VERSAILLES, Ky. (AP) — A kindergartner was killed in his bed before dawn Monday morning, when a stranger from Indiana broke into his home, grabbed a large kitchen knife and stabbed the boy multiple times, police said.
Police, neighbors and family in this small Kentucky town are left puzzling over how a man from 200 miles away ended up in the 6-year-old boy's bedroom, and what might have motived him to stab the child repeatedly.
"Babies aren't supposed to have anything like this happen to them," said the boy's aunt, Melissa Pujol. "You can't make sense of it. You just have to try to get through it. We're just trying to get through it."
Logan Tipton was a happy child, always smiling, she said. He loved to play football.
Ronald Exantus, 32, of Indianapolis, is accused of breaking into the house where the boy lived with his parents and siblings in Versailles, near Lexington in Kentucky's thoroughbred and bourbon country.
The police citation alleges that Exantus entered the home and wandered around before the attack. Then he went to an upstairs bedroom where the boy was asleep and stabbed him multiple times in the head, the citation alleges.
Exantus has been charged with murder and first-degree burglary.
"We're all kind of bumping our heads again a wall; it's mind-boggling," said Versailles police Lt. Michael Fortney. "It's very, very tragic. It's a child who had no opportunity to defend himself."
Two of the boy's sisters suffered non-life-threatening cuts in the attack, and the suspect was held by the boy's father until police arrived, the arrest citation said. The boy's family told police they have never seen Exantus before.
"The family did all that they could," Pujol said.
Fortney said police have found nothing to connect Exantus to the family or to the town.
Hours after the killing, an attorney appointed to represent Exantus questioned his mental competency. Bridget Hofler said at her client's arraignment that he was unresponsive when she asked him about his background and family. He didn't know his mother's phone number nor could he tell her his occupation or what he was doing in town, she said.
Exantus, 32, appeared in a Woodford County courtroom and entered a plea of not guilty. District Court Judge Vanessa Dickson set his bond at $1 million.
"I have discussed various things with him on two separate occasions this morning and he's not able to really discuss anything; he's not here," Hofler told reporters after the hearing. "I was not able to communicate with him whatsoever to really determine anything."
She told the judge that she has heard her client is a registered nurse, but has been unable to confirm that. The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency lists a Ronald Exantus of Indianapolis as having an active nursing license.
"This is a horrible situation. The thought of what these parents are going through, I can't even begin to imagine that," she said. "But my client does have certain rights and it's my job to see that those rights are protected as best I can."
Logan was a kindergartner at Simmons Elementary in Versailles. His classmates were told that he had died, but not told about the circumstances of his death, said Woodford County public schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins.
"He was extremely well liked," Hawkins said of the boy. "He had a lot of friends at the school. Just a great, great little boy, and one that you certainly loved having in your building."
He had three siblings attending the same school — a second-grader, third-grader and fifth-grader, Hawkins said.
Christmas lights and decorations, including a Snoopy wearing a Santa hat, adorned the small frame house where Logan lived. Two bikes and a basketball were strewn in the front yard. Neighbors said Logan and his siblings were outside playing whenever weather permitted.
The tragedy had Tiffany Crow planning to make her home more secure.
"I'm going to get some new locks," said Crow. "It kind of hits close to home when it's a couple houses down from you."
Another neighbor, Tiffany Bourne, said the middle-of-the-night attack didn't make her feel less safe. She said the attack appeared to be random.
"Why that house?" she said. "What was the target?"
Laura Burton Lacy, a family friend, set up an online fundraising account to raise money for his funeral, counseling for his siblings and other expenses. Community members collected $15,000 in only a few hours.
The family plans to move out of their house in the quiet neighborhood.
Associated Press Writer Claire Galofaro in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.