Kentucky man connected to eight slayings pleads not guilty

LOUISVILLE — A Louisville man facing charges stemming from eight deaths as well as other crimes has pleaded not guilty.

A grand jury on Wednesday indicted Ricky Lewis Kelly, 39, in a string of cases dating back to April 1996. Louisville Police Lt. Barry Wilkerson said Kelly has been in prison on unrelated charges since 2006. Kelly entered the plea at an initial appearance and arraignment Thursday.

The Courier-Journal reports that a pretrial hearing has been set for Aug. 16 for Kelly.

Kelly was also indicted on charges of kidnapping, first-degree robbery, trafficking in a controlled substance, first-degree assault and persistent felony offender.

Police declined to comment on Kelly's relationship to the victims, saying the investigation is ongoing. Wilkerson said police also are looking into whether Kelly is tied to any other unsolved slayings.

The Courier-Journal reported that court records and newspaper archives indicate that several victims had a history of drug use or drug trafficking.

The indictment charges Kelly with eight counts of complicity to murder — stemming from three slayings in 1996, two in 1998, two in 2005 and one in 2006.

Police said they discovered the link between Kelly and the homicides after overhauling the department's cold-case unit two years ago. Wilkerson said cold-case detectives were able to piece together information that linked the eight victims to Kelly.

"This was good investigative work," he said.

Kelly's most recent conviction was in 2002 for drug trafficking and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. He received parole in 2004, but it was revoked two years later.

Police Chief Robert White said anyone who is connected to eight homicides shows a "total disregard for life." And he said he hopes that other indictments will come on these homicides.

With Kelly's indictment, the cold-case unit has now closed 23 cases since 2009, either by arrest or determining that the perpetrator is dead.

Although the cases date back 14 years, White said the charges tell the public that police will continue to work cases, no matter how old.

"It sends a message to those out there who have committed crimes and thought they had gotten away with it ... this department is committed to aggressively solving cases," he said.