LOUISVILLE, KY. — A former helicopter mechanic with an elite Army special operations unit condemned to death for killing three children wants to end all his appeals — a move made easier Thursday when the Kentucky Supreme Court rejected a bid by his public defenders to keep the case active.
Kevin Wayne Dunlap, a one-time member of the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the "Night Stalkers," based at Fort Campbell, filed a handwritten motion in Livingston County Circuit Court in December asking a judge to stop his attorneys' "coercive efforts" and allow him to waive all his appeals.
The state's high court turned away a bid by those attorneys to have the justices rehear the case of Dunlap, 41, who pleaded guilty in March 2010 to attacking Kristy Frensley at her home in Roaring Springs near Fort Campbell 18 months earlier and killing three children at the home before burning it to the ground. A jury recommended a death sentence.
The justices rejected the case without comment.
If allowed to drop all appeals, Dunlap could be among the first inmates executed if Kentucky is allowed to restart executions for the first time in more than five years. The state has been under a judge's order stopping all death sentences because of issues with the way executions are carried out.
In his motion to the Livingston Circuit Court, Dunlap doesn't give a reason for seeking to drop the appeals. Instead, Dunlap writes that his public defenders "have in the past sought to continue pointless and unwarranted appeals in furtherance of their own political agendas," even though he has no intention of pursuing those appeals.
Dunlap did not respond to a letter sent to him at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville by The Associated Press.
Dunlap raised multiple issues on appeal, including challenging the judge's handling of his guilty plea and the presence of a brain defect discovered just before the scheduled trial date.
Dunlap approached Kristy Frensley as she worked in the yard and asked to see the house, which was for sale, on Oct. 15, 2008. Once inside, he pulled a gun and zip-tied Frensley's hands and ankles. When the children came home, he tied them up and put them in a different part of the house.
Killed in the attack were 5-year-old Ethan Frensley, 17-year-old Kayla Williams and 14-year-old Kortney Frensley. A medical examiner determined each of the children died from multiple stab wounds.
After being raped and stabbed, Frensley faked her own death and escaped after Dunlap set the house on fire. The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault, but Kristy Frensley gave her permission during the legal proceedings for her name to be used.
On the eve of trial, Dunlap sought to plead guilty but mentally ill, but also told a judge if that were not possible he would simply plead guilty. Dunlap underwent a competency test and hearing before a judge accepted the guilty plea and was found competent to stand trial.
A judge in Frankfort has called for a trial on several aspects of how Kentucky handles an inmate leading up to a lethal injection. Judge Phillip Shepherd as ordered attorneys for the state and the 30-plus death row inmates to meet in September to set a trial date.