Police in a small Kentucky town are investigating whether a slow-burning desire for revenge that began with an arrest a decade ago was behind the murder of a career lawman last month. Herbert Proffitt, 82, was gunned down in his driveway while he went to fetch the mail. Charles Hammer, 81, is accused of killing the former police chief and sheriff, who arrested him in 2002 on charges of harassment, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
"It appears that there was an ax to grind," says a spokesman for Kentucky State Police, which is handling the investigation. "It appears to me to be revenge." The slaying has staggered people in Tompkinsville, a tight-knit town in the hills of south-central Kentucky, about 120 miles south of Louisville. Five days after her husband was killed, Bernice Proffitt died of what friends say was a broken heart; the Proffitts' only child, Jeff, is mayor. Hammer, meanwhile, was known around town for having a mean streak and a history of violence, and had been picked up several times for alcohol intoxication, disorderly conduct, harassment, and other charges.