told Reuters.

But three months ago, Michael and Angela took total full control of the shop, changing the name from Kings Corner to ABC Gold, Games and More, according to WAVE 3

Keith had reportedly been edged out of a deal to purchase gold from the couple, according to the Courier-Journal newspaper. They had decided to instead sell the bullion to Daniel P. Smith, 60, the third shooting victim, who apparently offered better bargains.

Authorities on Sept. 20 received a call from the Hockensmiths' 9-year-old son, who was inside the store with his 14-month-old sister during the murders, according to the police statement.

Authorities had to forcibly enter the business, where they discovered the three adult victims. The children were unharmed and have been placed with grandparents, the statement said.

After an investigation that gripped the region, police on Wednesday afternoon arrested Keith at another pawn shop he owns in Somerset, Ky., according to authorities.

Keith is lodged at the Pulaski County Jail pending his return to Boyle County, police said. It was not immediately known if he has any attorney.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.