By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
Under the stony gaze of about two dozen surviving family members, LeBruce Ellington pleaded not guilty Thursday to complicity in the killings of Sonsaray Warford and Charles Walker.
The man, clad in an orange jumpsuit and white bullet-resistant vest, was arraigned by Judge Jean C. Logue in Madison Circuit Court. In addition to the two complicity to murder counts, he is charged with two counts each of complicity to kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence. He also was indicted on a charge of first-degree burglary.
Under Kentucky law, complicity to a crime incurs the same penalty as perpetrating the crime.
Ellington was supposed to be arraigned Dec. 13, but federal officials failed to transport him to Madison County from the prison where he’s lodged in connection with a drug-trafficking conspiracy case.
Extra sheriff’s deputies attended Thursday’s arraignment as people crowded the hallway and stairs outside the courtroom doors. A hand-held metal detector was used to check spectators as they entered.
Little emotion was shown by Warford and Walker’s family members during the brief hearing.
Ellington is being represented by attorney Rebecca Lytle through the state Department of Public Advocacy.
After Ellington was in custody on the federal drug-trafficking case, an RPD detective interviewed him in early 2012 about the couple’s disappearance. Ellington told the detective he hired two men, Daniel Keene and Matthew Denholm, to kill Walker in 2010, according to an affidavit sworn out by an federal ATF agent.
Ellington was ordered to do so by Jakolbe Chenault, who headed up a local cocaine-trafficking ring, according to police testimony and the affidavit. Ellington admitted providing the two men a gun to carry out the slayings, the affidavit stated.
Family members reported Walker and Warford, who was Walker’s girlfriend, missing in June 2010.
The couple’s bodies were discovered in March 2012 buried in a field off Tates Creek Road. Keene's RPD arrest report states he confessed to the killings and implicated Denholm in the murder-for-hire plot.
The two men were paid $10,000 to kill Walker, and Ellington told the federal agent he was paid a $5,000 “finder’s fee” for setting up the hit.
Chenault has not been indicted in the homicides, but he is facing a 30-year federal sentence after pleading guilty last year to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to money laundering.
Ellington is next scheduled for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 p.m. March 14. Keene and Denholm are slated to stand trial Aug. 12.