Former Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson, who prosecuted some of the highest-profile cases in Lexington and Kentucky over more than 30 years, died Sunday.
The Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn announced his passing, saying in a Facebook post that he was “a prosecutor’s prosecutor.”
“Ray believed in the mission of a Commonwealth’s Attorney — to seek justice for victims, hold offenders accountable, and to make our community a safe place to live and raise our families. In many ways he helped develop this mission during the almost 40 years he served as prosecutor,” she wrote. “Ray was a leader, he provided much of the vision and hard-work to make Lexington and all of Kentucky realize that driving drunk is a crime and that the victims of drunk drivers are entitled to receive help. Ray lifted up the victims of child sexual assault and was one of the founders of the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Bluegrass.”
Larson became widely known as Ray the D.A. and made frequent radio appearances.
He appeared on a WVLK-AM 590 radio show called “True Crime” with host Jack Pattie every Friday, which Pattie once said was “the most popular thing I’ve got on the air.”
When he retired in late 2016, Larson said he had been guided by three principles during nearly 32 years as chief prosecutor: “Every person should be treated fairly and the same under the same facts; every person should be held responsible for their conduct; and every person should suffer consequences for violating our laws.”
Larson was born in Yakima, Wash., and grew up on military bases where his father, a colonel in the Air Force, was stationed.
“My dad always taught me that if you break the rules, be prepared to suffer consequences. I believed that then and I still believe it and that’s what we try to do,” Larson said when he announced his retirement.
Among the more high-profile cases he prosecuted were those of Shane Ragland, who killed University of Kentucky football player Trent DiGiuro in 1994; and LaFonda Fay Foster and Tina Marie Hickey Powell, who killed three men and two women in a variety of ways on April 23, 1986.
A graduate of the University of Kentucky for both his undergraduate and law degrees, Larson was named Paducah city court prosecutor in 1972.
He worked as an assistant deputy attorney general from 1974 until 1985, when he was appointed Fayette County commonwealth’s attorney by Gov. Martha Layne Collins. He was elected to five six-year terms after that.
“Ray was an inspiration to many in our community from teaching a Sunday School class for over 30 years to being a true influencer on social media,” Red Corn wrote. “He publicly supported his staff and counselled each of his employees like a father.”
Remembrances and tributes to Larson were quickly posted to social media Sunday.
The Lexington Police Department issued a statement, saying Larson “was a dedicated public servant for the Commonwealth and the people of Fayette County. He believed in justice and accountability and worked tirelessly to ensure victims of crime received justice. Ray the DA was a leader mentor, and true friend to law enforcement. Mr. Ray Larson will always be in our hearts and minds as a true crime fighter. The Lexington Police Department will keep his Family in our prayers. He will be greatly missed.”
Congressman Andy Barr said in a statement that Larson was “a devoted public servant to our community” and a personal friend and mentor.
“He was an outstanding prosecutor, always laser focused on deterring crime, relentlessly pursuing justice, advocating for victims’ rights and keeping central Kentucky families safe,” Barr wrote. “Ray was an unapologetic and principled fighter, he led by example and advanced the cause of law and order. Ray Larson was a great patriot, who made a positive difference, and he will be deeply missed.”
Gov. Andy Beshear offered his condolences, saying “Britainy and I are saddened to learn of the passing of former Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson. We lift his family, friends and the entire prosecutor community up in our prayers.”
And Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton said she was “deeply saddened” by Larson’s death.
“Having served as Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney for nearly 32 years, Ray was a tireless advocate for victims’ rights. Please keep his family in your thoughts during this difficult time,” she said in a statement shared on Facebook.