Judge refuses to lower bond for Charles Robert Stephenson

BURLINGTON, Ky. - A Boone County judge has refused to lower the bond for Charles Robert Stephenson, a suspect in the murder of an Aurora woman.

Judge JR Schrand issued the Thursday, the day after "Steve" Stephenson appeared in court on tampering with evidence and drug trafficking charges.

Stephenson will remain at the Boone County Jail on a $50,000 bond. His attorney asked for the bond reduction request during a hearing on Wednesday in which Stephenson was officially tied to the murder of 67-year-old Leigh Jennings. Her body was discovered inside her Aspen Ridge Road apartment on Thursday April 5. Police believe she was killed on or before Thursday March 29.

During Wednesday's hearing, Boone County Commonwealth Attorney Linda Tally Smith argued, "These charges here in Boone County arose from an investigation which was started in the State of Indiana that involves a woman by the name of Leigh Jennings," she continued, " Mister Stephenson is confirmed to be the last person known to be with Miss Jennings when she was alive".

Aurora police said Jennings died from multiple skull fractures. Investigators have said they have a suspect in the case, but haven't publicly named that person of interest.

So far, Stephenson is not charged with any crime in Indiana.

Stephenson is also the nephew of Bill and Peggy Stephenson, the Florence couple murdered in their home last May. That case remains unsolved.

Stephenson's arms and legs were shackled for the 10-minute hearing on Wednesday. The only words he spoke were to give his name, date-of-birth and address.

Public Defender Steve Florian argued that his client's bond is out of line for the charges that have been filed.

"He has absolutely no criminal history. He's a low risk. He's lived in this area his entire life," Florian said. "Basically, he's being held on a lot of allegations that are floating around there. He's not been named as a suspect in any other charges besides what is before the court here today."

Florian suggested a low cash bond or unsecured third party signature bond -- perhaps even a pre-trial ankle monitor.

Tally Smith countered with the Aurora case information and the fact that Stephenson tried to commit suicide when investigators served a search warrant on the apartment where he was living.

"The Commonweatlh still believes that he's a risk of flight and that he is a danger to himself or other people," she said.

Florian took issue with that statement, saying his client could easily be monitored at the mental health unit of St. Elizabeth Health Care in Florence.

Stephenson will be back in court May 16.

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