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Possible motive in murder case

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - Possible motive details emerged in a Harlan County murder case.

Shelby Shell was charged with the murder of former Evarts Mayor Ronnie King.

Shelby Shell says King was a man he could count on for help, but police say Shell murdered the former mayor.

Police revealed new evidence during a preliminary hearing on Monday. Police believe robbery is the motive and claim Shell's brother gave police the break in the case to make the arrest.

Shelby Shell is accused of killing former Evarts mayor Ronny King and setting his home on fire to cover it up.

During the preliminary hearing, police described how they found King's body inside the burning home.

“Binding around his wrist, binding around his ankles, and duct tape to his nose and mouth,” KSP Detective Michael Cornett said.

Police testified they found a pillow with a bullet hole next to King.

The detective says King's gun safe was open and empty and the key for it was next to King's body.

An undetermined amount of cash, old collector coins, and jewelry were also missing from the home.

Police say someone set four different fires in the house.

“It's a very serious offense and a great deal of resources went into the investigation of it,” Assistant Harlan County Attorney J.D. Smith said.

The detective testified Shell's brother came forward and told them Shell robbed and shot King and then later threatened him and another man.

“Mr. Ernie Shell stated to me that Shelby Shell told them if they didn't find him someone to rob and kill, that he would rob and kill them,” Detective Cornett said.

The detective testified they found old coins and jewelry matching King's, a handgun, and a gas can in Shell's possession in Berea at the time of the arrest.

Shell's court appointed attorney declined our interview request, but during court, said Shell believes someone framed him for the crime.

The judge sent the case to the grand jury.

The judge kept Shell's bond at $500,000.

None of King's family members were in court and Shell's brother was also not in court to comment.

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