Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Trial to begin today in Shelby girl's slaying

Published: Monday, November 08, 2010, 6:30 AM

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.
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