The Tragic Death of Roy Lee Centers: Explaining Murder and Injustice

Kenneth D. Tunnell, Eastern Kentucky University
Terry C. Cox, Eastern Kentucky University

ABSTRACT
In 1974, Roy Lee Centers, a Kentucky singer and guitarist, who was and remains internationally acclaimed, was brutally murdered. The murderer, a local man who also was a deputy sheriff and a member of the local elite, had a history of violence which had been largely officially ignored. Arrested and charged at the scene of the crime, he ultimately was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 12 years in prison. After serving three months, he was released under the then new program -- shock probation. Based on interviews, public record and newspaper coverage, this case study explores the dynamics of the murder and the manipulation of justice that resulted in the convicted murderer's prison release and subsequent civil litigation.

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Updated 05/20/2006