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Inmate disavows confession letter

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

An alleged confession letter admitting to a 2016 murder that two other men are charged with committing was filed with the Nelson Circuit Clerk Thursday, but police say it is a forgery.

“I am writing to confess that I was the person who shot and killed Wyane Uncel,” the handwritten letter states.

Two men, Robert Zachery Tate and Evan Lyons, were indicted Wednesday for complicity to murder in the June 3, 2016, killing of Michael Wayne Unseld in his apartment above the Broken Tee Nite Club.

The handwritten letter is signed as Justin Nally, who is serving a prison sentence in the Western Kentucky Correctional Facility for a burglary charge.

But Bardstown Police Detective Lynn Davis said Friday afternoon the letter was a forgery.

“We have interviewed him, obtained a handwriting sample from him and showed him the letter, and he maintains that he absolutely did not write that,” Davis said shortly after leaving the prison. “He was kind of blown away when we showed him the letter.”

The letter contained some details that have been publicly reported about the case.

“I knocked on his apartment door when his roommate opened it I killed him,” it states. “I shot him. I was high on cocaine. I don’t remember much. All I still remember is that he killed my best friend Derek Downs and he couldn’t live on this earth any more. I have been sitting in prison since 2016 and it has really bothered me. I was told that my cousin Zack was locked up for it. But he didn’t do it. I can’t let a man do prison time for something I did. I was scared when the detectives had questioned me while I was in Marion County. I lied to them.”

The details about Unseld’s roommate answering the door were previously reported by WLKY, as was Unseld’s role in the fatal shooting of Downs in 2009, which was ruled a hunting accident.

The Standard by press time was unable to verify whether detectives actually questioned Nally while he was in jail in Marion County, or if he is Tate’s cousin or was a friend of Downs. The attorney assigned as Tate’s public defender also could not be reached by phone late Friday afternoon.

Nally, 30, is serving time for third-degree burglary and theft charges out of Washington County. According to Kentucky Department of Corrections records, he started serving his sentence Aug. 31, 2016, and becomes eligible for parole in June 2020. Nally has a history of other burglaries in Washington and Nelson counties and lesser crimes, according to his court records.

The letter was addressed to the Nelson County Justice Center and Circuit Court Clerk Diane Thompson said it arrived either late Wednesday or early Thursday. The envelope had a return address matching the prison and was postmarked Aug. 19, Evansville, Ind.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Chip McKay said he was aware of the letter Friday, but he was barred by legal ethics from commenting on the nature of any evidence in the case.

On Friday, Davis said he didn’t know who might have sent the letter, or why.

He said prison officials told him that Nally was in a substance abuse recovery program, and another prisoner with knowledge of the Tate charges might have been trying to sabotage Nally.

“It’s a coveted spot and a lot of time inmates pull stunts like that to get them knocked out so they can get their friends or associates into his spot,” Davis said. “They’re speculating. We’re not for sure.”

Kentucky Standard Assistant Editor Kacie Goode contributed reporting.