Louisville KY July 8 2010 A Louisville felon has been indicted in connection with eight unsolved murders dating to 1996 — many of them connected to drugs.
Ricky Kelly, 39, has been charged with eight counts of complicity to murder, as well as cocaine trafficking, police said at a press conference held Wednesday after a grand jury returned the indictment.
He also was indicted on charges of complicity to kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and being a persistent felon.
Kelly was transferred to Metro Corrections from the state’s Green River Correctional Complex, where he was serving time for assault and weapons convictions, to await arraignment.
Police wouldn’t comment on Kelly’s relationship to the victims, saying they are releasing few details while the investigation continues. But court records and past Courier-Journal stories indicate that several of the victims had a history of drug use or trafficking.
Lt. Barry Wilkerson, head of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s homicide unit, said investigators are trying to determine if Kelly is linked to other unsolved murders. The murders were classified as cold cases because they all were more than 2 years old.
“We’re going to follow every lead,” he said.
The indictment charges Kelly in connection with three murders in 1996, two in 1998, two in 2005 and one in 2006.
Police said they discovered the link between Kelly and the homicides after overhauling the department’s cold-case unit two years ago. Wilkerson said cold-case detectives were able to piece together information that linked the eight victims to Kelly.
“This was good investigative work,” he said.
The first victim was Gail Duncan, who was killed in front of her 9-year-old daughter on April 11, 1996, a month before she was to testify against four western Louisville men in a federal cocaine-trafficking trial, according to Courier-Journal stories.
The murder, which a deputy coroner described as “a well-organized hit,” occurred when a masked gunman shot Duncan at least five times as she sat in her car in front of her home in the 800 block of South 39th Street. The gunman sped off in a car with no license plate.
Three months later, Deron Cole, who had pleaded guilty in the same case in which Duncan was to testify, was killed at his mother’s home in the 2300 block of West Chestnut Street while awaiting sentencing, according to Courier-Journal stories.
Cole, who reportedly had been a go-between for Duncan and other co-defendants in the trial, was shot once in the back with a shotgun.
Cole’s sister, Suwanda Cole, had been shot and killed the previous month, but her death has not been tied to Kelly.
John Sanders, the third victim, was fatally shot on DuValle Drive on Oct. 21, 1996.
Kelly also is charged in the July 1998 murder of Charles Lewis, who was found dead from several gunshot wounds in an apartment building in the 1400 block of South Fourth Street. He was serving 30 days of home incarceration for complicity to traffic cocaine at the time.
Just a few days later, Blair Kidwell was shot to death in the 1900 block of Dumesnil Avenue after being charged with complicity to murder in a 1990 shooting. His co-defendant was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 40 years.
Craig Jones died behind his home in the 100 block of North 46th Street from multiple gunshot wounds on July 8, 2005.
Lajuante Jackson was killed a month later in the 700 block of Clay Street in the Sheppard Square housing complex when two hooded men shot Jackson.
The eighth victim, Warren King, was found shot to death in his car in the 3500 block of Virginia Avenue under the Shawnee Expressway overpass July 13, 2006.
According to the indictment, Kelly also kidnapped and assaulted King before his death.
Kelly’s prior convictions include a 1995 guilty plea to wanton endangerment after a drive-by shooting at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that left one man wounded in the hip.
He also was convicted in 1998 on charges that included assault, trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, according to court records.
Kelly’s most recent conviction was in 2002 for drug trafficking and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.
He received parole in 2004, but it was revoked two years later.
Police Chief Robert White said he is pleased with the hard work and dedication cold-case detectives put into solving cases, and the results speak for themselves.
With Kelly’s indictment, the cold-case unit has now closed 23 cases since 2009, either by arrest or determining that the perpetrator is dead.
White said anyone who is connected to eight homicides shows a “total disregard for life.” And he said he hopes that other indictments will come on these homicides.
Though the cases date back 14 years, he said the indictment clearly sends a message that police will continue to hunt for closure.
“It sends a message to those out there who have committed crimes and thought they had gotten away with it … this department is committed to aggressively solving cases,” he said.
Gail Duncan , killed in the 800 block of South 39th Street on April 11, 1996
Deron Cole , killed in the 2300 block of West Chestnut Street on July 24, 1996
John Sanders , killed on DuValle Drive on Oct. 21, 1996
Charles Lewis , killed in the 1400 block of South Fourth Street on July 1, 1998
Blair Kidwell , killed in the 2900 block of Dumesnil Avenue, July 3, 1998
Craig Jones , killed in the 100 block of North 46th Street on July 8, 2005
Lajuante Jackson , killed in the 700 block of Clay Street on Aug. 19, 2005
Warren King , killed at the Shawnee Expressway and Virginia Avenue on July 13, 2006