September 20, 2012

Financial, marital problems exposed during first days of Gilliam trial

Wife of late London attorney accused of murder

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A three-man, nine-woman jury began hearing evidence Monday afternoon regarding the January 2011 shooting death of London attorney Larry Gilliam.

Jurors were selected Monday morning, with opening statements presented by Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele and defense attorney, Robert Norfleet of Somerset, who is representing Gilliam’s wife, Lisa, in the murder charge.

Larry Gilliam died on Jan. 7 last year of a gunshot wound to the chest, which was listed on the initial autopsy report as “self-inflicted,” according to testimony given by Dr. Kristen Rolf of the Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s office. But Rolf then said that listing was “marked out” when the case was believed to have been a homicide rather than a suicide.

However, Kentucky State Police Fingerprint Analyst Paul Dorman testified  the fingerprint testing on the gun used in the shooting did not contain helpful information in determining who had touched the gun when the fatal shot was fired.

Dorman said his office used "super glue testing” which revealed “some smudges and some ridges” on the gun handle, but none on the trigger.

“There was no evidence to identify or exclude anyone,” Dorman said.

Scott Foster, co-counsel for Lisa Gilliam, questioned why DNA testing was not done on the firearm after fingerprint tests were inconclusive, to which Dorman said his agency performed tests requested by the submitting agency. In this case, the London Police Department requested fingerprints on the gun, not DNA testing.

Financial woes might have been a factor indicating suicide

Other witnesses  outlined some of Larry Gilliam’s financial problems. Douglas Benge testified he represented Gilliam in a divorce settlement appeal with Gilliam’s previous wife, Coleen. Barbourville attorney David Mills stated he represented Gilliam in an EPO (Emergency Protective Order) hearing against Coleen, in which Larry Gilliam sought to restrict Coleen from coming to his Fourth Street law office. Katie Gilliam, first cousin to the late attorney, said she met with Gilliam regarding filing bankruptcy. In fact, Larry Gilliam had returned an information packet on the bankruptcy case to Katie Gilliam’s office just that morning.

Despite his potential bankruptcy and other financial problems facing Larry Gilliam, all witnesses stated  Gilliam did not seem disheartened or unhappy on the day of his death.

He had future plans, prosecution says

During opening statements, Steele said Gilliam was planning a vacation the following week to his hometown in Hazard, and had just paid cash for a Bahama getaway the following month with current wife, Lisa. Steele said the day of the shooting, Lisa Gilliam’s statements to police “didn’t always necessarily add up.”

“Some things in this case will never change,” Steele told jurors. “The first thing that won’t change is that Larry Gilliam was shot and killed on January 7, 2011.....The second thing is that there were only two people in the office that day.”

Defense attorneys, however, described Larry Gilliam as “broke, alone, and going to jail” on the day of his death. Gilliam was reportedly behind on alimony payments of $2,300 per month to his former wife, Coleen, and, if that amount was not paid that day, a contempt charge was going to be filed against him. An ongoing argument between Larry and Lisa from that Friday morning that continued into the afternoon of his death, defense attorneys said, resulted in Lisa Gilliam telling her husband that their relationship was over.

The murder trial for Lisa Gilliam is expected to continue through Thursday. The prosecution was expected to end its witnesses on Tuesday morning, with defense witnesses taking the stand that afternoon.

Special Judge Robert McGinnis is hearing the case, which is taking place in Laurel Circuit Court.