Fayette County

Judge in dismemberment homicide case allows police testimony on cellphone locations

Paris Charles is accused of killing and dismembering his girlfriend, Goldia Massey, in 2014.
Paris Charles is accused of killing and dismembering his girlfriend, Goldia Massey, in 2014.

A Lexington police sergeant will be allowed to testify about cellphone locations in the trial of a man accused of killing and dismembering his girlfriend in 2014.

Fayette Circuit Judge James D. Ishmael Jr. ruled Monday that Sgt. David Richardson had enough knowledge to partially explain cellphone records of Paris Charles and Goldia Massey on the last day Massey was seen alive.

How those records could be interpreted was debated Monday.

Prosecutors contend the phone records and metadata can link Charles’ cellphone to cell towers near locations where parts of Massey’s body were found.

Part of this metadata comes from “pings,” when the device connects with cell towers, that include the time, duration and cell tower used during the start and end of a call. Richardson testified last week that a phone uses the cell tower with the strongest connection, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the closest tower to the device, according to additional testimony Monday.

Authorities found Massey’s arm in the Kentucky River in Henry County in October 2014. Her torso was found washed up on a riverbank in Jessamine County in December 2014, according to a previous Herald-Leader report.

Charles, 60, was charged in February with murder and dismemberment of a corpse.

Leslie Smith, one of Charles’ lawyers, argued that Richardson isn’t qualified to say whether the cellphone data could show Charles’ actual locations. Smith cited recent case law and other examples of the limitations of metadata.

Smith said that uncertainty was dangerous to her client and could mislead the jury in a case “based around records.”

“He can’t testify to the ultimate conclusions,” Smith said of Richardson.

In his ruling, Ishmael said Richardson’s testimony would deal only with what he knew.

Ishmael also sided with the commonwealth’s attorney in two other motions: Prosecutors may introduce texts that they contend Massey sent to her sister on the day of her disappearance in September, and Massey’s criminal record may be excluded from the trial.

Smith declined to comment after the hearing. A trial is set for later this year.

Michael McKay: 859-231-1324, @hlpublicsafety