Records provided by Court Clerk Colby Slusher showed that Donnie Joe Fuston, 55, of Straight Creek, was recently released from prison where he had served time for manslaughter related to the 1991 shooting death of Michael Clifton.
According to court reports, Fuston and Clifton and others were drinking together when Fuston made a lewd comment about Clifton's girlfriend. An argument followed, resulting in Clifton striking Fuston with a board and Fuston shooting Clifton in the head. The original murder charge was reduced to manslaughter in an appeal in which Fuston argued that he did not intend to kill Clifton.
Arley L. Carnes, 49, of Jenson, was convicted of felony assault in 2005 in connection with an incident involving an attack on corrections officers while he was in a detoxification cell at the Bell County Jail.
The third victim, Carnes' nephew, Bryan Carnes, 31, also of Jenson, did not have any felony records, according to the court clerk's office. Previous charges against him included misdemeanors such as alcohol intoxication, theft and burglary, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Bryan Carnes, a widower, worked as a coal miner and was the father of three children being raised by his late wife's parents.
Fuston and the two Carneses all were discovered dead in a van Tuesday afternoon by several ATV riders on a dirt path in the Kettle Island area. All three men were shot in the back, according to eyewitness accounts.
Despite the difficulties the three victims had with the law, all had families and friends in the area who mourn their deaths. Fuston is survived by his parents, an uncle and aunt who raised him, his wife, four children, several brothers and other relatives. Calling hours were held Thursday evening at the Creech-Durham Funeral Home Chapel in Pineville, where services will be at 2 p.m. today.
Arley Carnes is survived by a son, several brothers and sisters and other relatives. Bryan Carnes is survived by three children, his father and stepmother, a brother, maternal grandparents and many other relatives. Calling hours for both men will be from 6 to 9 tonight at the Creech-Durham Funeral Home, with a joint funeral to follow at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Full obituaries for all three murder victims appear on Page 5 in today's Daily News.
Trooper Walt Meacham, public affairs officer for the Kentucky State Police's Harlan post, said Thursday there were no new developments to report in the investigation of the case. On Wednesday, Meacham confirmed there were several people considered “persons of interest” in the case. Both the KSP and the Bell County Sheriff's Office have been interviewing eyewitnesses at the scene of the crime and other persons associated with the case.
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the KSP believes it is unlikely that the shootings were a random attack by someone who did not know the victims and that they were the result of an as-yet-undetermined dispute.
State medical examiners performed autopsies on the three victims Wednesday. No time of death has been established yet, although County Deputy Coroner Bill Bisceglia said preliminary examination indicated the men could have been dead “a couple of days” at the time they were found. Bisceglia also is on record as saying “multiple gunshots were involved” in the slayings and that the earliest anyone could confirm, so far, that the three men were alive was late Saturday or sometime Sunday.
James-Clifton Spires is Senior Staff Writer for The Daily News. His e-mail is email@example.com.