Attorneys present opening statements in Russell trial

By KATIE HURST/ Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA — Opening statements began today in the capital murder trial of Ryan Gerald Russell, an Inverness man accused of killing an 11-year-old girl in 2008.

Russell is accused of killing Katherine Helen Gillespie on June 16, 2008 at his rental home in Inverness. Russell has pleaded not guilty and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty in this case.

Russell

Russell’s court-appointed attorney, Mickey Johnson, said the defense will argue that Russell did not intentionally kill Gillespie.

“This is really a trial about one word, how important it is in our law and what it means in our law,” Johnson said. “And that word is intentionally. Not guilty in this case means ‘I did not intentionally shoot Katherine Gillespie’, that is where the line is drawn, it’s around that one word.”

In the state’s opening statement, assistant district attorney Bill Bostick outlined what he believes the evidence will prove were the events of June 16, 2008.

“The evidence in this case will leave you with no doubt that the defendant murdered Katherine Gillespie,” Bostick told the jury.

Bostick said the state will present evidence proving Russell killed Gillespie at his residence at 5048 Kerry Downs Road by shooting her in the back of the head with a .40-caliber automatic handgun before stuffing her body in a trash can and storing it in the backseat of the his SUV in the garage.

“This evidence clearly indicates that the defendant had every intent of getting away with this murder,” Bostick said. “The evidence will show the defendant’s regard for Katherine is that she was trash. Something to be thrown away, something to be discarded when she was no longer useful to him.”

Bostick said the evidence will show that on the day of Gillespie’s death, Russell was involved in a hit and run car accident on Inverness Parkway with three teenagers from Oak Mountain High School. Bostick said the teenagers followed Russell to his home and were the last to see Gillespie alive.

In his statement, Bostick outlined how Gillespie came to be in the custody of Russell. Gillespie was conceived through artificial insemination and was 7 years old when her mother died. After living briefly with her maternal grandmother in Marshall County, she came to live with Russell in 2007.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Joiner released the jury for lunch before 11:30 a.m. today. The trial will continue at 1:15 p.m. with the calling of the first witnesses.