Affidavit: Kentucky man said he dug grave while co-defendant executed victims

Lexington Herald-LeaderMarch 29, 2012 

RICHMOND — An Eastern Kentucky University student facing kidnapping and murder charges told police he dug a grave while his associate shot one of their victims in the head with a pistol, stabbed him several times and cut his throat.

Daniel Keene told police that Matt Denholm then took a small hatchet and cut off Charles Walker's hands, and later removed his gold teeth, according to a 41-page affidavit filed in court by Richmond police detective William O'Donnell.

On Wednesday, Keene, 26, and Denholm, 27, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence in the deaths of Walker and Sonsaray Warford, his girlfriend. The couple was reported missing in late June 2010.

No other charges were filed as of Wednesday night. However, Richmond police Maj. Bob Mott said, "We believe other individuals may be involved and we're vigorously investigating those."

Police have said little about the case publicly, but the affidavit paints a vivid picture of how police worked lead after lead, which eventually put them on to Keene and Denholm.

From all outward appearances, it seemed as if the inquiry had stalled. At times, the police themselves cultivated that impression when talking about the case to reporters.

"There are no new leads so far as I know," Richmond police Chief Larry Brock told the Herald-Leader last summer.

The two men were charged after police found two bodies, police said Tuesday. Keene said in the affidavit that he dug the grave off Tates Creek Road in Madison County, and police said in the document that cadaver dogs had indicated the presence of human remains at that spot.

Denholm already was facing charges of murder and attempted murder in a November shooting in Berea.

But it took police a while to piece things together, according to the affidavit.

Stolen money and a 'hit'

Sources told police early on that Walker might have been the target of a hit.

The affidavit says Walker, 30, was targeted because he had stolen $180,000 from Ja'Kolbe Chenault, one of nine people indicted in federal court as part of a cocaine-trafficking conspiracy in Richmond. (Chenault and five others are awaiting trial; three others have entered plea agreements.)

On June 30, 2010, Roslyn Martin told police that her daughter Sonsaray Warford was missing. Martin also told police that Chenault had issued a hit on Walker and Dale Martin Jr., Warford's cousin, because the two men had taken money from Chenault some years ago.

A cousin of Walker told police the next day that Chenault's friendship with Walker had dissolved because "Chenault suspected Walker had stolen money from him," the affidavit says. And before she went missing, Warford, 30, was upset because she was told a "hit" had been put on her boyfriend, a friend told police.

Police were told Chenault had offered $50,000 for the slayings of Walker and Martin.

On Oct. 21, 2011, Richmond police were called to the Super 8 Motel on North Keeneland Drive, where someone had fired a gun into and beneath the window of Room 217. No one was injured, but police charged Jermaine Carter with wanton endangerment and attempted murder.

Carter, who is among the nine indicted in the Richmond cocaine ring, was cooperative in providing information about Chenault's illegal drug trafficking, and also provided information about the disappearance of Warford and Walker, the affidavit says.

About three months after the couple had disappeared, Lebruce Ellington told Carter he had hired two "Army vets" from "across the water" to carry out a hit on Walker. Ellington also told Carter that Warford was shot in the head by her captors, and "Walker was burned alive and then the bodies were dissolved in acid to prevent their discovery," the affidavit says.

After Ellington was arrested on federal drug charges in early November 2011, he initially denied any participation in the hit and failed to provide any information to further the investigation.

A year earlier, on Nov. 8, 2010, Warford's car had been found in a Louisville parking lot. Police collected paperwork, clothing and looked for fingerprints and DNA evidence. But there were no leads. (The DNA evidence had not been tested or compared to that of any suspects at the time of the affidavit's filing on Tuesday.)

Then, early on Nov. 21, 2011, a fatal shooting happened in Berea. Zackary Flower was shot to death and his roommate, Kevin Price, was wounded.

Police began searching for Denholm, and that led them to search Keene's apartment in Richmond. Keene confirmed that he and Denholm were friends and that he had spoken to Denholm the day before the Berea shooting. Denholm was arrested in Louisville on Nov. 21 after a short standoff with police.

Meanwhile, police pieced together that Ellington, who purportedly had arranged the hit on Warford and Walker, had dated a woman who had roomed with Keene. O'Donnell, the Richmond police detective, interviewed Keene on Dec. 21.

In January, Martin, who allegedly helped Walker steal money from Chenault, was arrested on federal drug and firearms charges. He admitted assisting Walker in stealing a large amount of money from Chenault, the alleged Richmond cocaine trafficker. Martin said the money was found in a shoebox wrapped in duct tape. His cut was $99,000, he told police.

In January, police interviewed Bridget Hall, the woman who had roomed with Keene. During this time, Hall dated Ellington. Hall said Ellington told her he had arranged for Keene and Denholm, who were both Iraq war veterans and who worked as security guards at the Hilton Suites in Lexington, to have Walker and Warford killed, the affidavit says. Ellington also told Hall that Keene and Denholm tape-recorded the killings as proof, the affidavit says.

When police interviewed Ellington on Jan. 27, he was more cooperative. He allegedly said that Chenault had spoken of "getting back" at Walker and Martin; that Denholm and Keene had played a recording of the killings that included Warford screaming and four gunshots; that a .22-caliber revolver was used in the slayings; that he was shown Walker's gold teeth; and that he got $10,000 from Chenault to pay Keene and Denholm. Ellington said he received $5,000 from Chenault for finding people to carry out the hit, the affidavit says.

Ellington said Chenault "did not see the teeth" or hear or listen to the recording; Chenault took Ellington's word that Walker had been killed, the affidavit says.

Making a connection

Records show that two days after Warford and Walker were last seen, Keene's cellphone interacted with a cell tower several hundred feet away from the parking lot where Warford's car was found in Louisville.

Bank records also show Keene buying a Sony tape recorder at a Maysville Wal-Mart on June 28, the last day the couple was seen. One of the burned items police recovered from a trash pit near Berea is thought to be a digital recorder, according to a court filing.

A search warrant was served at Keene's Richmond apartment on Monday, and he later gave police details about the alleged kidnapping and killings. Keene said he and Denholm kidnapped Warford and Walker from their apartment and drove them to the field off Tates Creek Road, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says Keene gave this account to police:

Keene said he began digging a grave while Denholm tortured and executed Warford and Walker. Denholm used a pistol to shoot Warford in the head. Denholm stabbed Walker several times, cut his throat, used a small hatchet to cut off Walker's hands and then extracted Walker's gold teeth.

Denholm and Keene then took off the victims' clothes and put them in plastic trash bags, which they burned in a trash pit the next night behind the house where Denholm's aunt and grandmother live elsewhere in Madison County.

While it took almost two years for the case to come to this point, Gregory Todd, Warford's father, said Tuesday that he appreciated what police had done.

"We know now that they were doing what they needed to do," Todd said.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday. Keene and Denholm are being held on a $2 million bond.

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