KIMBLE IS GUILTY, JURY SAYS; JURORS NOW MUST DECIDE RONNIE KIMBLE'S SENTENCE: LIFE IN PRISON OR THE DEATH PENALTY
Date: 9/3/1998; Publication: The News & Record (Piedmont Triad, NC); Author: Christian, Paula
PAULA CHRISTIAN Staff Writer
Ronnie Lee Kimble stared straight ahead, with no expression on his face, as a clerk read a verdict Wednesday that guarantees him life in prison or the death penalty.
Guilty of first-degree murder. Guilty of first-degree arson. Guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
As soon as Ronnie Kimble's wife, Kim Kimble, heard these words, she bowed her head and cried quietly. Ronnie Kimble turned around in his chair to look at her.
Jurors convicted Ronnie Kimble, 26, of shooting his sister-in-law, Patricia Blakley Kimble, in the head and setting her body on fire in her Pleasant Garden home on Oct. 9, 1995. They also found him guilty of conspiring to commit the murder with his brother, Ted Kimble, so the two men could share life insurance proceeds. Ted Kimble, 28, will be tried separately in his wife's murder.
The jury deliberated for five hours over two days before reaching a verdict at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday. Before a clerk read the verdict, Judge Preston Cornelius warned the 30 people in the Greensboro courtroom against emotional outbursts.
Seven bailiffs stood at attention as the jury was led into the courtroom. The Rev. Ronnie Kimble and his wife, Edna, who are Ronnie Kimble's parents, held hands and whispered a prayer.
Defense attorneys had argued to the jury that Ted Kimble was the lone gunman, and Ronnie Kimble had nothing to do with the crime. They said Ted Kimble was the obvious killer, and Ronnie Kimble had been arrested simply because he is Ted's brother.
But the jury disagreed.
Jurors sat quietly while a clerk read the verdict. Later, as the clerk polled each juror on his verdict, one juror burst into tears. He covered his face with his hands, turned his chair toward the wall and cried.
Ronnie Kimble yelled, "I love you all," to his family as bailiffs led him out of the courtroom for lunch recess.
Patricia Kimble's family and friends hugged each other, sobbed and then hugged Detective Jim Church, who is the lead investigator from the Guilford County Sheriff's Department on this case.
Dozens of friends and relatives of Patricia Kimble have sat in the courtroom since attorneys began debating pretrial motions in the case on Aug. 3. Many of them met the 28-year-old woman at South Elm Street Baptist Church, where she taught Sunday school and was involved in many activities. They described her as a loving person, a devout Christian and a hard worker who had saved enough to buy her own home at age 23.
They wore purple ribbons in memory of Patricia Kimble, since purple was her favorite color. Many of her friends and relatives were witnesses and testified about how she feared her husband, Ted Kimble, in the weeks before her death and how she had discovered that Ted forged her name on a $200,000 life insurance policy application.
Across the aisle in the courtroom, nearly as many friends and relatives of Ronnie Kimble came to support him each day. Many are members of Monnett Road Baptist Church, a small church in Julian where his father is the pastor.
The two sides did not intermingle throughout the monthlong trial. During breaks, they hovered in small groups in different sections of the hallway and whispered among themselves.
Ronnie Kimble's family has been outspoken about the innocence of this former U.S. Marine. After the verdict, his wife, Kim Kimble, stood in the hallway in front of television cameras and criticized authorities for arresting the wrong man.
"He didn't do this, and they put an innocent man in jail," Kim Kimble said. "I don't know for a fact who did it, but I have my opinions."
When reporters asked Kim Kimble if she was referring to Ronnie's brother, Ted Kimble, she responded, "I think he might know something."
Patricia Kimble's family has shied away from media interviews, saying they don't want to comment much until the entire case is completed.
"I'm pleased with the verdict," said Richard Blakley, who is Patricia Kimble's father.
The sentencing phase of the trial began at 2 p.m. Wednesday after jurors returned from lunch. During this phase, a prosecutor and defense attorneys present evidence to the jury about whether Ronnie Kimble should be sentenced to life in prison or death.
Assistant District Attorney Dick Panosh declined to put on new evidence. Defense attorneys then called nine people to the witness stand, including Ronnie Kimble's father and his father-in-law.
The other defense witnesses were mostly older members of Monnett Road Baptist Church, who testified about Ronnie Kimble's good deeds from mowing lawns to writing them letters from prison.
"He was a shining light for the church in my opinion," testified Betty Rogers, who met Ronnie Kimble at church when he was age 11.
"He is absolutely the most cheerful, willing worker I've ever seen in my life," testified Helen Williams, who met Ronnie Kimble in church when he was a teenager and hired him to mow her lawn.
The Rev. Ronnie Kimble testified that he wasn't a very good father to his sons when they were young children. He said he was a heavy drinker until 1978, when he decided to become a minister. Before then, he testified that he picked fights with his wife, Edna, and even slapped her once.
He also testified that his younger son, Ronnie, often was dominated by his older brother, Ted. He testified that Ronnie Kimble had high fevers as a child and that he believes it caused some long-term mental problems.
"I've never told Ronnie this. I'm sorry, son, but I feel its probably slowed his thinking down," Rev. Kimble testified. "It seemed he couldn't reason things just right."
Under cross-examination from Panosh, Rev. Kimble testified that although his youngest son was mentally slow, he understood that it was wrong to commit murder.
"Sir, I don't believe he committed murder," Rev. Kimble said. "I know he knows it's wrong to take someone's life because I taught him that all his life."
The jury will hear final arguments from attorneys this morning before they begin to deliberate on Ronnie Kimble's sentence later today.
COPYRIGHT 1998 News & RecordThis material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group.
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