Lexington police investigate death at apartment as homicide

police treating death as homicide

jkegley@herald-leader.comDecember 29, 2010 

Lexington homicide detectives are investigating the death of a man found in an apartment at West Fifth Street and North Limestone on Tuesday.

Officers were called to the apartment about 9 a.m. after two women found a body while checking on a friend, Kerry "Sam" Mitchell, who lived there. Friends and family members had not heard from Mitchell, 35, since last week.

The Fayette County coroner's office issued a news release Tuesday night identifying the body as that of Mitchell.

The coroner's office said the cause of death will be determined by an autopsy Wednesday.

"Kerry was very much loved by those who knew him. We are all very much devastated by his gruesome and untimely death, but we have full confidence that the Lexington police department will act swiftly to find his killer," said Astrida Lemkins, who was Sam Mitchell's lawyer.

Mitchell's brother, Kris Mitchell, waited anxiously with several friends and family members in the icy parking lot of the small apartment complex for most of the day Tuesday. Detectives and coroner's officials did not remove the body for about six hours as they investigated.

Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said authorities found an item in the apartment that could have been used as a weapon, but he did not elaborate.

Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said police are treating the case as a homicide.

"We wouldn't want to speculate about what has happened, how long the gentleman has been here or what the circumstances surrounding this death are," she said.

No arrests had been made as of Tuesday night.

Sam Mitchell's friend Jackie Miller said she went to the apartment Tuesday morning to check on him. She hadn't heard from Sam Mitchell for a week. When she knocked, the unlatched apartment door opened.

Mitchell, who was unemployed and received disability payments, lived with Miller in Versailles for more than a month, she said. He had moved out of her house and into the Lexington apartment a little more than a week ago, despite her protests.

Miller said Mitchell worried that he was a burden to her, but she said he wasn't: "He wasn't bothering me a bit."

Miller last heard from Mitchell about 3 p.m. Dec. 21, before a doctor's appointment. He told her he would call her afterward, but he never did.

She called him, but he didn't pick up. Soon, phone calls started going directly to voice mail.

"When his phone went dead, I knew something bad was wrong because he does not let his phone go dead," she said.

Kris Mitchell said he last saw his brother Dec. 22, and that the man seemed fine. He and his brother weren't very close; they spoke about four or five times a year, Mitchell said.

But when Sam Mitchell didn't call or go home to Lawrenceburg for Christmas, Kris Mitchell said, the family suspected something was wrong.

Kris Mitchell called Miller, who has known the family since she was about 5 years old, and asked her to check on his brother.

Mitchell said he heard a lot of theories, including the killer's identity, but he didn't want to speculate until he learned something official.

Miller said she had never met anyone who didn't like Sam Mitchell.

"He was always the life of the party, wherever he went," she said. "Sam didn't have any enemies."

After waiting and worrying in the cold for hours, Miller said she was both saddened and relieved to learn the body was most likely Sam's.

"I'm glad it's over now, and we can go on with his funeral and try to make it as best we can," she said.

Gash Memorial Chapel in Lawrenceburg is in charge of funeral arrangements.

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