Justice must wait for murdered teen heroine in Ketchner death penalty trial

Ariel Allison

Ariel Allison

KINGMAN - More than two years will have passed since the death of 18-year-old Ariel Allison before her mother's former boyfriend will stand trial for her murder.

A trial date of Jan. 23, 2012, has been tentatively scheduled in the capital murder case against 53-year-old Darrell Ketchner. Part of the delay is because of the complex nature of a murder case involving the death penalty. The parties involved could have possibly been ready by late fall, but defense attorney John Napper has another death penalty case scheduled for that time. Napper is representing Cedar Soto Garcia, a Yavapai man charged in the beating death of his 3-month-old baby.

That case, where the state is also seeking the death penalty against the defendant, is already four years old and would take precedence over the Ketchner case, Napper said. Napper, who works out of Prescott, is one of a small number of lawyers in the area qualified to handle death penalty cases.

Prosecutor Megan McCoy said she had no problem setting the start of trial at almost a year off, as long as the date was adhered to as best as possible. The Garcia case is scheduled for October and could last until Christmas.

The Ketchner trial is expected to last around 12 weeks, although its likely the case will only be heard three days a week to accommodate the rest of the defendants with cases in Division 5. McCoy said she expects to present around 14 full days of evidence and testimony, with Napper indicating that the defense's case will likely take as long. Judge Rick Williams said the questioning of prospective jurors would likely take a week.

Napper said he expects a heavy amount of pretrial publicity and indicated at Tuesday's hearing that he could possibly file for a change of venue hearing in the future.

Ketchner is charged with breaking into the Allison family home on Pacific Avenue on July 4, 2009, and attacking his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Allison, after she and her children had returned from a fireworks display. Allison has five children, three of whom were fathered by Ketchner.

Ariel Allison, who was not Ketchner's daughter, died of stab wounds after coming to her mother's defense.

Jennifer Allison was shot in the back of the head but survived. Ketchner was arrested after he was found passed out on the Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course the morning after the murders.