On the night of January 17, 1995, 44-year-old Darrel Benner was fatally shot in the head during a night of drinking in his home in Piketon, Ohio.
Present in the home were Benner’s nephew, Michael Mullett; Mullett’s sister, Lisa Mullett Cutlip, and Lisa’s boyfriend, Kenneth Moore, 45.
Police said Mullett and his sister asserted that Moore had pulled the .380-caliber revolver and asked Benner, “Are you prepared to die?” When Benner answered in the affirmative, Moore shot him, according to the witnesses.
Moore declined to speak to investigators after the shooting, although he would later contend that he had passed out drunk and when he awoke, Mullett and his girlfriend were tucking the pistol into Benner’s hand to make the shooting look like a suicide.
Moore was charged with murder and on March 28, 1995, he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after telling Benner’s family in court, “I never intended that to happen; it was an accident.”
From prison, Moore sought to withdraw his guilty plea after learning that gunshot residue tests were positive for Lisa Mullett Cutlip and negative for him and that his defense attorney had failed to inform him of this potentially exculpatory evidence.
In 2004, the 4th District Court of Appeal granted his motion to withdraw his plea due to ineffective assistance of counsel and ordered a new trial.
At a bench trial in 2004, Moore’s lawyers presented the gunshot residue evidence as well as testimony of two witnesses who said they later heard Michael Mullett and his sister implicate her in the shooting.
At the end of a four-day trial, Common Pleas Judge Cassandra Bolt-Meredith acquitted Moore.
In July, 2008, The Ohio Court of Claims awarded compensation to Moore totaling $500,000 plus his legal fees.
– Maurice Possley