Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Craven murder trial opens

By Jim Hannah jhannah@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Jury selection begins today in the murder trial of Ronald Scott Pryor, whom police call the hit man in a plot to kill a Delta Air Lines pilot, allegedly so his wife could collect insurance and be with her “soul mate.”

        Mr. Pryor, 35, of Independence, a former car washer at an auto dealership, is charged in Stephen Craven's July 12, 2000, shooting death. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

        Mr. Craven, a 38-year-old father of two, was found dead in the basement of his Edgewood home. He was shot three times and hit repeatedly with a green crowbar.

        His wife, Adele Craven, 38, is charged with hiring Mr. Pryor to kill her husband in a plot with Rusty McIntire, 33, of Erlanger, the man police said she told them was her “soul mate.”

  It has taken nearly two years for prosecutors to bring the defendant alleged to be the trigger man to trial in one Northern Kentucky's most sensational homicide cases in recent history. Here are some highlights in the case:
  July 12, 2000: Delta Airline pilot Stephen Craven, 38, was found shot and beaten to death in his Edgewood home.
  July 21, 2000: Adele Craven, 38, is arrested on charges of murdering her husband. Police say Mrs. Craven was having an affair and wanted to collect her husband's life insurance policy.
  July 28, 2000: Rusty McIntire, 33, of Erlanger, is arrested and charged with murder. Police say Mr. McIntire and Mrs. Craven were lovers.
  July 29, 2000: Ronald Scott Pryor, 35, of Independence is arrested the following day on a murder charge. Police describe him as the “hired hit man.”
  Mid-August, 2000: Detectives spend more than nine hot summer days digging through trash at a Williamstown, Ky., dump looking for one of the murder weapons. It was never found.
  Sept. 15, 2000: Prosecutors announce their intentions to seek the death penalty against Mrs. Craven, Mr. McIntire and Mr. Pryor.
  Feb. 13, 2001: Assistant Attorney General Luke Morgan is assigned the case after a judge rules there is a potential conflict of interest within the new administration of Commonwealth's Attorney Bill Crockett.
  June 8, 2001: Mr. McIntire pleads guilty, agreeing to cooperate in exchange for a sentence recommendation of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
  Sept. 25, 2001: The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompt a judge to delay the trial, citing public sympathy for airline pilots after the hijacking of four commercial jetliners.
  March 19: Mr. Pryor and Mrs. Craven will stand trial separately, a judge rules.
  March 22: The prosecutor elects to try Mr. Pryor first.
  Today : Jury selection is scheduled to begin with opening statements expected on Friday or Monday.
  Oct. 29: Mrs. Craven is scheduled to stand trial for her part in the alleged plot to kill her husband.
        Her trial is scheduled for October. Mr. McIntire's June 2001 confession and plea agreement helped break the case and kept him from facing the death penalty.

        Police say Mr. McIntire, Mrs. Craven's lover, recruited Mr. Pryor to kill Mr. Craven for $15,000 — $1,000 a week for a few weeks so his common-law wife wouldn't get suspicious, then the rest when Mrs. Craven got the insurance mon ey.

        Mrs. Craven, police say, handed Mr. Pryor a loaded gun and ordered him to shoot after four whacks with a crowbar didn't kill Mr. Craven.

        This will be Kenton County Circuit Judge Patricia M. Summe's first death penalty case since taking the bench just over seven years ago. The trial has been delayed for nearly a year because of allegations of conflicts of interestand by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The defense was concerned a jury would be sympathetic to Mr. Craven because he was a pilot.

        Defense attorney Rebecca Lytle, a public defender based in Frankfort, has indicated in pretrial hearings that her client is “not bright” and was manipulated by Mrs. Craven.

        Mr. Pryor was not able to avoid the possibility of a death sentence because psychological evaluations failed to find him mentally retarded as defined under Kentucky law. Both the defense and prosecution hired their own experts to conduct the mental evaluations.

        Assistant Attorney General Luke Morgan, who is prosecuting the case, did not return a message left at his Frankfort office. Mr. Morgan was assigned the case after a judge found a potential conflict of interest within the new administration of Commonwealth's Attorney Bill Crockett. Mr. Crockett took office in January 2001 after defeating incumbent Don Buring.

        Some evidence in the case and Mr. McIntire's written confession have been sealed by Judge Summe to minimize pretrial publicity, but many details have come out during hearings. Detectives testified during one hearing that Mrs. Craven stood nearby while her husband was clubbed four times in the head with the crowbar, purchased the day before.

        When Mrs. Craven decided the whacks didn't kill her husband, she produced a gun, according to police, and told Mr. Pryor to shoot her husband.

        When the first bullet didn't kill Mr. Craven immediately, police said, Mrs. Craven put two more bullets in the revolver, said, “He's still alive,” and ordered him shot again.

        Evidence that could be presented at trial includes a love letter, a photo of Mr. McIntire and Mrs. Craven together, a receipt for the crowbar and boots recovered from a landfill.

        Mrs. Craven is being held at the Kenton County Detention Center, awaiting her Oct. 29 trial.

        Though Mr. McIntire avoided the death penalty, the prosecutor is still recommending life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. He will be sentenced after the trials of Mr. Pryor and Mrs. Craven.


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