Police: Evidence in Lexington homicide case recovered from Kentucky River

jmadden@herald-leader.comJanuary 24, 2014 

Lexington police say crews that dived into the Kentucky River on Friday afternoon recovered evidence related to a homicide investigation.

Lt. Brian Maynard, who works in robbery and homicide, said the department's forensics unit took the evidence and will examine it. Police did not say what the evidence is.

On Friday night, the Fayette County coroner's office in a news release said that unspecified evidence had been taken to the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort. County Coroner Gary Ginn would not say whether it was a body, but promised more information at a press conference Saturday.

Crews gathered near the Clays Ferry exit off Interstate 75 early Friday in preparation for their search. A Lexington fire department dive team went underwater around 9 a.m. and found the evidence in about 15 minutes. The evidence was in about 4 feet of water near the shore, Maynard said.

Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said police and firefighters had been at the Kentucky River since about 8 a.m.

Battalion Chief Joe Best said seven fire units and about 34 firefighters were used in conducting the search.

This was the second time police have searched that portion of the river in recent weeks. Crews were there in December, but police wouldn't say what they were looking for at the time.

On Friday, police blocked off a section of Old Richmond Road near the Clays Ferry bridge, allowing only residents into the area.

Roberts also would not say whether the investigation was tied to Alex Johnson, 32, who has been missing since Dec. 20.

Johnson's girlfriend has said they were talking on the phone when he suddenly ended their call, saying he needed to answer the door at his home on North Hanover Avenue.

Johnson, a chef at the Hilary J. Boone Center at the University of Kentucky, was never heard from again. Concerned relatives and friends reached out to police, prompting a missing-persons case.

On Tuesday, Lexington police turned that case into a homicide investigation. Detectives also obtained an arrest warrant for Robert Markham Taylor, 28, of Lexington.

Taylor — the second person arrested in the case — was apprehended Wednesday night in Pharr, Texas, about 8 miles from the border of Mexico.

Taylor is charged with murder, and Pharr police also charged him with marijuana possession after several pounds of it were found in his vehicle. The extradition process to return him to Lexington is expected to begin soon. Taylor was being held in Hidalgo County Jail on a $50,000 cash bond.

In addition to Taylor, police have charged Timothy Ballard, 42, with complicity to kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

Roberts said Johnson, Ballard and Taylor were all acquaintances.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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