Jurors see video of crime scene at murder trial

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

Jurors watched police video of stabbing victim Kevin Mark Ritchie on Tuesday, and also heard testimony from law enforcement officials concerning how his body was found.

John F. Rankin is on trial for the murder and robbery of Ritchie. The two had once been hunting buddies.

Two years ago Ritchie was found stabbed multiple times in his Kannapolis home. His body was discovered by his fiancee, Meloney McCorkle.

The trial against Rankin began a week ago with family and friends of Ritchie and Rankin testifying to events that led to the murder.

Kannapolis Police Detective Jack Blalock, who shot the video, explained to jurors what they were seeing.

He detailed how he found Ritchie tangled in his inversion machine. Investigators initially thought Ritchie had fallen out of the apparatus used for people with back problems.

Upon closer inspection, investigators discovered several substantial stab wounds to Ritchie’s chest.

Blalock confirmed witness testimony made earlier regarding whether forced entry was made into the home and if any evidence linking Rankin to the home was found.

Blalock said no forced entry was found on any of the doors or windows. He also verified that no DNA evidence or fingerprints belonging to Rankin were found at the home.

“We found nothing but smudges and smears,” Blalock said.

He said the only drops of blood found anywhere other than on the victim were found on a nearby washing machine and dryer. No weapons known to be used in the killing were recovered.

A knife and letter opener were found and ruled out. The medical examiner found a tiny piece of a blade that was retrieved from Ritchie’s back.

Investigators also found rolling papers and scales that Blalock said are generally used to weigh and sell bags of marijuana. No marijuana was found in the house.

Earlier testimony revealed that friends knew of at least one occasion when Ritchie smoked marijuana. A receipt from Duke Power was found at Ritchie’s house. It was dated Aug. 16, the day of his death.

Although the time on the receipt showed 10:04 a.m., a surveillance video from the electric company showed Ritchie paid a bill about 9:55 a.m.

A short hearing was conducted after jurors were sent home for the day. During that hearing, Karen Cuthbertson, mother of Cedric Hawkins, now 22, testified. Hawkins is also Rankin’s son.

Cuthbertson said she talked with her son when he and his father turned themselves in Sept. 19, 2004.

According to Cuthbertson, Hawkins refused to talk with investigators until she spoke with him. Cuthbertson said she slapped her son and told him to “wake up.

“I told him if he knew anything he needed to tell and if he didn’t know anything, he needed to tell,” she said.

Cuthbertson said she told her son that his father was setting him up for a fall. “I told him his life was in his own hands. He had to decide if he wanted to live or die,” she said.

Cuthbertson said she told Hawkins he was being charged with first-degree murder.

Initially, Hawkins was charged, but the charges were later dismissed.

On Monday, Hawkins invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

Visiting Superior Court Judge Michael Beale asked if he understood, which Hawkins said he did. He was taken into custody and faces six months in jail along with a $500 fine.

Rowan District Attorney Bill Kenerly said Tuesday that the only reason Hawkins wasn’t testifying was to protect his father. He said Hawkins has no reason not to testify since he’s not charged with a crime.

Invoking the Fifth Amendment means a person believes that if they testify, what they say could lead to other evidence that could be used against them.

One of Rankin’s attorneys, Marshall Bickett, argued Rankin did not coerce his son into not testifying.

He hadn’t even contacted him by phone or letter, nor had Hawkins been to visit Rankin in jail, Bickett said.

Kenerly argued that Rankin tried to get two people to provide alibis for him.

He said Rankin called a friend, Deon Canty, shortly before being charged. He asked Canty to say they were together Aug. 16.

Canty testified Monday he took his daughter to school that morning.

Former girlfriend Chante Brown testified Monday that Rankin sent her a letter instructing her to say they were together at a specific time on Aug. 16. She initially agreed, but later said she would not.

Judge Beale made no decisions during the hearing.

The trial resumes at 9:30 this morning.

Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.