Woman pleads not guilty to 3 murder counts

Cris Ritchie — Editor

November 6, 2013

HAZARD – An April trial date has been set for a Breathitt County woman charged with three counts of murder following a two-vehicle crash this past summer.

Billie J. Caudill, 30, of Whick, appeared in Perry Circuit Court on Oct. 30 for arraignment where she pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder, DUI third offense, and driving on a suspended or revoked license. She was indicted on the charges on Oct. 25.

Caudill was behind the wheel of a Ford Contour on July 3 when police said she crossed the centerline on Highway 15 and collided with a Chevrolet S-10, which was occupied by William Belcher and wife Lillie, who both died from injuries sustained in the crash. Also pronounced dead at the scene was Caudill’s husband, 33-year-old Danny Caudill, who was a passenger in her vehicle.

Commonwealth’s Attorney John Hansen said test results of samples taken after the crash show Billie Caudill was intoxicated at the time, which resulted in the grand jury’s indictment. He added his office is also looking into the possibility that, because the case involves multiple deaths, whether or not the death penalty could be an option. Even so, Hansen indicated he likely would not seek the death penalty.

“We indicted as wanton murder, that’s a lesser degree than intentional,” he said. “The fact that there are aggravating circumstances such as multiple deaths puts the death penalty into question, but I believe that based on the wantonness of the actions by the defendant, I don’t think my office would serve anyone’s purpose by seeking the death penalty on a wanton-type crime.”

Billie Caudill is due in court again for a pretrial conference on Feb. 26, 2014, and is currently set for trial on April 14.