Judge finds probable cause for Russell

Published 7:14 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A judge found probable cause for a capital murder charge against Ryan Gerald Russell, the 35-year-old old homebuilder who allegedly killed 11-year-old Katherine Helen Gillespie.

Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves heard testimony from a lead investigator in the case Wednesday.

Detective Shelby O’Connor of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office testified Russell and Gillespie were involved in a two-vehicle accident on June 16, the day of the murder.

Russell, who was driving a green Cadillac Escalade, rear ended a small pickup truck on Inverness Parkway at about 6:30 p.m. The occupants in the pickup trailed Russell to his home at 5048 Kerry Downs Road, and called police.

The Hoover Police Department and the sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Russell’s home, O’Connor said.

According to statements from the occupants in the pickup, Russell parked his car in the garage and entered the house while Gillespie exited the car and retrieved a garbage can from the driveway. The occupants said it appeared Gillespie had been crying, but uninjured after the accident.

After engaging in a brief conversation with the occupants, Gillespie entered the house.

O’Connor and Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick gave no details of the conversation.

Unable to make contact with Russell, the police left the house at about 7:30 p.m.

At about 8:30 p.m., Russell’s ex-wife, Emily Webber, and her boyfriend arrived at the house to discuss a family matter.

Webber entered the house and saw the deployed airbags in Russell’s vehicle, but did not find Russell. Webber’s boyfriend called 911, and Hoover Police and sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the house for a second time. A negotiation unit was also dispatched.

Upon entering the garage, a sheriff’s deputy observed what appeared to be Gillespie’s body inside Russell’s vehicle. She had been put in a garbage can that was placed on the floor behind the passenger’s seat, O’Connor said.

Authorities later forced entry into Russell’s bedroom and found him on the shower floor in his bathroom.

“He was laying on the floor in the fetal position with the shower on semi-conscious,” O’Connor said.

Russell was treated by medics and transported to Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

An autopsy report stated Gillespie died of a “contact gun shot wound to the head.” Investigators confiscated 35 weapons from Russell’s house, including a .40-caliber Glock, the believed murder weapon.

Investigators discovered the Glock gun in a sofa in the garage, O’Connor said.

The autopsy report also stated Gillespie had been sexually abused.

Gillespie’s family members wept throughout the testimony while Russell showed no emotion.

Reeves bound the case over to the Shelby County grand jury, and said Russell will continue to be held without bond at the Shelby County Jail.

If indicted, Russell will stand trial for murder.