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Long-tangled Breeden murder case continues to grow in Spencer County

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By Shannon Brock

TAYLORSVILLE – Two inmates sit in two separate prisons in two separate cities in Kentucky.

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One of them admitted to committing a heinous crime, then recanted his story.

The other has been serving time for that crime since 2008.

The crime? The murder of Kyle "Deanie" Breeden of Shelbyville in 1998.

Breeden's body was found in the Kentucky River near the Owen-Henry county line in November of that year.

No one was charged in Breeden's murder until nearly nine years later, after the investigation had been dubbed a cold case.

Susan Jean King, now 52, of the 2000 block of Van Buren Road, was indicted on murder charges in regard to Breeden's death in April 2007.

According to court records, King and Breeden were in an on-again, off-again relationship.

Two months after the initial indictment, a grand jury also charged King with tampering with physical evidence.

In September 2008, King entered the amended plea of second-degree manslaughter pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford — meaning she did not admit guilt, but she believed there was enough evidence against her that a jury could find her guilty.

But, in May of this year, someone else admitted killing Breeden, prompting King's attorney, Linda A. Smith of the Kentucky Innocence Project, which had already been working the case, to ask Spencer Circuit Judge Charles Hickman for a new trial.

 

A confession — or not?

Two days of  testimony in Smith's motion for a new trial was heard o Thursday and Friday, when Smith, Commonwealth Attorney Laura Donnell and Assistant Commonwealth Attorney David Nutgrass called more than a dozen witnesses.

The new "suspect," Richard Thomas Jarrell Jr., 34, most recently of south Louisville, was called to the stand Thursday. However, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and was escorted almost immediately out of the courtroom.

While being questioned in the early hours of May 4 about a separate case in Jefferson County, Jarrell admitted to Louisville Metro Police that he killed Breeden and could offer specific details in the case. Jarrell told police he had met Breeden through King and that he heard about King's case on the Internet.

A recording of Jarrell's confession was played in open court Thursday. In it, Jarrell said he had only met King once and that she probably wouldn't remember him. But he remembered her because she introduced him to Breeden and because she only had one leg. Jarrell said he hadn't known Breeden that long before he shot him.

Jarrell said over the years he told himself he killed Breeden over $20, which he alleges Breeden stole from him to purchase cocaine.

In the recording of Jarrell's confession, he was forthcoming about the fact that he wanted investigators to pass along that he cooperated in providing information about crimes, in hopes it would help his brother get leniency on drug charges he is facing in Arkansas.

About six weeks later, during a meeting with Lt. Jeff Medley of Kentucky State Police Post 5, a recording of which was played in court on Friday, Jarrell recanted his story.

"Are you saying you didn't do it?" Medley asked, to clarify a statement from Jarrell.

"No, I lied," Jarrell said, adding that he only confessed because he was trying to get his brother out of trouble.

Jarrell told Medley he had looked up the case on the Internet.

In a second interview from July 16 with Medley, Jarrell also said he did not kill Breeden. He also told Medley he was on medication for schizophrenia.

 

Inconsistent stories

KSP Det. Sgt. Todd Harwood, who began investigating the case after it was dubbed a cold case, and Lt. Medley both testified that Jarrell's story came with several inconsistencies.

While on the stand, Medley said the biggest inconsistency to him was the timing.

In his confession, Jarrell claims he killed Breeden near an abandoned house "in broad f-----g daylight," between the hours of noon and 3 p.m.

Medley and Harwood said during their investigation, they came across witnesses who said they saw Breeden as late as 7 p.m. on the day he went missing, which is the day police believe he was shot.

One witness told police she saw Breeden at the Rite Aid in Shelbyville around 6 or 7 p.m., and at that point of the year, it's nearly dark at 6 or 7, Medley said.

Smith questioned the credibility of that witness because she said she "thought" she saw Breeden, and the clothing she said he had on was different from that found on his body.

Still, Harwood said his investigation showed that Breeden was at a pawnshop between 2 and 3 p.m., talked to his mother on the phone at 4:30 p.m. and said another witness even placed Breeden at King's house that night.

Harwood also testified that Jarrell claimed to use a long guitar amplifier cord to tie up Breeden's body, but he said the cord found on the body was around 6 feet in length.

Smith pointed to some of Harwood's own notes, which list the cord at 10 feet. However, Harwood said 10 feet still wouldn't have been long enough to wrap up the body in the way Jarrell described.

Jarrell also claimed that the bridge – the Gratz Bridge – where he disposed of the body was lighted, but Harwood said a flood in 1997 destroyed the natural ambient lighting to the bridge and that by 1998 it would have been dark.

Also of note was the fact that Harwood attempted to record his interview with Jarrell on May 11, but has since filed a report of missing KSP property because the recorder has been lost or taken from the KSP Post 5 office.

 

Riff between KSP, LMPD?

In an interview between Jarrell and LMPD Narcotics Det. Barron Morgan played in court Thursday, Jarrell told Morgan that he didn't think Harwood was interested in hearing him out about the case.

Again, that interview recording is missing, but Harwood said that was not the case. Harwood said he was initially elated to get the call about Jarrell's confession, saying he hoped he had found a missing link in the case thinking that King may have been assisted in Breeden's murder.

"That elation turned to analysis and confusion as to why his [Jarrell's] statement doesn't match what should be there," Harwood said.

Morgan testified that after he heard Jarrell's confession, he contacted the Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney to see what he should do about notifying counsel that someone had admitted to a crime King was serving time for.

Morgan said he could not locate King's original attorney in the case, but found out that the Kentucky Innocence Project was looking into it, so he contacted them.

Morgan shared information with the Innocence Project, but one day, that information sharing stopped.

Morgan testified that he had been given orders to stop communicating with the Project.

KSP Lt. Medley testified that he was told to contact KSP and tell someone that Morgan was sharing information in a case he hadn't personally investigated.

From there on, Morgan said he followed orders and stopped sharing information.

 

Awaiting a decision

Because of the lengthy nature of last week's hearing, Judge Hickman asked each side to submit closing arguments via legal briefs, the last of which is due to Hickman on Aug. 17.

Smith asked Hickman to consider releasing King on her prior bond with home incarceration pending the judge's decision about the new trial. However, Hickman said he would rule on both motions at the same time as he believed they were connected.

Upon the conclusion of the hearing Friday, King was audibly sobbing in the courtroom surrounded by the legal team from the Innocence Project, as well as friends and family.

So, until a decision is reached, King will remain in custody at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in Pewee Valley.

Jarrell is still in custody at Louisville Metro Corrections, and is facing separate charges and awaiting the results of a competency hearing.