Court says death penalty can be sought in retrial

HERALD-LEADER STAFF REPORT

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled today that Ruben Rios Salinas can face the death penalty if convicted in a retrial on a murder charge.

Salinas is accused of shooting retired Lexington firefighter Aubrey ?Al? Nuckolls, 63, in 1998.

The high court overturned Salinas? original conviction, saying he had been unfairly portrayed as a ?Mexican hitter? for the Mafia. Salinas is scheduled to go to trial again on Monday.

At the first trial, Salinas said he shot Nuckolls in self-defense after Nuckolls threatened him with a gun, demanding repayment of a $4,000 debt. Salinas admitted stuffing Nuckolls? body in the trunk of Nuckolls? car and leaving it for a month on a Jessamine County farm.

Salinas was convicted of murder and kidnapping. He apparently made ransom demands of the Nuckolls family.

The original jury recommended life in prison without parole for Salinas, but prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty at a retrial.

The high court unanimously rejected defense arguments that the prosecution should not be allowed to seek a death sentence given the earlier jury recommendation
.