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Rankin guilty, gets life

By Shavonne Potts

Kannapolis Citizen

It took jurors just half an hour to decide the fate of John Rankin, who was found guilty last week of killing his friend, Kevin Mark Ritchie.

Rankin, 42, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Jurors found Rankin guilty of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

On Aug. 16, 2004, Ritchie, 41, was stabbed numerous times and discovered in the kitchen of his Elm Street home in Kannapolis.

Rankin and Ritchie had been known to hunt together occasionally. The two also attended South Rowan High School together.

A number of guns were stolen from Ritchie’s extensive collection. Testimony during the trial showed that Rankin gave several guns to two other people to pawn without asking for any money.

Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly told jurors last Friday morning that Rankin had plenty of time between the day of the robbery and his arrest to sell the other guns.

Rankin’s attorneys, however, argued that the evidence didn’t prove Ritchie was murdered for money.

Defense attorneys James Randolph and Marshall Bickett had said throughout the trial that although Ritchie’s guns were taken, money was left in his wallet and $1,000 was recovered from his gun safe.

Ritchie’s wallet was on an entertainment center in plain view and contained $100.

Ritchie’s family, particularly his mother, Elaine Howle, said they thought the outcome was fair.

Howle said it still would not bring her only son back.

Rankin’s family was grateful and said they thanked Ritchie’s family for not insisting jurors demand the death penalty.

Rankin’s aunt, Sheila Rankin-Steele, said Monday, that her family feels the pain the Ritchie family is going through.

“I pray God will give them a comfort, peace and closure that they can live a little better,” she said.

Steele said she hopes this ordeal would allow Ritchie’s family to come closer together as it did for her family.

Superior Court Judge Michael Beale issued a bench warrant Dec. 6 on Rankin’s son, Cedric Hawkins, 22, charging him with first-degree murder and robbery of Ritchie.

Beale said earlier he thought there was enough evidence in the case to show the crime was committed by more than one person.

The judge set a hearing for Dec. 20. Hawkins will be appointed an attorney or retain attorney Darrin Jordan. At that time, evidence will be presented to show elements that warrant a capital prosecution.

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

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