BURKESVILLE, Kentucky — Thomas O’Donnell made his first court appearance Thursday morning. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear again in March.
O'Donnell is accused of killing Michael Harding, the estranged husband of Yuba-Sutter California Highway Patrol Commander Julie Harding.
Michael Harding was found shot to death on Sept. 26 in Burkesville, Kentucky. Julie Harding was found dead on Dec. 10 in Tennessee, two days after she was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.
O’Donnell, a 60-year-old from Napa, was arrested at the Sacramento International Airport on Dec. 8 on suspicion of killing Michael Harding.
Jesse M. Stockton Jr. is the commonwealth attorney for the 40th Judicial District covering Cumberland County, where the alleged murder was committed.
Stockton is the equivalent of a district attorney and only prosecutes felony cases. He’s been elected as commonwealth attorney since 2007.
“I have prosecuted along with my office many murder cases in the past. I have never seen one with so few ties to my jurisdiction,” said Stockton.
The victim and the accused have no ties to the community, which makes this case different. Harding was living in Celina, Tennessee after his separation from Harding in May, but he was found dead in Cumberland County in September.
“Very unusual. It’s the first time I think I’ve had that occur,” said Stockton.
The Cumberland County Grand Jury rendered the indictment of murder.
“A murder carries up to life in prison. It’s a Class A felony anywhere from 20 to 50 years or life, but also under Kentucky law if convicted, he would be eligible for parole after 20 years,” said Stockton.
Stockton said during the arraignment he anticipates filing for enhancements in the future which would increase the sentencing penalty if convicted. Stockton said that could happen at a later date.
At this time no information about the discovery can be released. The discovery is not an open record at this time.