RICHMOND — The cases of two men charged in the deaths of a Richmond couple will go to a grand jury for possible indictment.
The attorneys for Daniel Keene, 26, decided Friday to waive his case to a grand jury without a preliminary hearing.
After a 45-minute hearing for Keene's co-defendant, Matt Denholm, 27, Madison District Judge Brandy Oliver Brown found probable cause to send his case to a grand jury.
The two are charged with kidnapping, murder and tampering with physical evidence in the deaths of Sonsaray Warford, 30, and her boyfriend, Charles Walker, 30. The couple were reported missing in late June 2010.
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There was little information revealed during the hearing that had not become public through a 41-page affidavit filed in court earlier this week.
However, Richmond police detective William O'Donnell, who testified at Denholm's hearing, said one body recovered from a grave off Tates Creek Road has been identified preliminarily, based on a tattoo, as that of Warford.
Keene told police that Walker was the target of a contract killing because Walker had stolen a large amount of money from Ja'Kolbe Chenault, the alleged head of a cocaine-trafficking ring who is facing federal drug charges.
Warford was not an intended target but was killed because she was with Walker, O'Donnell testified.
Keene and Denholm both served in Iraq and Afghanistan but were not together during those deployments. They also worked together in security at a Lexington hotel, police have said.
Warford and Walker were kidnapped from their Keystone Drive apartment in north Richmond — Keene described it as "bagged and tagged," O'Donnell said — and then driven to a field off Tates Creek Road in Madison County.
There, according to Keene, Denholm shot Warford in the back of the head and stabbed Walker and cut his throat, O'Donnell testified.
In a previously unheard detail, O'Donnell said Keene and Denholm "actually had to elevate Walker's legs to get him to bleed out."
In her cross-examination of O'Donnell and in statements to the judge, public defender Bridget Saunders noted that police got their initial information about the suspects from Jermaine Carter and Lebruce Ellington, two associates of Chenault who also are being prosecuted on federal drug charges. Saunders said Carter and Ellington received proffers for possible leniency on those charges in exchange for information about the disappearance of Warford and Walker. Those facing stiff federal penalties "are very motivated in saying anything they can to lessen their load," Saunders said.
O'Donnell also testified that Denholm drove Warford's car to Louisville, where it was found a little more than four months after the couple disappeared. But Saunders said there was nothing that linked Denholm to the car "other than Mr. Keene saying so."
Nevertheless, Brown found probable cause to send Denholm's case to a grand jury, which now has 60 days to return an indictment.
In a post-hearing matter, Brown ordered the preservation of evidence, including the bodies. That means the families will have to wait before the bodies are returned for burial.
Gregory Todd, father of Warford, acknowledged afterward that it was hard to wait to lay his daughter to rest.
"We don't like it because it's been so long and we know that it's them," Todd said. "We just want them (the police) to do what they've got to do so we can get our family and have a proper burial for them."
Todd was among about 40 people who attended Friday's hearing, including other relatives of the victims and the co-defendants. Todd said he wanted to be there to see the two suspects.
"It's just hard seeing who took your kid's life for no reason," Todd said.
Amy Burbridge, Walker's aunt, said "it was rough" to hear the gruesome details of O'Donnell's testimony.
"We just want justice served to the fullest," Burbridge said.
Meanwhile, Denholm's aunt, Carol Kirby of Berea, gave a brief statement to reporters after the hearing. It was her first statement since Denholm was charged in the deaths of Warford and Walker and with murder and attempted murder in a November shooting in Berea.
"We as a family are shocked by these allegations against Matthew," Kirby said. "We know Matt is a loving father, son, brother and nephew. The Matt we know is the most loving, devoted father. ...Matt honorably served his country and returned home as a decorated war veteran.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' family. We know they lost someone, and nothing can make up for that loss."