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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.
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.
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.
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
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 is not an inordinate amount of insurance for
mid-1990s, and Patricia increased the insurance herself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
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
The Confession to Whidden
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.