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Opening Statement, For the Defendant


THE COURT: Please remember that that opening statement is not evidence, not to be considered as evidence. On behalf of the defendant, Mr. Hatfield?

MR. HATFIELD: Yes. Thank you, Your Honor. May it please the Court.

THE COURT: You may.

MR. HATFIELD: Mr. Panosh.

Mr. Lloyd.

Ladies and gentlemen, I suspect that none of us remembers October 9, 1995 in any way, unless it just happens to be a birthday of a friend or relative or something like that. But of course, as you have heard during jury selection, and as you have just heard from Mr. Panosh, you will know a lot about that day before this trial is over with. And you will know what Patricia Kimble was doing on that day and what Ronnie Kimble was doing on that day. And you will have to determine, after you've heard all of the evidence, whether there's any possibility that Ronnie Kimble could be involved in this in any way, shape or form.

It was a Monday, a minor holiday, as was also said a minute ago, Columbus Day. Patricia got out of her bed after her husband had already dressed and gone to his place


of employment. Because her boss was out of the office that day, apparently she intended to take it easy, and she got to the office about 9:40. She planned on leaving at 3:30 that afternoon. So, by the time she finished her workday, taking into account an hour and a half lunch, she'd really been at work hardly any more than four hours.

She spent most of the morning out of the office, doing jobs for her boss, having to do with certifying apartments for low income people. Her coworker, Nancy Young, was at the office, and they talked all day long. You'll hear from Nancy Young during the course of this trial. Patricia took a long lunch break that day, perhaps more than an hour and a half, and ate with her husband, Ted. And when she came back from her lunch break with Ted, she seemed very happy and content. She had indicated to her coworker, Ms. Young, earlier that she was upset about some negotiations that Ted was engaged in, to buy insurance that she wasn't sure she agreed with. But she had apparently worked that out with her husband, and they seemed to be happy on this particular day.

She apparently was going to go home that afternoon and continue mowing the lawn. She indicated that Ted had done part of the mowing just a few days before.

At 3:30 p.m. on October 9, 1995, Patricia Kimble did leave her place of employment, but it's uncertain where


she went from there, because a person who knew her from years before observed her driving away from her apartment and toward downtown Greensboro at 3:45 p.m. So, no one knows where Patricia was at approximately 4:00 p.m., when her coworker, Ms. Young, made a call to Patricia's house. Ms. Young had taken care of something that hadn't been done, that Patricia needed to know about, some faxing of documents to the home office. She wanted to tell Patricia about this. Perhaps we'll find out in the trial whether Ms. Young thought that she -- Patricia would actually be in her kitchen or inside her house to receive that call, because Patricia didn't wait to put a message on the answering -­rather, Ms. Young did not wait to put a message on the answering machine. She let it ring four times and then hung up. We don't know where Patricia was at 4:00 p.m. And we don't know where she was at any time thereafter.

She didn't attend the church gathering. At about 8:30 p.m., as you heard a few minutes ago, firefighters were called to her residence. Later, her charred body was found in the wreckage of her house. Near her body, ladies and gentlemen, was a kitchen knife, that she probably held in her hand at the instant when the bullet entered her brain and stopped her life. Why did she have a knife in her hand? Or did she have a knife in her hand?

In the master bedroom, as you were told a minute


ago, the remains of a little puppy dog that Patricia had acquired a few days before was found later by the firefighters. It seems reasonable to assume that she was going straight there, to let the little dog out, because she hadn't seen the dog since 9:30 or so that morning, when she'd gotten up and left for work, because she had lunch with Ted. So, she was heading that way, when the bullet hit her. Or, since the gun was found in the bedroom, was she even closer to where the little dog was, when someone shot her in the bedroom, threw the gun down, and then moved her body into the middle of the house? We don't know, ladies and gentlemen.

The master bedroom was a shambles, as if the murderer was searching for something. What was the murderer looking for? Photographs? Love letters? Private papers? The drawers and things of that sort in the bedroom were all turned over. The mattresses were turned off of the springs. But the clothes in the closet were not disturbed. Was this individual looking for something specific that -- and did they know basically where to look for it? Will we found out? We're going to be here four or five weeks. Let's hope we find out.

In the kitchen of Patricia's house were a number of interesting personal papers that were found, things that apparently bore her signature or were in her handwriting.


Among some of those were plans to have a will drafted, with the notes of how the money and other property would be disposed. Her house, which she owned herself, Ted had no interest in that, would go to her mom. And their joint interest in the business would go to Ted's dad. The boat that they both had bought would be disposed of through this will. And, ladies and gentlemen, $200,000 in cash was allocated in Patricia's handwriting. Is that the insurance money that she disapproved of and didn't know anything about? Plus another $50,000 in insurance money, which she had had for a good, long while.

Ladies and gentlemen, the plan for the will doesn't talk about in the event that Ted dies, or in the event that Patricia dies. It's a plan for a will in the event of their joint death. And that's how much money they would have, if these insurance policies that were being negotiated for in September of 1995 ever went into effect. As you will learn in this trial, they did not go into effect. Because he didn't forge an insurance policy. Ted wrote her name on an application. That's all. It was not the same thing as a policy. It's questionable whether he thought it was the same thing as a policy. The policy never paid. Nobody in Ted Kimble's family ever received anything as a result of any life insurance payoffs, certainly not Ronnie Kimble. It just didn't happen.


By all accounts, Patricia was an industrious young woman, and she was very, very concerned about money.

It's unclear whether she and Ted were happy during the days before her death. Her relatives and friends will come in this courtroom and to some extent testify that she was unhappy and concerned about Ted's lifestyle. He left a lot to be desired, ladies and gentlemen. You will hear that. Most of you are of the age where you could easily have a child Patricia's age. You might not want Ted in your family. But, ladies and gentlemen, there's another side to the story, because Patricia's deeds speak eloquently of how she felt. She can't talk to you anymore. Her relatives will tell you of unhappiness and overreaching and bad decisions. But let's look at what they did together.

She and Ted were avid weekend travelers, and they had gone on many, many weekend trips, which they thoroughly enjoyed. She and Ted had established a line of credit based on the equity in her house, with NationsBank, and had borrowed some $18,000 against that line of credit, in order to buy a two-week timeshare in a Williamsburg condominium, a place they'd gone and had a wonderful time on the weekend. Decided to jointly invest money. Was that the behavior of a spendthrift? If it was, ladies and gentlemen, they were both spendthrifts.

They had recently bought a Jeep Cherokee. Maybe a


little -- maybe a little bit too nice a car for the income level they were at. But they acquired this car jointly, ladies and gentlemen. They both signed the paperwork. This is not something that her husband did behind her back.

Ted and Patricia had purchased a motorboat, and Patricia had told more than one of her good friends that she enjoyed the boat. And she even included the boat in her will plan, you will see. She knew who she was going to leave it to.

Patricia's coworker -- remember Nancy Young -- saw Patricia every day. She will testify that she was downright embarrassed by the open displays of affection, including excessive kissing and hugging that Patricia and Ted engaged in, in front of everyone.

Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps you will hear that this was a poor marriage or a marriage lacking in love or a marriage lacking in the sound, conservative economic decisions that these young people should have exercised. But I believe you will also realize that these two young people were in love.

Where Patricia was after 3:45 p.m. on October 9th is anybody's guess. Was she alive at 4:00 p.m., when Nancy Young called her house? No one knows. Was she alive at 6:20, when a number of people who drove past her locality saw what they thought were suspicious vehicles coming and


going? No one knows.

Of Ronnie Kimble's activities on October 9, 1995, we also know a great deal. Ronnie drove in with a friend of his from Camp Lejeune the Friday before this long weekend. Remember that for some fortunate people, particularly those who work for the government, Monday was a holiday. It's not a North Carolina holiday, but it is a federal holiday. So it was a long weekend for military people, some military people.

Ronnie was a corporal, in his third year, in a four-year term of duty, and he was finishing up in the chaplain's office at Camp Lejeune. Most of his friends were attached to the chaplain's office.

Ronnie and his wife, Kim, who will testify in this case, owned a mobile home just a few hundred yards from Kim's mom and dad, the Stumps -- they will also testify in this case -- in Julian, which is a little town right outside of Greensboro.

Kim and Ronnie were purchasing the mobile home and had rented a lot to put it on. Most weekends, Ronnie worked around the yard, clearing stumps and rocks and other debris, trying to start the semblance of a lawn.

On the morning of October 9th, Ronnie got up early and drove his wife's Camaro to Brandon Station Court, where Ted and Patricia lived, to meet Ted and to borrow a so‑


called box truck that Ted owned, in order to haul some trailer underpinning that Ronnie intended to buy that day. He was going to enclose the bottom of his house trailer, his mobile home, in order to conceal the wheels and that sort of thing, and make it better insulation for the wintertime.

Patricia did not get out of bed, and Ted left in his vehicle and Ronnie followed, driving the box truck toward Ted's business establishment, which is on West Lee Street in Greensboro. And that business is still there, although I don't think Ted owns it anymore. Ronnie wasted a little time around Ted's business, until it was time for a place called Atlantic Mobile Home Supply to open, so that Ronnie could go there and buy the materials that he needed.

He did, and the salesman attended to this transaction, helped him load the stuff from underneath the roof on the shed outside into the box truck. And Ronnie drove the truck back to Ted's business on West Lee and hung around until about 12:45 p.m. He called his wife, Kim, at work, to see if she would like to have lunch, and she said she was busy. So then Ronnie drove to a Sprinkle station, where he filled the tank with gas, and then headed back to his and Kim's mobile home in Julian, where he unloaded the underpinning out of the truck.

At about 1:15 p.m., Ronnie drove the empty box truck back to Ted and Patricia's house at Brandon Station


Court and parked the truck and drove away in Kim's, that's his wife's, teal green Camaro. He got back to his and Kim's house about 1:45 p.m. At 1:45 p.m., Patricia was having lunch with Ted, and she was going to return to her office, where Nancy Young would see her, and where Patricia would express her satisfaction and pleasure over the time she'd spent with Ted.

So, you see, ladies and gentlemen, it is of no bearing whatever on any rational explanation -‑

MR. PANOSH: We object to argument.

THE COURT: Sustained.

MR. HATFIELD:    for what happened to Patricia.

THE COURT: Just a forecast of the evidence, Mr. Hatfield.

MR. HATFIELD: That she went -‑

Yes, Your Honor.

That she went to -- that Ronnie went to her house twice in the day before 1:45 p.m. simply says nothing about what happened to her.

Ronnie never again went near that house during Patricia's life.

Ronnie fixed a sandwich at his mobile home and began planning to work on the underpinning, when he realized that if he cut it with a blade that he had, that he would do too much damage to the wood -- this is not very high-quality


stuff -- and he needed a fine-toothed blade to cut it, without leaving a lot of marks. So he called Ted's place, Ted's business, which is called Lyles Building Supply, on West Lee, and he asked if there was a blade suitable for the purpose up there, was later told that there was.

So he drove back to Lyles about 3:00 or 3:25 p.m., when kids are getting out of school, and when he got there, he talked to a man named James Ogburn, who still lives here in town and may be a witness in this case, and another man named Billy Smith, who was a customer. He spent a while there.

Shortly after 4:00 p.m., Ronnie left Lyles and drove home, where he arrived at approximately 4:40. Minutes after he got there, at approximately 4:50 p.m., his dad (sic), James Stump, who's present here (Indicated) and will testify in this case, came and paid him a visit. And he and James Stump spent the next 45 minutes or so planning the appropriate use of the underpinning materials and figuring out how to put them into place.

Shortly after James Stump left to go home, Kim came home from her job, and Kim and Ronnie were there for a few minutes together, and then they got in their car and went over to James and Judy Stump's, which as I think I've already said, is a matter of a few hundred yards, and stopped by there, where Judy Stump, who's here in the


courtroom, and will also be a witness in the case, was in the kitchen, and James Stump was watching television. Kim and Ronnie hung out for the better part of an hour, until "Wheel of Fortune" came on. And then, they went outside and talked a little bit on the front porch. It's October. The weather's not cold. No reason why you can't stand around a little bit, which is what happened. And then they went to a Winn-Dixie nearby and bought food supplies for dinner. And Kim wrote a check, and the check went through the Winn-Dixie cash register a few minutes after 7:30 p.m.

That's where they were, ladies and gentlemen. Melissa Williford, a young lady who will probably testify in this case, was there and saw Kim, may have seen Ronnie.

They then went home and cooked the food and went to bed, because Ronnie needed to leave the next morning and go back to Camp Lejeune, where he had duty. They were awaked by a telephone call or two. One thing quickly led to another. And they realized that there was trouble over at Patricia's house. Eventually everyone, all of Patricia's loved ones -- and I want to say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that her loved ones are not just the people behind the prosecutor. Her loved ones are all through this courtroom, and they include my client -‑

MR. PANOSH: We object.

MR. HATFIELD: -- and the Stumps.


THE COURT: Sustained.

MR. PANOSH: Argument.

THE COURT: Sustained.


THE COURT: Just a forecast of the evidence

MR. HATFIELD: And she had a lot of friends. And you will realize it. This isn't a factional dispute.

A few days after Patricia died, law-enforcement officers began to receive anonymous Crime Stoppers tips from people who knew Patricia and who suspected that Ted must have had something to do with her untimely death. Ted's negotiations with an insurance agent and his efforts to obtain a life insurance policy on her life generated suspicion, even though no policy was ever put upon her life. And Ted Kimble never received any life insurance money as a result of Patricia's death.

So the suspicion was there, ladies and gentlemen.

MR. PANOSH: Object to argument, please.

THE COURT: Sustained. Just facts.

MR. HATFIELD: About six or seven months after Patricia died, Detective Jim Church -- he's here, he'll testify -- began to follow some of the leads that other detectives and officers had gathered in the immediate aftermath of Patricia's death. Detective Church met a woman who told him she thought she had seen a person that looked


MR. PANOSH: We object, please.

MR. HATFIELD: -- looked like Ronnie Kimble.

MR. PANOSH: We object.

THE COURT: Sustained.

MR. HATFIELD: This is evidence, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Well -‑

MR. HATFIELD: He's disclosed it in pretrial. He knows what I'm talking about.

THE COURT: You told me 15 minutes. You've gone beyond that time.

MR. HATFIELD: Well, I believe Mr. Panosh did, too.

THE COURT: No. His was only 15 minutes.

MR. HATFIELD: Okay. I'll wrap it up.

So, Detective Church decided that Ted was a likely suspect. And when he heard that someone had seen someone who looked like Ronnie -‑

MR. PANOSH: We object, now.

MR. HATFIELD: -- Kimble at 6:20 -‑

THE COURT: Sustained.

Mr. Hatfield, you're going to have to restrict it to just what your forecast of the evidence is going to show, not a narrative statement.

MR. HATFIELD: The 6:20 sighting, ladies and


gentlemen -‑

MR. PANOSH: We'd object. This is not a forecast of his evidence.

THE COURT: This is not evidence, members of the jury, just a forecast of the witnesses and what you anticipate showing.


MR. HATFIELD: Thank you.

The 6:20 sighting -‑

MR. PANOSH: We object, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Overruled.


MR. HATFIELD: -- led directly to a resurgence of the investigation of Ronnie Kimble. And after that, they just never could stop.

MR. PANOSH: We object to argument, please.

THE COURT: Well, don't get into that. Just get

the forecast of what your evidence is going to show. Members of the jury, this is not evidence and not

to be considered as evidence in this case.

MR. HATFIELD: Judge, I don't object when these lawyers --

THE COURT: Well --‑

MR. HATFIELD: -- argue in opening statements, and I don't understand --


THE COURT: We've got a long -‑

MR. HATFIELD: -- all this obstructionism.

THE COURT: We've got a long trial ahead of us. We need to move along.

MR. HATFIELD: All right. Thank you.

As a result of this sighting, the Marine Corps investigators down at Camp Lejeune were asked to do some checking on Ronnie Kimble, and what resulted, ladies and gentlemen, was interviewing of every single individual who he knew or associated with in the Marine Corps, creating a tremendous amount of embarrassing -‑

MR. PANOSH: We object.

MR. HATFIELD: -- suspicion.

THE COURT: Overruled.

MR. HATFIELD: It was common knowledge among Ronnie Kimble's associates in the Marine Corps -­

MR. PANOSH: We object.

THE COURT: Sustained.

MR. PANOSH: This is not appropriate.

THE COURT: Sustained.

MR. HATFIELD: Your Honor, that language is all through the stuff they've disclosed.

THE COURT: That's not -- just what your witnesses are going to testify to or show.

MR. HATFIELD: I think Mitch Whidden said it was


common knowledge.

THE COURT: Well, I don't know whether your witness is going to show that or not. Just -‑

MR. HATFIELD: Well, I think his will.

THE COURT: -- forecast your evidence and move along.

MR. HATFIELD: This gentleman from Lynchburg, Virginia, that you've heard would testify in this case, Mitch Whidden, heard all of these suspicions at Camp Lejeune, ladies and gentlemen. And as you will realize when you listen to him testify, he formed his own conclusion, long before he left the Marine Corps and went to Lynchburg, Virginia, to go to a Bible college up there.

Some 15 months after Patricia had died, Ronnie Kimble's superior officer at Camp Lejeune instructed him to go to Portsmouth, Virginia, to have a sleep disorder that Ronnie had been complaining of, evaluated. Ronnie was given leave and permission to have his wife accompany him, so he wouldn't spend too much time on the highway, because it was hard for him to stay awake.

Kim and Ronnie set off in January 1997, to drive to Portsmouth, for Ronnie to take the tests. Ronnie Kimble's father, Ron Kimble, Sr., took his ministerial training at Liberty Bible College, so everybody in the Kimble family was intimately familiar with Liberty Bible


College. And the boys, both Ted and Ronnie, had visited there on occasion.

Ronnie Kimble grew up knowing that one of his career options would be the ministry, and that he might very well go to Liberty Bible Institute at some point in his future. Now he was about to leave the Marine Corps, and he was checking that situation out.

Because the Marine Corps had given Ronnie a long weekend in Virginia, they decided to drive to Lynchburg, which is where Liberty Bible Institute is located. Remembering that Mitch Whidden was attending Liberty Bible Institute, Ronnie called him up. As a result of that contact, they made arrangements with Mitch Whidden to stay with them on the night of the 24th of January. They arrived late, the weather was bad. And Kim and Ronnie were given a place to stay in this small apartment and immediately went to bed.

The next day, Mitch took Ronnie to some classes, and Ronnie and Kim then entertained themselves, by visiting the campus and by going by and seeing Dr. Falwell.

In the evening, the Whiddens and their children and the Kimbles sat around Mitch's apartment, when Judy Stump called -- that's Kim's mom -- and informed Kim and Ronnie that Detective Church had contacted her with more questions about Ronnie's activities and Ronnie's role, if


any, in the murder of Patricia. This call from Detective Church was very upsetting to Judy Stump. And it was obvious to the Whiddens -‑

MR. PANOSH: Well, object to what was obvious.

MR. HATFIELD: -- and to Kim that -‑

THE COURT: Sustained.

Disregard that.

MR. HATFIELD: It was upsetting to her.

We may never know what transpired between Ronnie and Mitch Whidden, because they disagree about whatever was said. But as a result of that, Mitch Whidden formed the unshakable belief that Ronnie is somehow involved in the death of his sister (sic), although he does not know how, and so, Whidden reported this to Detective Church. That's why we're all here today.

Ladies and gentlemen, although Mitch Whidden has an unclear recollection of what happened on that occasion, I can assure you that Ronnie and Kim have a very clear recollection. And you will hear the facts of what transpired on that visit, and you will have an opportunity to judge for yourselves whether some kind of confession was given, or whether Mitch simply jumped to conclusions, based on things that he didn't really know enough about.

The State of North Carolina contends, ladies and gentlemen, that Ronnie Kimble entered into a conspiracy with


Ted Kimble, to murder Patricia, and you will hear from witnesses, many of whom are acknowledged criminals and have been given -‑

MR. PANOSH: We object, please.

THE COURT: Sustained.

MR. HATFIELD: -- who will tell you that Ted admitted to them that he was responsible for Patricia's death and that Ronnie did it for him. It will be your job to determine the credibility of these witnesses. But you will realize when you hear them testify that none of them heard any communications between Ted Kimble and Ronnie Kimble concerning murder or anything else. Indeed, there will be hardly a single item of evidence that Ted and Ronnie ever communicated about anything.

Ladies and gentlemen, in recent years, there's been a lot about science in these big-time criminal cases that you hear about in the media, but there will be precious little science of any kind in this case. Although here we are in 1998, and we have a fabulous State Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Raleigh -‑

MR. PANOSH: We'd object.

THE COURT: Sustained.

That's more of an argument. That's not a factual forecast of your evidence, sir.

MR. HATFIELD: There are no fingerprints. There


are no computer enhancements of anything that will help you understand. There's no proof of how this fire was ignited that destroyed the interior portions of Patricia's home. There's no proof whether she was holding that knife that was found so close to her body or not. There's not even any scientific proof that the gun that was found in the house is the gun that killed her.

There's not a scientific thing in this case, ladies and gentlemen. There's suspicion and innuendo and witnesses who have an agenda, and that's all. We ask you to weigh the evidence carefully. We ask you to fulfill your promise to myself and Mr. Lloyd early on that you would not form an opinion, until you hear everything from all of us and all the witnesses, and then we ask each of you to deliberate and decide the case.

Thank you.

THE COURT: Please again remember, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that these opening statements are not evidence and not to be considered as evidence.

You may stand and stretch a moment, if you'd like, before we begin with the State's first witness. Stand and take a stretch, if you'd like.

(Time was allowed.)



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

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