Small town Ky. mayor shot dead

A sign welcoming people to Hickman, Ky.
Hickman Chamber of Commerce

HICKMAN, Ky. - The mayor of a small western Kentucky town was shot dead early Monday morning in his home, and a suspect turned himself in shortly afterward.

Hickman Police Chief Tony Grogan said 30-year-old Thomas Joseph Lattus walked into the police department around 1 a.m. and told an officer he had just shot Mayor Charles Murphy. An officer went to Murphy's home and found the mayor's body in the bedroom.

Lattus has been charged with murder and is being held at the Fulton County Detention Facility, where records do not indicate whether he has an attorney. A home phone number for Lattus could not immediately be found Monday morning.

Grogan did not say anything about a motive.

The mayor had dated the suspect's stepmother on and off for years, said Gerald Harris, whose niece is married to the mayor's son. Harris said there were no arguments between Lattus and any of Murphy's family.

City Commissioner Charles Choate also said he knew of the relationship, but he didn't know whether Lattus was upset about it.

The suspect's stepmother, Carole Lattus, was out of the country and couldn't immediately be reached. Thomas Lattus had been adopted by Carole Lattus when he was boy, Harris said. The suspect's father, Carole Lattus' former husband, died years ago.

Harris, who owns a tractor business in town, said he's known the popular mayor since grade school.

"He's just a super nice guy," Harris said.

Murphy's family is devastated by the shooting, Harris said.

"They're tore all the pieces, all of them are," Harris said.

Jason Sipes, pastor at West Hickman Baptist Church, told a reporter from The Associated Press that family members gathering at a house would not comment on the shooting.

Morrison Williamson, manager at Hickman Hardware, said people in the town of about 2,500 were shocked to wake up and find out the mayor had been killed. Williamson first heard about it early in the morning from his wife.

"Next thing I know, people started calling the store, saying `Did you hear what happened?"' Williamson said.

Murphy, 68, oversaw the city's preparation during historic flooding on the Mississippi River in April and May. Hickman, in the extreme southwest corner of Kentucky, is about 265 miles southwest of Louisville.

Murphy, a retired middle and high school principal, was in his second term as mayor. He previously served on the city board of commissioners. Choate described Murphy as a small farmer who loved to spend time on his property.

Murphy was also proud that recent audits showed the city's financial situation was improving.

"He was very proud that the city was turning the corner and being more financially responsible," Choate said.

Hickman is home to the Hickman-Dorena Ferry, which provides the only connection for automobiles between Kentucky and Missouri. It is also the last ferry on the Mississippi, according to the official city website. The town had a population of about 2,500 as of the 200 census.

A search of online court records in Kentucky showed that Lattus had no pending civil cases or criminal charges against him in Kentucky.