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Evaluations key to death penalty decisions

Harrison County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd is awaiting mental evaluation reports before deciding whether to seek the death penalty for either of two suspects in the murders last year of Hobert Pittman and his mother-in-law, Myrtle L. Satterfield in Mauckport.
That’s what Byrd told defense attorneys during a preliminary hearing Thursday in Harrison Superior Court. Neither of the two suspects would be eligible for the death penalty if they are ruled insane by psychiatrists, Byrd said.
Pittman, 59, and Satterfield, 80, were shot to death on June 12, 2004, at Pittman’s secluded residence outside Mauckport.
Pittman’s son, Hobert Alan Pittman, 24, and his acquaintance, John Naylor, 21, of Frankton, were arrested in Daytona Beach, Fla., days after the shooting.
Pittman’s stepmother, Linda Pittman, was also shot while escaping from the scene, after arriving home from her mother’s residence in Marengo. She arrived home shortly after her husband, who was already slain. His body was found outside the house on the ground. Linda’s mother, who was a double amputee, was in the rear of the van, in a wheelchair, when she was fatally wounded.
The two suspects are also charged with attempting to murder Linda Pittman and burglarizing the home, where the son no longer lived. Linda was rushed by ambulance to Harrison County Hospital and airlifted to University Hospital in Louisville. She has undergone extensive medical treatment, including 15 surgeries thus far.
Linda Pittman’s Ford Explorer, which had been taken from the yard, was later found beneath the Matthew E. Welsh Bridge approach east of town. The two men are suspected of driving Pittman’s vehicle to the bridge and then leaving it there and traveling south in a red Plymouth Horizon. They were picked up by police in Daytona Beach two days after the shootings.
The state’s cases against the two defendants will be heard separately; plans now call for one or the other jury trial to begin Oct. 18.
‘I want to move this matter along as expeditiously as possible,’ Judge Roger D. Davis told the parties in court.
Byrd said Monday there is a ‘slim chance still in the pipeline’ that a plea bargain will be reached with Naylor.
‘He’s alleging some sort of coercion (by Pittman) to minimize his involvement,’ said Byrd. ‘The coercion is more an illusion than a fact. Things he has said don’t add up.’
Pittman, who previously showed up in court looking disheveled with long, stringy hair falling over his face, was neat and clean shaven last week.
Pittman’s defense counsel, Corydon attorney Amie Newlon, will be assisted at trial by New Albany attorney Shane Gibson. Naylor is represented by New Albany attorney Stanley E. Robison Jr.
None of the three attorneys are ‘death penalty certified,’ so qualified attorneys will have to be appointed in each case should the death penalty be sought.
Byrd said he should know one way or the other by Aug. 31, which is the deadline for filing depositions in the cases.
Each defendant has been examined by court appointed doctors; Naylor has been seen by a defense appointed psychiatrist, all at taxpayer expense. All costs involved in the preparations for trials and the jury trials will be borne by the taxpayers.
Judge Davis has set aside two weeks for each trial. Pittman’s case is scheduled first. Attorneys for both defendants told the judge they are ready for trial.