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Ryan Gerald Russell - Alabama Death Row
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    Ryan Gerald Russell - Alabama Death Row


    Katherine Helen Gillespie, 11





    Trial to begin today in Shelby girl's slaying

    A 37-year-old man charged with the 2008 slaying of an 11-year-old girl in Inverness is set to go on trial today on a charge of capital murder in Shelby County Circuit Court.

    Ryan Gerald Russell, who has been in custody since his arrest, is accused of shooting and killing Katherine Helen Gillespie, a relative who was living with him in a rented home on Kerry Downs Road.

    Authorities say Russell shot the girl in the head with .40-caliber Glock handgun on June 16, 2008, and stuffed her body in a trash can, which was found inside an SUV in the garage of the home.

    Shelby County prosecutors are seeking to send Russell to Death Row in what will be the first death penalty case to be tried in the county in a little more than a decade, according to a county prosecutor.

    The last person to stand trial on capital murder charges, with a possible death penalty in play, was Alan Eugene Miller, a delivery driver who was convicted and sentenced to death a year after shooting and killing three people at two businesses in Pelham in 1999.

    Shelby Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick said he expects jury selection in Russell's trial to start today and wrap up by Wednesday. With Veteran's Day being Thursday, Bostick said he expected opening statements in the trial to start Friday.

    Russell, a homebuilder at the time of his arrest, has pleaded not guilty in the death of Katherine, who had just finished the fifth grade at Oak Mountain Intermediate School prior to her death.

    Russell was in the process of trying to adopt the girl, according to records that have been sought by prosecutors and sealed by Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner, who will preside over Russell's trial.

    Meanwhile, Mickey Johnson and Rick Vickers, Russell's court-appointed attorneys, have asked Joiner to block prosecutors from introducing "certain documents and photographs" that the defense argues would be prejudicial to their client's case.

    Efforts to reach Russell's attorneys for comment were unsuccessful.

    Testimony at Russell's preliminary hearing in October 2008 showed that Katherine's body was found just hours after Russell allegedly hit another vehicle on Inverness Parkway and fled the scene. Authorities said at the time that the hit-and-run was unrelated to the slaying of the 11-year-old.

    Hoover police went to the house after three teens reported the hit-and-run, but left after no one came to the door.

    Deputies were back at the scene later after Russell's ex-fiancee went to the home at the request of some out-of-town relatives who could not get in touch with Russell.

    The ex-fiancee was accompanied by a boyfriend who called authorities after they looked into the garage and saw the airbags deployed in Russell's SUV.

    After entering the home and finding Katherine's body, Russell was found by deputies semi-conscious in a shower, with the water running, according to testimony.

    He was arrested and charged with capital murder a few days later after being discharged by a hospital, where he had been taken for treatment.

    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/...in_shelby.html

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    Prosecutor describes gruesome slaying of 11-year-old Inverness girl

    Opening statements in the capital murder trial of a 37-year-old Inverness man charged with the 2008 slaying of an 11-year-old girl began Thursday with a prosecutor laying out in gruesome detail how he said the defendant killed the girl.

    Shelby County Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick told jurors that Ryan Gerald Russell put a .40-caliber Glock handgun to the back of the head of Catherine Helen Gillespie, pulled the trigger and "blew her brains out" in Russell's rental home on Kerry Downs Road in June 2008. He put her body in a trash can in the back of his vehicle in his garage, Bostick said.

    Bostick described how the girl, whose mother died when she was 7, came to live with Russell in 2007. Catherine was born through artificial insemination and did not have a father around, Bostick said. She lived with her grandmother for a while in Marshall County but came to live with Russell when her grandmother began suffering with dementia, Bostick said. Russell was trying to adopt her, he said. "She was exceptionally beautiful. She was exceptionally bright," Bostick said.

    Bostick said the evidence will show that on the night Catherine was killed, Russell hit a vehicle with three Oak Mountain high school students, left the scene and drove back to his house. The teens who followed him back to his house were the last people to see the girl alive, Bostick said.

    Mickey Johnson, one of Russell's court-appointed attorneys, then stood up and told the jury that most of what the prosecution said won't be disputed, except prosecutors' contention that Russell killed the girl intentionally. Johnson asked the jury not to get caught up in the emotions of the case and consider the evidence the defense will present. The prosecution's contention that Russell was trying to hide the girl's body was "a little far-fetched," he said.

    The state is seeking the death penalty. Shelby County Circuit Judge Michael Joiner has adjourned court for a lunch break. The trial is expected to resume at 1:15 p.m., with the first witnesses taking the stand. The trial is expected to last at least until late next week.

    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/..._gruesome.html

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    Defense attorney questions new testimony of witness in Shelby County capital murder trial

    The defense attorney for a 37-year-old Inverness man charged with killing an 11-year-old girl questioned the man's ex-girlfriend about signficant testimony she gave Monday but did not bring up during her initial taped interview with authorities.

    Mickey Johnson, a court-appointed attorney for Ryan Gerald Russell, asked Emily Webber why she never mentioned anything before about seeing someone with a flashlight inside Russell's home on Kerry Downs Road on June 16, 2008. That was the night authorities found the body of 11-year-old Katherine Helen Gillespie with a gunshot wound to the head and her body stuffed in a trash can in Russell's vehicle.

    Johnson also wanted to know why Webber did not say anything in her taped interview about a "shadowy" figure in the garage that Webber on Monday said looked like Russell.

    Webber said there was a lot happening at the time of her initial interview and she doesn't know why she didn't mention those details in the previous interview.

    The Shelby County Sheriff's Office's lead investigator in the child's slaying is expected to take the stand again this afternoon.

    Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Russell. Johnson has said Russell did not intentionally kill Katherine, a distant relative whom Russell was trying to adopt.

    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/...tions_new.html

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    Weapon used to kill 11-year-old girl in Inverness was found in the house months later, defendant's sister testifies

    The sister of the Inverness man accused of shooting an 11-year-old relative in the back of the head in June 2008 testified in court Tuesday morning that she found the gun authorities say is the murder weapon when she and a friend were cleaning out her brother's house several months after the killing.

    The lead investigator in the capital murder case against 37-year-old Ryan Gerald Russell testified earlier this week that authorities found a Glock handgun they initially thought was the murder weapon sitting on top of a love seat in the garage close to where the body of 11-year-old Katherine Helen Gillespie was found.

    But ballistics tests later determined that Glock was not the one used to shoot Katherine, the investigator testified.

    Russell's sister, Susanna Russell, found a similar Glock under that same sofa when she and a friend came to clean out the rental house months later, the investigator testified. The friend, Ken Casey, kept the gun with him until the fall of this year, when authorities indicated the gun they had was not a match, Casey said.

    The Shelby County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty for Ryan Russell. Russell's attorney, Mickey Johnson, said in opening statements that he would not dispute much of the prosecution's case, except that Russell intentionally killed Katherine.

    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/...1-year-ol.html

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    Defense presents no case in Russell trial

    COLUMBIANA — Defense attorneys in the capital murder trial of Ryan Gerald Russell rested their case Nov. 18 without calling any witnesses.

    Russell is being charged with the death of 11-year-old Katherine Helen Gillespie, whose body was found with a fatal gunshot wound to the head, stuffed in a trashcan in the back of an SUV in Russell’s garage in Inverness on June 16,2008.

    State prosecuting attorneys are seeking the death penalty on this case.

    One stipulation signed by the state and defense was presented by Circuit Court Judge Michael Joiner after the jury returned from lunch Nov. 18. The stipulation showed Russell was in the process of trying to adopt Gillespie at the time of her death. The adoption process was not final and was pending a home study, Joiner said.

    Russell’s court-appointed attorney Mickey Johnson closed his case immediately following the reading of the stipulation. In his opening statement on Nov. 12, Johnson said the defense would not dispute much of the evidence presented by the state, but they would argue that Russell did not intentionally shoot Gillespie.

    Closing arguments will begin Nov. 19 at 9 a.m.

    http://www.shelbycountyreporter.com/...russell-trial/

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    Sentencing phase for convicted murderer Ryan Gerald Russell delayed until next week

    A Shelby County jury that on Friday convicted 37-year-old Ryan Gerald Russell of capital murder in the shooting death of 11-year-old Katherine Helen Gillespie will return Monday morning for the sentencing phase of the case.

    The jury will recommend whether Russell should face the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Circuit Judge Michael Joiner will have the option to accept or change the jury's recommendation when he sentences Russell at a later date.

    The sentencing phase of the trial was delayed until Monday to allow a witness who is expected to testify to come from out of state.

    Shelby County Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick said prosecutors are pleased with the verdict, but he declined to comment further because the sentencing phase of the case is still pending.

    Rick Vickers, one of the court-appointed attorneys, said "obviously, we are disappointed with the outcome. From the defense standpoint, we still don't see any intent in his actions. There's no question this was a travesty, and you can't minimize the tragedy of this."

    Vickers said defense attorneys will ask that Russell be given life in prison without parole.

    Tommy Russell, a cousin of the defendant, said he came to the trial seeking an answer to why Katherine was killed. "That's what I've been dealing with the most. It stinks that I still don't know, but at this point, I guess it doesn't even matter."

    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/...convicted.html

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    State calls Gillespie’s camp counselor to testify in sentencing

    Ellen Moman, Katherine Gillespie’s camp counselor at the Hargis Retreat in Chelsea, took the stand Nov. 22 in testimony for the state’s sentencing case against Ryan Gerald Russell.

    On Nov. 19, a jury convicted Russell of killing his 11–year–old cousin Katherine Helen Gillespie on June 16, 2008.

    The week of Gillespie’s murder, the then Oak Mountain Intermediate School student had attended summer camp at Hargis. Moman was out sick that Monday and said Gillespie had asked another counselor to call Moman.

    Gillespie wanted her to know she missed her and wanted her to get better soon, Moman said crying.

    “She always made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to her,” Moman said. “She was a caregiver at heart.”

    Moman talked of how Gillespie’s death affected her as well as other counselors and campers. She said they sat down with the older students the Thursday following Gillespie’s death to help them talk through their feelings.

    Eventually counselors created a memorial for Gillespie by placing a park bench overlooking the playground at Hargis. Moman said they planted brightly colored flowers around the bench and included a plaque with a special inscription.

    “The plaque reads, ‘Tiny angel rest your wings. Sit with me a while,’” Moman said.

    Moman’s tears flowed harder still as she displayed a photo of her and Gillespie from camp and talked of a Bible passage they had read together the week before.

    “She asked me what my favorite Bible verse was and I turned to Revelations 21 – it’s an entire passage on heaven and it talks of the gates being made of one gigantic pearl,” Moman said. “She (Katherine) looked at me and said, ‘My mom’s there. I’m going to go and see my mom there one day.’ And she just had this sparkle in her eye when she said it.”

    Moman said the tragedy has caused her emotional turmoil over the past two years, causing her even to drop out of college.
    Prior to Moman’s testimony, Assistant District Attorney Roger Hepburn reminded jurors of what the state considers a murder involving cruel and aggravating circumstances.

    “Ryan Russell is guilty of murder. He killed Katherine Gillespie; execution style,” Hepburn told the jury.

    Hepburn also asked they consider the fears he felt most certainly ran through Gillespie’s head before she was murdered.

    He reminded jurors of the 12–inch space investigators suspect she crawled into in the laundry room to hide from Russell. He also asked them to consider her feelings of abandonment.

    “He was the one person entrusted to take care of her and he was
    coming at her with a gun,” Hepburn said. “The last sensation she felt in her young life was the muzzle of a gun pressing against the back of her head.”

    The sentencing phase of Russell’s trial will resume at 1:30 p.m., at which time the defense plans to call a psychiatrist before the jury adjourns to debate sentencing.

    In order to hand down the death penalty, all jurors must first agree that the murder involved an aggravating circumstance. If all 12 do not agree on this point the deliberation will be over, eliminating the death penalty as an available sentence. If all 12 do agree, at least 10 jurors must then select the death penalty as the necessary punishment. If less than 10 do so, but seven select the death penalty as the punishment, then the sentencing will be dropped to life without parole.

    http://www.shelbycountyreporter.com/...in-sentencing/

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    Final witness called and closing arguments made in Russell sentencing

    Judge Michael Joiner has charged a jury of eight men and four women with the task of sentencing convicted murderer Ryan Gerald Russell to death or life without parole.

    A jury convicted Russell of killing his 11-year-old cousin Katherine Helen Gillespie on June 16, 2008.

    District Attorney Bill Bostick implored jurors to see the crime as what he considered it: a heinous, atrocious and cruel crime.

    “Russell trapped her, cornered her, put that gun behind her head and pulled that trigger,” Bostick said. “Katherine Gillespie was alone — she had no one to cry out to.”

    Bostick painted a picture of a scared Gillespie running through the home she shared with Russell with nowhere and no one to turn.

    “What do little girls do when they’re hurt,” Bostick asked. “What do little girls do when they are scared? They cry out for their mommy or their daddy, but Katherine Gillespie couldn’t do that.”

    Judge Joiner denied defense attorneys’ multiple requests to have the possibility of an aggravated circumstance eliminated. Striking the aggravated circumstance would have prevented jurors from suggesting the death penalty.

    The defense also called Dr. Stanley Brodsky, a professor of psychology at the University of Alabama and a forensic psychologist by trade, to testify during the sentencing phase.

    Brodsky testified that he found Russell to be an articulate, intelligent and highly-functioning individual. He said he did find a predisposition in Russell’s family history toward alcoholism and depression but nothing so strong as to believe Russell was of further danger to society.

    Brodsky said Russell gave a detailed description of the events that led up to Gillespie’s death including that of the car accident, the loaded gun in his hand and what he claimed to Brodsky was an accidental shot that killed Gillespie. Brodsky testified that Russell did show signs of remorse what discussing the death of Gillespie.

    “He said there was nobody in his life that he loved the way he loved Katherine,” Brodsky said. “He said, ‘I absolutely lost it – the worst thing in my life happened and I just couldn’t live with it.’”

    Brodsky said Russell went on to explain how he placed Gillespie’s body in “a garbage can they used as a laundry basket,” and then proceeded to enter his bathroom and swallow every pill he could find by washing it down with vodka.

    The prosecution later questioned Brodsky as to whether Russell’s actions were logical for a person of normal function in such a situation. Brodsky replied that there is no normal or typical course of action for a person after a tragic event such as the death of a loved on.

    The prosecution also questioned Brodsky on why he left many of the personal details of Russell’s statements out of his official psychological report.

    Brodsky said he didn’t feel Russell’s specific comments were necessary in a clinical report such as the one he was asked to produce.

    Defense Attorney Mick Johnson argued death was not an accurate punishment for the crime.

    “Death is permanent,” said Johnson. “I want each of you to think about life without parole. They take you out of the state of Alabama penitentiary in a pine box.”

    Joiner reminded the jury that an aggravated circumstance must be determined in order for them to hand down a death sentence. An aggravated circumstance involves a crime more cruel than typical capital offenses.

    Bostick encouraged jurors to see the crime as just such an offense.

    “We need you to come back and say, ‘You, sir, deserve the maximum punishment we can recommend,’” Bostick said. “‘You, sir, deserve the death penalty.’”

    The jury is currently in deliberations and expected to hand down a verdict either this afternoon or first thing Nov. 23.

    http://www.shelbycountyreporter.com/...ll-sentencing/

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    Shelby County jury recommends death for Russell

    A Shelby County jury tonight unanimously recommended that Ryan Gerald Russell receive the death penalty for the 2008 slaying of his 11-year-old cousin in Inverness.

    Circuit Judge Michael Joiner can accept or reject the recommendation. Joiner set sentencing for Dec. 16.

    The same jury that recommended the death penalty for Russell took 35 minutes Friday to convict him of capital murder for the June 2008 shooting death of Katherine Helen Gillespie.

    Russell and Katherine, distant cousins, lived at a rented house on Kerry Downs Road.

    Russell was trying to adopt the girl, a native of Boaz who came to live with Russell in 2007 after her mother died and her grandmother she had been living with began suffering from dementia.

    Testimony in the case showed that Russell shot the girl in the back of the head, stuffed her body head-first in a plastic trash can, and put the trash can in the backseat of his Cadillac Escalade.

    A blood splatter expert said his analysis of blood in the house indicated Katherine was shot with in the head while in a small opening between a dryer and wall in the laundry room. Prosecutors said the girl was shot while trying to hide from Russell.

    A state medical examiner testified at trial that a star-shaped wound on the back of the girl's head indicated the gun had been pressed directly on her head when the shot was fired.

    Prosecutors argued that Russell deserves to die, saying that Katherine's death was "heinous, atrocious and cruel." Assistant district attorney Roger Hepburn told jurors they only needed to look at the "last moments" of Katherine's life.

    Hepburn told the jury to think about what Katherine might have been thinking when Russell chased her while "she was cowering in a 12-inch gap" between a dryer and a wall.

    "The last physical sensation she had her in life was the muzzle of a .40-caliber handgun pressed to the back of her head," Hepburn said.

    No one should experience that, much less an 11-year-old girl, he said. "That is psychological torture," Hepburn said.

    Ellen Moman, a camp counselor at the YMCA Hargis Retreat where Katherine was enrolled, was the only witness the prosecution called.

    Moman talked about how caring Katherine was and the impact her death had on campers and staff.

    "She was a wonderful girl," Moman said. "She had amazing plans for her future."

    Moman said Katherine talked about going to Auburn University, becoming a lawyer, and one day reuniting with her mother, who died in 2007.

    Moman cried as she showed jurors a picture she and Katherine had taken together about a week before Katherine was killed.

    The staff at the camp has a memorial bench up in Katherine's memory on the playground. It is inscribed "Tiny angel, rest your wings, come sit with me for a while."

    http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/...ecommends.html

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    Man convicted of 11-year-old's murder to face sentencing on Thursday

    Thursday is sentencing day for the Shelby County man convicted of his killing his 11-year-old cousin.

    Ryan Russell was found guilty last month of killing Katherine Gillespie in 2008.

    Jurors recommended the death penalty, but the ultimate decision is up to the judge. He could sentence Russell to life without parole.

    http://www.myfoxal.com/Global/story.asp?S=13683173

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