Crime

University of Kentucky chef’s savage beating death costs man 25 years in prison

Timothy "Tiny" Ballard was led into the courtroom on June 9, 2016, to testify against Robert Markham Taylor in Taylor’s murder trial for the December 2013 slaying of Alex Johnson.
Timothy "Tiny" Ballard was led into the courtroom on June 9, 2016, to testify against Robert Markham Taylor in Taylor’s murder trial for the December 2013 slaying of Alex Johnson. palcala@herald-leader.com

A Lexington man was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for his role in the beating death of a University of Kentucky chef whose marijuana business led to his slaying.

Timothy Ballard, who testified against convicted killer Robert Markham Taylor in June, was sentenced in a Fayette County court. He had pleaded guilty earlier this year to kidnapping and tampering with evidence in Alex Johnson’s slaying in December 2013.

He received 20 years in prison for the kidnapping charge and five years for tampering. The sentences are to be served consecutively for 25 years.

“There is nothing Ballard can do to change the tragic events in this case,” Ballard’s defense attorney, Bonnie Potter, said Friday.

Ballard, 44, told jurors in June that Taylor beat Alex Johnson to death. Taylor and Johnson, 32, were “best friends,” and Johnson supplied Taylor with marijuana he sold. Johnson, who was a chef in the Hilary J. Boone Center on the UK campus, was planning to hand the business to Taylor when Johnson was killed.

Ballard admitted that he was with Taylor when the two kidnapped Johnson after summoning him from his Hanover Avenue apartment. After Johnson died of skull and neck fractures, Ballard drove a barrel containing Johnson’s body to the Kentucky River, where it wasn’t found for weeks.

After the killing, Taylor entered Johnson’s apartment and took about $40,000, Ballard testified. The two then drove to a nearby location where Johnson kept marijuana and Taylor removed two black garbage bags full of about 26 pounds of the drug.

Taylor, 31, gave a different version of events during his testimony at the trial. He told jurors he’d tried to save Johnson by giving him CPR and that Ballard had killed Johnson.

In its deliberations, the jury quickly rejected Taylor’s claim that Ballard was the killer and found him guilty of murder, kidnapping and tampering in the case.

Jurors recommended that Taylor serve a total of 49 years. His sentencing is set for July 22.

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