Troy Byrd said when Johnny Cole called and threatened him at work, he didn’t think much of it.

“I figured he would try to fight me if he ever saw me, but never this,” Byrd said.

Johnny Darrell Cole, 44, of Richmond, was arrested Tuesday by federal, state and local officials for soliciting a murder for hire. According to a court official, Byrd, a friend of Cole’s estranged wife, was being targeted by Cole.

During an initial appearance before U.S. District Judge James B. Todd in Lexington, Todd explained to Cole he was charged with violating a federal statute. The statute reads that a person is guilty when they “knowingly transfer a firearm, knowing that such firearm will be used to commit a crime of violence.”

Cole transferred an FEG model SMC .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol into the hands of the person he allegedly intended to murder Byrd. However, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Craig Roegner, public information officer for the Louisville Field Division, said Cole delivered the gun, along with six rounds of ammunition, to an undercover ATF agent.

“I really don’t understand why he would have done this,” Judy Cole said. “He never kept a gun at the house.”

She was married to Johnny Cole for 18 years, she said. She has filed for a divorce, which will be final in March. She knew Johnny was jealous of her being friends with Byrd, but said her relationship with him was never anything more than a friendship.

“We’re just really good friends,” she said. “We just hang out. He must have thought something was going on, but we’re just really good friends.”

Byrd and Judy Cole met in the mailroom of the Richmond Register, where they both work. Byrd said he is a very talkative person and is friends with everyone.

“We hang out sometimes outside of work, but nothing like what he may have thought,” Byrd said. “I don’t understand that.”

Byrd knew nothing of the plot until after Johnny Cole was arrested Tuesday.

“It kind of flipped me out,” Byrd said of the news. “I just thank God for taking care of me. Thank God he’s in jail.”

Johnny Cole, who is being held in the Fayette County Detention Center, said during his initial appearance in court he wanted to talk to the ATF agent alone.

“He told me I could help myself out,” Johnny Cole said. “I would like to cooperate as much as possible.”

Johnny Cole was without an attorney Wednesday and Todd advised him to talk to his court-appointed attorney before doing anything.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins, who was standing in Wednesday for Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Dicken, said she anticipated an indictment by the end of next week. Hawkins also made a motion to seek detention for Johnny Cole. A detention hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday. A preliminary examination also was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 9.

Todd granted the sealing of the criminal complaint as well as the affidavit in the case. Judy Cole said Johnny Cole is an unemployed over-the-road truck driver.

The arrest is the result of a month-long investigation between the Richmond Police Street Crimes Unit, Kentucky State Police and ATF.

Kelly Foreman can be reached at or 624-6694.

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