By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
A hotel shooting last fall provided the break police needed to solve the case of a missing couple rumored to have been killed by a suspected drug dealer two years ago, court documents have revealed.
Charles “Chew” Walker and Sonsaray “Sonsi” Warford, both 30, were reported missing by family members in June 2010. Warford’s mother and a cousin of Walker’s both told police that an alleged local drug dealer, Ja’Kolbe Chenault, had put a “hit” out on Walker because he believed Walker had stolen money from him.
Despite several promising leads and the discovery of Warford’s abandoned car in Louisville, which was kept from the media and family members, the investigation appeared to have grown cold by the end of 2010.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 21, Jermaine Carter, 29, was arrested on charges of attempted murder and wanton endangerment after witnesses told Richmond police officers he had fired shots at the Super 8 motel on North Keeneland Drive. His wife, Sarah Carter, and another woman were in the room at which he was allegedly firing. Sarah Carter told police she recently had filed for an emergency protective order against her husband, according to a federal complaint filed by Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives Agent Russel R. King.
At the police station, officers revealed they had two videos showing Jermaine Carter selling cocaine to confidential informants in 2010 and 2011, according to the federal court documents.
Carter reportedly waived his Miranda rights in writing. He told police that Ja’Kolbe “Kolbe Cheese” Chenault was his and other people’s source of cocaine in Richmond, the complaint reads. Carter said he had been distributing Chenault’s cocaine since May 2009.
Carter also provided information about the disappearance of Warford and Walker. Carter claimed Chenault told him that Walker and another man, Dale Martin Jr., had stolen $180,000 from his residence a few years prior to the couple’s disappearance.
After the disappearance of Warford and Walker, Chenault allegedly told Carter that it only took him $20,000 to “get that fat m----- f----- burnt,” according to court documents.
Another member of the alleged drug ring, Lebruce Ellington, later told Carter “he had hired ‘two Army vets’ ... to carry out the hit on Charles Walker.”
Ellington also reportedly told Carter that Warford was never a target, but she became “a casualty of the incident.”
Chenault, his girlfriend Christina Thieleman, Carter, Ellington and five other people have all been indicted on federal drug trafficking conspiracy charges. After receiving information from Carter, police searched Thieleman’s Louisville home and reportedly discovered more than 4 kilograms of cocaine and $98,000.
Although a jury trial was scheduled April 10 for Chenault, a motion to delay the proceeding was filed Wednesday in federal court. It states that a superseding indictment against Chenault will be presented April 5 to the federal grand jury, and if approved, it will introduce a new defendant in the case.
Carter has entered into a plea agreement and admitted his role in the drug conspiracy, according to court documents. His sentencing is set for June 15.
Piecing it together
Early on Nov. 21, a Berea man was shot to death in his apartment and his roommate was wounded. Berea police quickly identified Matthew Denholm, 27, as a suspect, according to court documents.
“It was made known that Matthew Denholm is a military veteran and still had some contacts currently in the military,” court documents stated.
Daniel Keene, 26, of Garden City Drive in Richmond, also was identified as a friend of Denholm’s. Police went to Keene’s apartment in search of Denholm but did not find him there.
Denholm was captured in Louisville later the day of the shootings and was charged with murder and first-degree burglary. His brother and two other people were charged in connection with the crimes.
According to court documents, Carter sent two letters to investigating RPD Detective William O’Donnell, stating that one of the Army vets he said killed Walker and Warford was an “old roommate” of Ellington’s girlfriend, who resided in an apartment on Garden City Drive.
Through the course of the investigation, the woman was identified as Bridget Hall. Police confirmed she had formerly lived with Daniel Keene, who was an Army vet, according to court documents.
Hall, who has moved from the area, was interviewed by police in January. She reportedly said she dated Ellington until she realized he was involved in drug trafficking. Keene, her roommate, often had Matthew Denholm over to the apartment. Both men had worked together as security guards at the Hilton hotel in Lexington.
Near the conclusion of the interview, the recorder was deactivated, and Hall said “she wanted to get something off her chest that has been bothering her for some time,” according to court documents.
Hall reportedly told police that one night after drinking heavily, Ellington told her he had hired Keene and Denholm to kill the couple on behalf of Chenault.
The two men had an audio recording of the killings as “proof” for payment, she said, and Ellington told her “he could not get ‘Sonsi’s’ screams out of his head.”
Ellington told Hall that Warford had prayed for God to save her, and Denholm told her God did not exist before killing her, according to court documents.
The detective next interviewed Ellington, who was already in federal custody, on Jan. 27 at the federal courthouse in Lexington.
Ellington then reportedly told the investigator he had hired Keene and Denholm to carry out the killings, which occurred the night of June 28, 2010. In addition to the audio recording, Denholm showed him gold teeth that had purportedly belonged to Walker as proof the victims had been killed.
Ellington also allegedly told police Chenault gave him $10,000 to pay Keene and Denholm after the couple disappeared. Ellington was rewarded with a $5,000 “finder’s fee” for hiring the two men, he said.
Through the use of cell phone records, store receipts and bank records, police were able to gather more evidence about Keene and Denholm’s whereabouts the night of the killings.
A friend of Denholm’s told police that Denholm and Keene established and ran a security company, according to court documents. Denholm reportedly told people he had been paid money before to shoot people and portrayed himself as a “hit man.”
Monday morning, law enforcement officers conducted a search of Keene’s Richmond apartment. Keene agreed to an interview and waived his Miranda rights, court documents state.
Keene told police he and Denholm abducted Walker and Warford from their Keystone Drive apartment on June 28, 2010, and drove them to a field off Tates Creek Road in Richmond.
“Mr. Keene said once they arrived at the before-mentioned field he began digging a grave while Mr. Denholm tortured and executed Charles Walker and Sonsaray Warford,” according to the documents.
The narrative also states:
Keene said Denholm shot Warford in the back of the head with a .25 caliber pistol. Denholm stabbed Walker several times, then cut his throat.
After Warford was dead, Keene said Denholm used a hatchet to cut off Walker’s hands and knock gold teeth out of his mouth.
Next, Keene said the two men removed the couple’s clothing as well as their own, and put all items in a plastic bag. The clothes and the gold teeth were reportedly burned in a fire pit behind his aunt and grandmother’s home in Berea.
Keene said the hatchet, a .25 caliber pistol and knife were last in Denholm’s possession.
After the alleged confession, police searched the field where Keene had said the bodies were buried. Through the use of cadaver-detecting dogs, the graves of Walker and Warford were discovered Tuesday morning.
A search also was conducted Tuesday at Denholm’s grandmother’s house on Ballard Court in Berea. There, investigators said they found a fire pit from which several items were taken as evidence, including one burned item that could be a digital voice recorder.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6694.