Witness testifies about stolen guns at murder trial

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

There was plenty of testimony on the second day of John F. Rankin’s murder trial Thursday in Rowan Superior Court.

Rankin faces first-degree murder and armed robbery charges in the death of friend Kevin Mark Ritchie nearly two and a half years ago.

Friends and family of Ritchie and Rankin took the stand and recounted what happened in the days leading up to the killing.

Meloney McCorkle found the 40-year-old Ritchie, her fiancee, dead in the kitchen of his Kannapolis home in 2004.

She had last seen him earlier that day, Aug. 16, when she had breakfast with him.

Attorneys have consistently asked about Ritchie’s cautious nature. His family and friends said Wednesday and again Thursday he double- locked his doors to the point of paranoia, didn’t let strangers into his home and kept his numerous guns in a safe.

Much of what was said Thursday related to how guns stolen from Ritchie’s house were obtained and later pawned.

James Rankin Jr., called “Junior” by friends and family, said he spent a lot of time at his cousin John Rankin’s apartment in the Pineville-Matthews area after leaving prison in 2004.

Junior Rankin got out of prison July 4, nearly seven weeks before Ritchie was killed.

Testimony disclosed that John Rankin and his cousin had been in contact with each other prior to Ritchie’s death. The cousins met while Junior Rankin and his child’s mother, Erin Allison, were at a Concord video store about a week or so before Ritchie’s death.

When Junior Rankin later stayed with his cousin, they played video games on a PlayStation, drank and smoked marijuana, he said.

Junior Rankin said the marijuana and alcohol were already there, provided to him by his cousin, John.

He said John Rankin and his son, Cedric Hawkins, were not at the apartment the entire time on Aug. 16. Father and son left sometime during the middle part of the day while Junior Rankin stayed behind. He testified that he played on the PlayStation and “smoked some more reefer.”

When asked by Rowan District Attorney Bill Kenerly where they said they were going, Junior Rankin said John told him he was going to “make a lick.”

He explained what that mean.

“If I said I’m going to make a lick, I’m probably going to steal something or do something negative,” Junior Rankin said.

Jurors were excused while John Rankin’s attorneys, Marshall Bickett and James Randolph, argued that Junior Rankin’s definition of a lick was prejudicial toward their client.

Jurors returned and “lick” was explained as a slang term, not to infer that was exactly what John Rankin meant he intended to do that day.

Junior Rankin said he saw the rifles, earlier identified as belonging to Ritchie, at his cousin’s apartment.

“I told him (John) I needed a couple of dollars,” Junior Rankin said.

He said he was shown the rifles so he could make some money by selling them.

Junior also intended to give a gun to Timothy Allison, Erin Allison’s brother, to protect himself.

A week or so later, Junior Rankin said, he and Timothy Allison met with John Rankin to get guns.

However, Allison testified that he doesn’t recall who gave them the guns. He saw a tall black man, but didn’t see his face, he said, nor could he recall with certainty what the man was wearing.

Allison testified that Junior Rankin told him to back the car up at a convenience store, which he did, and he sat in the car, talking on his cell phone while the trunk was opened.

Junior Rankin gave him his keys and they left.

Allison and Junior Rankin went back to Allison’s house in Concord and looked inside the trunk. They saw the guns, Allison said, but did nothing with them that day.

Junior Rankin told him the rifles belonged to a guy he knew whose father died and the guy wanted to get rid of the guns, Allison testified.

Junior Rankin and Allison testified that they split the money from pawning two of the guns and went to a high school football game later that same night.

Investigators seized the third rifle and a sheet it was wrapped in from the trunk of Allison’s car after the discovery of Ritchie’s death.

The trial resumes at 9:30 this morning.

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