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Girl, 12, becomes third fatality of shooting at Ky. college

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 9:32 a.m. CST

(MCT) — HAZARD, Ky. — A 12-year-old girl who was shot in a parking lot at Hazard Community and Technical College died Wednesday, a day after her father and cousin were killed in the same shooting.

Taylor Cornett, a sixth-grader at R.W. Combs Elementary School in Perry County, died at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, according to hospital spokeswoman Kristi Lopez.

Also killed were Caitlin Cornett, 20, who was living in Letcher County, and her uncle, Jackie “Doug” Cornett, 53, of the Perry County community of Happy, Hazard Assistant Police Chief Joe Engle said.

Hazard police charged Dalton Stidham, 21, Caitlin Cornett’s former boyfriend, with two counts of murder, one related to domestic violence, and one count of attempted murder. Stidham turned himself in to Kentucky State Police after the shooting.

A police citation said Stidham admitted that he had shot three people.

Stidham told police “I snapped; shot three people, I’m sure,” according to the citation completed by Detective Lt. Paul Campbell, who is leading the investigation.

A handgun was found at the scene and matched the description of a gun Stidham said he bought earlier Tuesday, according to the citation.

Kenny Woods, a Baptist minister who owns H & K Gun & Pawn Shop in Perry County, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Stidham bought the gun legally at his shop about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“He cleared a background check without even a delay,” Woods said. “Everything was fine with him.”

Woods said he would not have sold the gun had Stidham been acting strangely.

Caitlin Cornett had broken up with Stidham a few months before the shooting, said Brittany Cornett, Caitlin’s sister. She said Caitlin “was a loving mother, a loving sister and daughter, and everything you could possibly want in somebody.”

Jackie Cornett was a former coal miner who was disabled from a mining injury, Brittany Cornett said. He “was kind and caring and loved his family,” she said.

Stidham and Caitlin Cornett had chosen the parking lot of the college’s First Federal Center building to exchange their 2-year-old son, Jaydein, for visitation, Brittany Cornett said.

Police said Tuesday that the boy was not injured and was in the custody of social services workers. Brittany Cornett said relatives were meeting with social workers Wednesday to discuss Jaydein.

Brittany Cornett said Jackie Cornett and his daughter Taylor had taken Caitlin to the parking lot to meet Stidham.

They were to meet at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but Stidham called and asked that the exchange be made earlier, Brittany Cornett said.

The shooting occurred just before 6 p.m., police said.

Hazard Police Chief Minor Allen said Tuesday that shots were fired into the victims’ vehicle; one person was found dead inside and the other was lying in the parking lot. He said the shooting could be “a domestic type situation” unrelated to the school.

Brittany Cornett said Stidham and her sister had lived together for about three years and had separated in October.

Caitlin Cornett had been living at Brittany Cornett’s home in Letcher County since the separation, Brittany said. Caitlin went to court in Perry County on Monday to determine a visitation schedule for the child.

She said Caitlin told her that she had recently signed up for classes at the community college. Kristi Middleton, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, confirmed that Caitlin had recently enrolled for a course that is to begin in February. Middleton said Caitlin also was a student during the 2010-2011 school year, pursuing an associate’s degree in science.

“We send our condolences to her family and friends, as well as the HCTC faculty, staff and students who may have come in contact with this young lady,” HCTC President Stephen Greiner said in a statement Wednesday. “Our thoughts continue to be with all of the victims’ families and loved ones.”

Greiner said college officials are evaluating campus security procedures and that the campus would reopen Thursday on a normal schedule.

“This incident has certainly shaken our community and has caused us to evaluate the safety and security procedures we already have in place,” he said.

Caitlin Cornett had gone to court in Perry County in November in an attempt to get an emergency domestic violence order against Stidham, but she was unsuccessful, her sister said.

Caitlin Cornett’s father, Dwayne Cornett, said Wednesday that he worried about his daughter being in Stidham’s presence when they exchanged their son for visitation.

“I begged my daughter to stay away from him ...” Dwayne Cornett said. “My daughter was just starting her life, and my brother was a good person.”

At least 25 women were murdered by male intimate partners in Kentucky from Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012, according to an annual report from the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association. The report, called “Speak My Name,” includes only women with whom the group was aware of through domestic-violence programs and news reports.

Lois Valentine, director for a regional domestic violence program based in Perry County, said she was not familiar with Caitlin Cornett’s situation. But as a result of Tuesday’s shooting, Valentine said, she held a meeting with women staying at the shelter Wednesday morning to emphasize the importance of following safety rules.

“I tried ... to point out to them ... how much danger they could be in and how much danger they could put others in by not taking precautions,” Valentine said.

“It just reiterates how serious domestic violence is,” she said, “and how we need to be more aware as a community.”

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