Jury selection done

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

Jury selection ended Monday in a trial involving a Pineville man charged with killing his former classmate and hunting buddy.

John Rankin, 42, is on trial for the slaying of Kevin Mark Ritchie, of Kannapolis.

Ritchie, 41, was found stabbed multiple times. His body was discovered by his fiancee, Meloney Leigh McCorkle. He was found Aug. 16, 2004, in his Elm Street house.

Rankin faces charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery.

In 2004, Ritchie’s father, Charles, told the Post that the two men were friends and that Rankin didn’t seem like the type who would “do something like that.”

Rankin, along with his son, Cedric Dean Hawkins, 22, turned himself into authorities six days after Ritchie was found. A charge of first-degree murder against Hawkins was dismissed in early 2005.

Police have said nearly two dozen rifles, shotguns and handguns were stolen from Ritchie’s house, along with night-vision goggles and binoculars. The stolen weapons were traced back to Rankin.

Ritchie graduated from South Rowan High School with Rankin and the two remained good friends. In the past, they hunted together often, according to Ritchie’s father.

Ritchie was an avid hunter and had an extensive gun collection — a fact that Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly brought up Monday during juror selections.

Kenerly, along with Rankin’s attorneys, Marshall Bickett and James Randolph, told jurors that there was no eyewitness to the crime and no written confession from Rankin.

The question posed to those potential jurors was whether that would affect how they saw the trial. “This has the potential of being a death penalty case,” Kenerly told one juror.

No mention was made at this point if the trial would proceed with the death penalty or life imprisonment as a possible outcome.

Kenerly named almost a dozen witnesses who might be called as the case proceeds.

The witnesses include a host of investigators, friends and family of both Rankin and Ritchie. The names were called to see if the possible jurors knew them and if that knowledge would affect how they viewed the case.

Visiting Resident Superior Court Judge Michael Beale is presiding.

The trial will begin at 9:30 this morning in Rowan Superior Court.

Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com. & lt;i/ & gt;

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