Nephew of slain couple pleads not guilty to tampering, trafficking charges

BURLINGTON, Ky. - Charles Robert Stephenson, the Walton man whom authorities believe might be a "person-of-interest" in the murders of an Aurora woman and a Florence couple, pleaded not guilty Monday to a pair of felony charges in Boone County District Court.

Stephenson, 58, only gave his name during a video arraignment from the Boone County Jail, where he's been held since Friday. He's accused of tampering with evidence between March 29 and April 9 and of drug trafficking of oxycontin.

Steve Florian of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy represented Stephenson during the brief hearing and said he has no significant assets.

"He has no money in bank accounts and no vehicles that he owns," Florian said. "The only income that he has is about $600 from a monthly pension from Delta Air Lines."

Boone District Judge Michael Collins kept Stephenson's bond at $50,000 cash on the charges and ordered him held for a preliminary hearing on Monday April 23 at 8:30 a.m.

Florian indicated that he's working with Stephenson family members to see if the bond can be raised. Stephenson's former wife and son were in court for the hearing, but declined to comment.

The Aurora murder victim was Leigh Jennings, 67, whom friends said had known Stephenson for some time. In fact, they say he often came to dinner twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.

Aurora police have determined she died of multiple skull fractures on or about March 29, a Thursday. That's the date which marked the beginning of the tampering with evidence, according to documents filed with the Boone District Court Clerk. Her body was discovered by a neighbor seven days later.

Jennings' friends also mentioned that she either had loaned or was going to loan Stephenson money. That's important since he was under a court order to repay $3,700 to his aunt, Fay Sparks of Florence.

She's the sister of Bill Stephenson, who was murdered along with his wife, Peggy, in May of 2011 in a case that remains unsolved. "Steve" Stephenson is the couple's nephew.

Sparks' attorney, David Steele, said that Stephenson was supposed to pay $500 a month until the debt was erased, but there were several checks that bounced and had to be replaced by money orders. Sparks, 84, had incurred a penalty for early withdrawal from her IRA.

Steele said the last payment he received from Stephenson was the morning of March 30, the day after police say Jennings was murdered.

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