Saturday, August 28, 2004

Murder suspect evaluated

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - An Ohio man charged with murdering a retired Catholic priest and sex offender has had a court date set for a competency hearing.

Fayette County Circuit Judge Rebecca Overstreet Friday set an Oct. 11 hearing date for Jason Anthony Russell. Russell, 27, is charged with killing 78-year-old Joseph Pilger. He is also charged with burglary, theft and being a persistent felon.

Police say Russell, of Ironton, killed Pilger, whose body was found Dec. 5 at his Lexington home. Russell has pleaded not guilty to those charges. Russell also has pleaded not guilty to a third-degree assault charge filed in May.

Russell underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation earlier this year. His lawyer asked in June that a second evaluation be done, a request Judge Lewis Paisley granted. Results of those evaluations are not available in court records.

Pilger pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in 1995 for abusing three brothers and their cousin in 1968 and 1969, when he was their pastor in Morganfield in western Kentucky. The victims were younger than 15 and serving as altar boys at the parish.

After a plea bargain, Pilger received five years probation, beginning in January 1995.

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