The former leader of a white supremacist group who once caused outrage with racist remarks at a University of Kentucky event was killed in a crash, and a woman has been charged with his murder, according to court records and media reports.
Emily Sherry, 23, was in jail Friday on a $5 million bond after she was charged with murder in the death of Robert Ransdell of Florence.
In 2014, Ransdell caused controversy in Lexington. UK President Eli Capilouto called Ransdell's campus remarks "offensive and appalling" after the then U.S. Senate write-in candidate appeared at an event. Ransdell's participation in a Constitution Day event was criticized by the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass, the Anti-Defamation League and some high school teachers who escorted students to the event. Ransdell ran on a campaign platform of "With Jews We Lose."
On Thursday, Sherry was in a Newport courtroom for her preliminary hearing, the Kentucky Enquirer reported. Her blood-alcohol level was allegedly more than five times the legal limit to drive when she struck Ransdell's vehicle on April 21 on east Interstate 275 about 8:15 p.m., according to court records.
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Initially, Wilder police officers responded to a report of a crash and found a heavily-damaged vehicle, with no one inside, in a wooded area left of the interstate, court records said. Ransdell, 37, was eventually found dead under the vehicle, according to court records and the Enquirer.
Sherry was found "obviously very intoxicated" in the driver's seat of a Ford Focus on the interstate and admitted she was "drunk," according to police.
At the emergency room at St. Elizabeth in Fort Thomas, Sherry fell asleep numerous times, police said. Sherry was initially charged with DUI, first offense, but a grand jury added the murder charge and she was arrested May 29.
Ransdell was a former regional coordinator for the neo-Nazi National Alliance in Cincinnati and, most recently, coordinator for the neo-Nazi National Alliance Reform & Restoration Group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The National Alliance was for decades "the most dangerous and best organized neo-Nazi" organization, the law center said.
The group noted Ransdell targeted other minority groups as well. In 2015, for instance, he was arrested in Florence where he protested a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.
But Ransdell's attempts to provoke a reaction in the 2014 Constitution Day event at UK was among his most high-profile activities. He was invited as a Senate candidate. The university said it was not aware of the content of his comments prior to his remarks.
The Constitution Day event organizer was then journalism professor Buck Ryan. (Ryan is currently fighting a university effort to fire him after an internal audit found he did not have permission to require his students to buy copies of his writing textbook. )
During the Constitution Day event, a teacher said she asked Ryan to cut Ransdell off, but Ryan did not. The A Student Center staff member cut the power to Ransdell's microphone. Some students turned to Twitter to react using the hashtag #uknazi.
Ryan was not disciplined and President Capilouto did not apologize for the controversy. But in an email to UK students and employees, Capilouto said hate speech should not go unchallenged.
"Everyone is free to believe what they believe and say what they want to say," Capilouto wrote. "But the language of hate aimed at the diminishment of anyone has no place in our community and is contrary to the values of our university."