Nearly two years after Lexington killing, victim's family waits for justice

jkegley@herald-leader.comApril 4, 2013 

It has been more than two years since Rocardo Cole was gunned down in the parking lot of an Alexandria Drive nightclub, but justice for his family is just getting started.

Late last year, two men were charged with murder in the young father's slaying. One of them, Joseph Demetrius Richardson, will face a Fayette Circuit Court judge Friday for the first time in the case.

Richardson's arraignment will likely be the start of a long back-and-forth between defense attorneys and prosecutors. It could be months or years before the case goes before a jury.

Rocardo Cole's grandmother, Ella Cole, 69, said she hopes the family doesn't have to wait much longer. They are eager to learn more about the confrontation that ended her grandson's life.

"Once they had somebody in custody, I thought it would help, that I would feel better. But I really don't," she said. "Even with a trial, I just wonder will we ever know truly what happened."

Rocardo "Tezzy" Cole, 29, was shot twice in the parking lot of Camelot West, a strip club on Alexandria Drive, on Dec. 18, 2010. He was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, where he died.

Police released little information. As weeks turned into years, Cole's family wondered whether anyone would ever be charged. Police said they had "persons of interest," but they were waiting for a crucial piece of evidence, Ella Cole said.

"It's upset me that it's taken this long. It was like they forgot about it," she said.

In December, police announced they had charged Kenneth Winston Wadkins, 32, and Richardson, 26. Wadkins pleaded not guilty. He has a status hearing Friday.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said she could not elaborate on evidence in an ongoing case, but recently filed court documents shed some light on the investigation.

According to an arrest warrant, police linked Richardson to the crime through witness statements and cell phone records.

Witnesses told police they saw two men arguing with Cole in the parking lot before shots were fired. One of the men was looking around on the ground in the darkness, "as if he had dropped an item," before giving up and running away.

Richardson's phone — a black Samsung Galaxy — was found near Cole's body. Police linked it to him through Cricket Wireless, the phone's service provider, and through text messages, the warrant said.

At least one witness identified Richardson by name and said he saw him leaving the club with a gun, the warrant said. Another witness identified Richardson in a photo lineup.

According to the warrant, Richardson told police he was at Camelot West the night of the shooting, but he said he had gone home before Cole was killed. He said he had lost his phone inside the club.

Richardson's warrant did not discuss the motive in the case, and an arrest citation for Wadkins was even more vague, saying simply that "with the use of a handgun, (Wadkins) caused the death of another."

Richardson has a long criminal history in Lexington, according to court records. At the time of the killing, he was on probation after being convicted of drug trafficking in August 2009. He was sentenced to five years in prison but was granted shock probation after several months, in March 2010.

In letters to Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell, Richardson blamed drug addiction and promised to turn his life around if released. He wrote of going to college to become a businessman or architect.

"I want to be able to design exclusive and extravagant homes," he wrote.

Court documents say Richardson was re-arrested in July 2011 because he flunked out of drug treatment, missed a meeting with his probation officer, and was charged with two misdemeanors.

Richardson was already back in prison when police charged him with Cole's murder.

Ella Cole said she doesn't know if Rocardo Cole knew Wadkins or Richardson. Family members had never heard him mention them, she said.

Rocardo Cole's son, now 4, knows his father only from photos. The 29-year-old was an attentive father and a skilled electrician, and he loved to restore old cars and play softball, she said. Since her grandson's slaying, Ella Cole said she has spent a lot of time in prayer.

"I pray and I pray. I've talked it over with my pastor, and try not to be angry. I try not to carry this anger around in my heart. But it's hard. It's just so hard."

Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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