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BIKER NEWS: Closing arguments set to begin in motorcycle gang slaying trial

BN- Jurors in the murder trial of William “Bobby” Rigdon were expected to hear closing arguments Wednesday and begin deliberating whether...

BN- Jurors in the murder trial of William “Bobby” Rigdon were expected to hear closing arguments Wednesday and begin deliberating whether special prosecutors proved their case against him.


Rigdon, 30, of Lebanon, is charged in the Sept. 26, 2012, shooting of Wendell Gleason Pyles, 50, of Columbia.

Pyles was shot three times at his workplace at Tarter Gate Co. in Casey County.


Special prosecutors Shawna Virgin Kincer and Jeffrey Prather of the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office believe Rigdon ran after and shot Pyles because he was a member in bad standing with the Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club.


Rigdon’s attorney, Bridget Hofler, contends that David Salyers, president of the Frankfort chapter of the Iron Horsemen, was the gunman, arguing that he and Pyles had a long-standing conflict over unpaid debts involving a motorcycle Pyles bought.


Salyers is serving a 20-year, six-month sentence for complicity to murder.


Pretrial publicity in Casey County caused the case to be moved to Warren County.


Jurors hear Rigdon’s phone calls


Rigdon chose not to testify Tuesday, but jurors heard his voice through the introduction of recorded phone calls he made from jail to his then-wife, Faith, and another person.


In the calls, made in late 2013, Rigdon maintains his innocence, but his then-wife is not quite as confident and tells him that she is not going to testify on his behalf.


“You know I’m innocent, and all of a sudden you’ve given up,” Rigdon said.


Although Rigdon denied being at Tarter Gate on the night of the shooting when he was interviewed by Kentucky State Police, he appears to acknowledge being at the scene during one phone conversation.


“Me being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong (person) don’t make me guilty of no crime ... at the end of the day, I know what I done and what I didn’t do,” Rigdon said.


When Rigdon’s then-wife asks him about a cigarette butt found at the scene that contains his DNA, Rigdon said he suspects detectives planted the evidence.


The recordings were introduced to the jurors through KSP Trooper B.J. Burton, who was the assistant case officer in the murder investigation.


Burton testified about Rigdon being bailed out of jail in Taylor County by David Salyers’ brother, Ricky Salyers, a couple of months before the shooting.


Hofler cross-examined Burton at length about how he arrived at his conclusions about the death without recovering a weapon or locating tire tracks showing a vehicle leaving the scene.


Burton said his observations led him to conclude that Pyles was shot with a revolver by a gunman who chased him on foot, with his body coming to rest about 185 feet from his maintenance truck, where his baseball cap was found.


Burton said the dirt on the baseball cap did not appear to form a pattern resembling tire tracks.


Hofler challenged Burton about his conclusion that the shooter chased Pyles on foot, but Burton responded that he ruled out the possibility of a gunman pursuing Pyles in a vehicle, saying such a scenario was “not plausible.”


“Based on my observations, I can’t see a way for a vehicle to chase (Pyles) in a semi-circle and keep up with him,” Burton said.


The bullet that was found by a Tarter Gate employee the day after the shooting was not tested for the presence of bodily fluid or DNA, a move that Burton defended by saying that the gunpowder charge would have heated up the fired projectile to such an extent that such testing would be ineffective.


Burton testified about his interview with David Salyers, which initially addressed a pickup truck that he had reported stolen. The truck was found abandoned and burned on the side of a Taylor County road.


The interview proceeded into talk about David Salyers’ dealings with Pyles, particularly about some money that Salyers fronted Pyles toward the purchase of a motorcycle.


Hofler asked Burton about friction between Salyers and Pyles regarding failure to repay the cash advanced to Pyles for the vehicle, framing that as the motive for Salyers to kill Pyles.


“There were different points where (Salyers) said the money was paid back,” Burton said.


Burton could not testify to any evidence of conflict between Pyles and Rigdon, and Hofler brought in evidence that Rigdon sold a truck to Ricky Salyers in July 2012 to raise cash to bail him out of jail.


Defense calls six witnesses


Though Rigdon declined to take the witness stand, six other witnesses were called to testify on his behalf Tuesday.


Jennifer Allen, who worked at Crockett Trail General Store in Liberty on the night of the shooting, said she recalled seeing Rigdon and Salyers in the store that night and testified that she did not remember seeing either man carry a gun or do anything else that caused alarm.


Allen’s testimony rebutted that of her co-worker Jacqulyn Hardwick, who testified last week that she remembered seeing an outline on Rigdon’s clothing that appeared to be a concealed weapon when he and Salyers were in the store together.


Willy Fain, who is serving a 70-year sentence for burglary, robbery and theft in another county, offered testimony that attacked the credibility of James Callahan, a prosecution witness who claimed last week that Rigdon admitted to him that he shot Pyles.


Fain testified that Callahan stole the discovery evidence in his criminal case and deceived Fain into writing a letter that he believed was to go to Callahan’s girlfriend in an effort to locate a pen pal.


Instead, the letter was brought to authorities and contained incriminating information that was used to convict Fain, he said.


“I said I wasn’t guilty of what they charged me with, and I admitted to other bad acts,” Fain said.


Under questioning from Kincer, Fain said he was testifying on behalf of Rigdon, but not as a favor to him.


Jerry Arnold, a farmer who also operates a motorcycle shop, testified about selling some parts to Salyers and another man just before Pyles came to his business.


Arnold said that he overheard Pyles say that if Salyers and the other man were still at the head of the gravel road when he was finished at Arnold’s business, he “might just kill one of them.”


Later, Arnold said he witnessed Pyles and Salyers in his neighbor’s parking lot, and the two appeared to be “haggling” over the price of something.


Russell Proffitt, a southern Ohio resident and Iron Horsemen member, testified about his status as a member of the club in bad standing.


Prosecutors contend that Pyles was shot in part because he was a member in bad standing, but Proffitt testified that he had never been assaulted or threatened with violence for his disagreements with the chapter where he was once a member.


Proffitt said he was a “nomad,” or an Iron Horsemen member not affiliated with a particular chapter.


Hofler asked Proffitt about a motorcycle ride that he participated in with Rigdon in Maryland before the shooting in 2012, which elicited a grin from Proffitt.


“It was a good night because I don’t remember a damn bit of it,” Proffitt said.


Steve Orberson testified that he recalled seeing Salyers use a pistol for skeet-shooting instead of a rifle during a field party the club held about 12 years ago.


“That was what caught my attention then,” Orberson said. “He was doing real good.”


Orberson testified that he was not awareSalyers had since suffered a stroke and used a cane.


Ricky Eastham, criminal intelligence analyst for the Kentucky State Police, testified that he received no information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about Rigdon or his involvement with the Iron Horsemen.

More: http://www.centralkynews.com/amnews/news/local/closing-arguments-set-to-begin-in-motorcycle-gang-slaying-trial/article_108e5951-7d91-5486-ab15-adecc67c42b1.html

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