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On September 2, 1998, a Jury convicted Ronnie Lee Kimble of 1st degree murder, 1st degree arson, and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Patricia Kimble, his sister-in-law. The next day, the same jury recommended life imprisonment without benefit of parole. 


The State's Case

The State of North Carolina argued that on October 9, 1995, Ronnie Kimble went to Patricia's home, murdered Patricia by shooting her in the head, and then set her body on fire in order to cover up the murder.

He did so under the direction of Patricia's husband, his brother Ted, who offered him a portion of the life insurance money he expected to collect from a recent $200,000 policy taken out on Patricia, a policy which Patricia did not want and for which Ted forged her name.

The State argued that Ted Kimble married Patricia Blakely only because he knew he had to be married in order to purchase Lyles Building Supply. After the marriage, Ted wasn't satisfied with owning Lyles, but also wanted to purchased the leased land it sat on. He began by convincing Pat to add a third $25,000 double indemnity policy, bringing her total coverage in case of accident to $150,000. His efforts culminated in the attempt to obtain an additional $200,000 policy on her.

The State of North Carolina argued that Ted Kimble's motive for having his wife murdered was to collect on life insurance.  The State presented Kimble as escalating from one insurance scam to another and outrightly accused his parents of being in on some of the scams.  Furthermore, the State accused Ronnie Kimble of murdering Patricia as Ted's hired gun in order to collect a portion of the Life Insurance as payment.

The State argued Ted took a second job and arranged for someone else to murder Patricia so he could have an airtight alibi. Ronnie, his younger brother, whom he dominated emotionally, was the only person who would do the job on credit -- if and when Ted received insurance payoffs, Ronnie would get a cut.

Because of the conspiracy charge, the State was allowed to introduce evidence against Ted Kimble, as though Ted were the one on trial.  The only evidence produced against Ronnie is his alleged confession to Mitch Whidden and hearsay confessions alleged to have been made by Ted Kimble.


Let's look closely at the evidence the State produced to prove its case. Most of the evidence produced at Ronnie's trial was against Ted, not Ronnie.  Mr. Panosh justified including all of this hearsay against Ted:

This shows a pattern of conduct on the part of Ted, which is part -- as we've indicated, we have to show the motive and the ability of Ted to conceive this crime, if we're going to convict Ronnie.  [Trial Transcript, p. 609]

That pretty much admits that they don't have any independent evidence against Ronnie sufficient to convict.  It also raises questions of Ronnie's Constitutional rights.  The Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to cross examine witnesses that provide information detrimental to his case.  Ted Kimble exercised his 5th Amendment privilege not to testify.  Doing so, however, deprived Ronnie Kimble of the right to question Ted about alleged statements and behaviors, to confirm or deny or otherwise explain them.  4More on the Confrontation Clause


The evidence against Ted

Ted knew he had to be married in order to purchase Lyle's Building Material.
This information was provided by Janet Blakley, Ted's former fiance. It's contradicted by Gary Lyle, owner of Lyle's, who testified he never made it known to Ted that he wouldn't consider selling him the business unless he was married.

Ted asked 3 women within a short period of time to marry him. He became engaged to Patricia a very short time after breaking up with Janet.
Janet testified she refused Ted's proposal because she wanted to finish college and her parents wouldn't pay for it if she was married. Ted already knew Patricia quite well and told several people that he married his best friend.  Patricia was already in love with Ted. Patricia obviously knew about Janet. 

Once married, Ted wasn't satisfied with owning Lyle's Building Material; he also wanted to own the land it sat on. The owners quoted a price of $180,000-$200,000.
Ted contacted Rovin & Weill, Inc., the real estate brokerage firm that represented the land owners, to assure them that he would continue to operate in that location, by either extending the lease or purchasing the land, if the owners wanted to sell. Thomas S. Routh, the broker handling the lease, testified that the owners have never considered selling and he was not quoted a price.


Ted convinced Patricia to increase her life insurance coverage from $50,000 to $75,000.
$75,000 is not an inordinate amount of insurance for mid-1990s, and Patricia increased the insurance herself.  4The Insurance Policies, Claims, and Payouts


Ted applied for a $200,000 policy on Patricia, and when she refused to sign the application, he forged her name. When she found out he proceeded with the policy, she slammed the phone down.
William Jarrell, the insurance agent who testified about this incident, changed his story from his earliest statements to the Detectives.  He also testified that the amount of the new policy on Patricia would even up the amount of insurance they had on Ted. At the same time, they also took out a dental policy and a cancer policy.  4The Insurance Policies, Claims, and Payouts


Ted had a history of fraudulent insurance claims.
This allegation comes exclusively from Janet Blakley. A significant problem with her credibility is that she continued to date him and became engaged to him, in spite of knowing about this alleged behavior. One allegation implicates Gary Lyle, Ted's boss at the time, for paying Ted under the table knowing he was also collecting loss of wages, making him just as guilty of insurance fraud as Ted.  Ted was thoroughly investigated by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, which has the authority to bring charges for fraud, but did not do so.  He was also investigated by the Maryland Insurance Group.  4The Insurance Policies, Claims, and Payouts


Patricia confided in various family and friends that she was very concerned about Ted's efforts to increase her life insurance, his spending habits, that he carried a gun and slept with the gun under his pillow, and that she was afraid each night when she went to bed that she might not wake up the next morning.
First, most of these witnesses testified that Patricia subsequently told them that the problem with Ted was resolved. Second, if her statements were so alarming, why didn't these friends and family members follow-up with her, or offer to help her out of the situation? Third, one of the friends, Rose Lyles, spoke with Patricia the Saturday before she was murdered and Patricia said nothing about being upset with Ted. Fourth, Patricia's assistant testified that Patricia was not under duress on October 9, and that Patricia had lunch with Ted and came back from lunch cheerful and happy.

Ted waited only a few days after Patricia's death to claim the life insurance, and was angry when he found out the $200,000 policy was not in effect.
William Jarrell, the insurance agent, testified that Ted specifically asked when the policy would become effective, and Jarrell showed him the 3 conditions, which included that they both had to take physicals. When Patricia allegedly refused to take the physical and slammed down the phone, Jarrell called Ted and informed him and told Ted they needed to reschedule the physicals. Furthermore, since one of the primary purposes for life insurance is to cover funeral expenses and other expenses related to the death, timely filing after a death is expected.

Ted began dating within a few weeks after Patricia's death and did other things that demonstrated he was not a grieving husband.

Ted's dating is his own personal business, and is no more evidence of guilt than not dating is evidence of innocence. Having to put on this kind of behavior as "evidence" is a very telling sign of a weak case.


Ted used money donated through his Church to purchase a motorcycle.

The same is true of how he used this money.  No one from the Church testified that he used it in a way objectionable to them. 


Ted engaged in a theft ring with two other men.

Ted pled guilty to his participation in the theft ring.  The other two accomplices were given plea deals in exchange for their testimony against Ted in the matter of Patricia's murder -- testimony which included alleged confessions by Ted implicating both himself and Ronnie.  The two accomplices were given probation, thus making their testimony suspect.  Were they simply telling the police what the police wanted to hear? 4A Closer Look at Robert Nicholes 


The evidence against Ronnie


The Plea Deal

If the State of North Carolina was so confident in its case against Ronnie Kimble, or for that matter, against Ted Kimble, why did Mr. Panosh offer Ronnie a "settlement" on July 25, 1998, just days before the trial began?  This settlement reduced the charges from 1st degree murder and 1st degree arson to 2nd degree in exchange for testimony against Ted Kimble. If Ronnie were guilty, why didn't he avail himself of this opportunity to avoid the risk of getting the death penalty and significantly reduce his sentence?   4The Deal  The trial began on August 3, and on August 14 yet another settlement was offered to Ronnie.  This settlement removed the requirement that he testify against Ted.  Ronnie refused, writing a simple "No Thanks" on the offer and sending it back to Mr. Panosh.  4The 2nd Deal


The murder weapon

The State could not say conclusively that the gun found in the master bedroom, which belonged to Ted, was used in the murder. It could have been used. Moreover, they could not provide evidence that Ronnie Kimble handled that gun because the Sheriff's department failed to request the gun be tested for latent finger prints before it was processed by Agent Ware for toolmark examination.  This failure to do so, of course, eliminated all possibility that Ronnie could then request the tests as evidence that someone else fired the gun.  This amounts to destruction of evidence.  State crime labs should be instructed by law to perform every possible test on evidence submitted, whether requested by the submitting agency or not, in the event those tests are needed at a later date by the Defense team.


The Time of Death

The State relied on the estimated burn time for the fire and the last reported sighting of Patricia to determine the time of death was 4:00-4:15 p.m.  The Defense did not call its own arson expert to challenge the estimated burn time, most probably because it fit in with the time period when Ted's alibi was weakest, and a line of defense proposed by Ronnie's Defense team is that Ted committed the murder and arson himself.  This line of defense did not have Ronnie's approval because he did not agree that Ted was the one responsible.  4Time of Death


Both Ronnie and Ted have alibis for this time period as well as for the rest of the evening. Both were at Lyles from 4:00-4:15.  Ted's alibi, mostly provided by James Ogburn, was sufficiently good to convince detectives who were already sure he was responsible that he could not have committed the crimes himself.  Ronnie had two witnesses to verify he was there from 4:00 - 4:15, James Ogburn and Billy Smith, but these witnesses were never called by the defense.  Why not?  

4James Ogburn   4Ronnie's alibi


Ronnie's Behavior

The first person to see Ronnie after he allegedly murdered Patricia and set her and her home on fire was his father-in-law, James Stump.  Stump testified that Ronnie showed no stress or emotion when he saw him at 4:50, no did Ronnie's clothes or shoes have any gasoline smell.  Yet Ronnie is described as an emotional person, and Detective Church's first notice of him was his emotional reaction to Patricia's death in the family gatherings later that night.  It defies reason that this emotional person would not have exhibited some stress 30-45 minutes after committing murder and arson on a family member.  4James Stump's Observations


The Confession to Whidden

Besides contradicting Ronnie's account of what he told Mitch Whidden, the account given by Whidden has several problems:  Whidden's characterization of the fear the confession aroused in him contradicts his self-imposed face-to-face visit with Ronnie just a few days later; Ronnie's own behavior is not consistent with Whidden's characterization that Ronnie was suicidal; and the various people involved in the retelling of the confession do not have consistent accounts. 



Published August 15, 2006.  Report broken links or other problems.

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