Murder suspect pleads not guilty at arraignment

Published 1:52 pm Monday, March 30, 2009

The Inverness man accused of shooting and killing an 11-year-old girl pleaded not guilty Monday to a one-count indictment charging him with capital murder of a person under age 14.

Ryan Gerald Russell, 35, accused of murdering fifth-grader Katherine Helen Gillespie, said little during his arraignment hearing before Circuit Judge Dan Reeves.

Mickey Johnson, Russell’s attorney, entered the plea on the behalf of Russell, who wore an orange jail jumpsuit in court.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick hinted to Reeves the prosecution will seek the death penalty against Russell, whose trial date has not been set.

According to testimony given during a preliminary hearing last October, Russell shot Gillespie in the head with a .40-caliber Glock handgun on June 16, 2008 at his Kerry Downs Road home. Russell was Gillespie’s cousin and legal guardian.

Detective Shelby O’Connor of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office testified that Russell stuffed Gillespie head first into a garbage can that he placed inside his green Cadillac Escalade, where police discovered the girl’s body. An autopsy report also presented during the preliminary hearing concluded Gillespie had been sexually abused.

Russell is being held without bond at the Shelby County Jail.