While jailed in Casey County, William “Bobby” Rigdon told another inmate that he shot Wendell Gleason Pyles three times and divulged other details about the crime, according to that inmate’s testimony Wednesday at Rigdon’s murder trial.
Rigdon, 30, is on trial in Warren Circuit Court for the shooting death of Pyles, 50, of Columbia.
Prosecutors claim that Rigdon shot Pyles on Sept. 26, 2012, while he worked at Tarter Gate Co. because Pyles was a member in bad standing with the Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club.
Rigdon’s attorney, Bridget Hofler, argues that David Salyers, president of the Frankfort chapter of the Iron Horsemen, was the gunman.
Excessive pretrial publicity in Casey County, where the shooting took place, led the trial to be moved to Warren County. Judge Judy Vance of the 29th Judicial Circuit, which covers Casey and Adair counties, is presiding over the case.
The last of 11 witnesses to testify Wednesday, James Callahan was the first to claim at this trial that Rigdon admitted to being the gunman.
Callahan, from Lexington, was Rigdon’s cellmate at the Casey County Jail.
During questioning from special prosecutor Shawna Virgin Kincer, Callahan recalled Rigdon as a “showoff.”
“He wanted to be the center of attention all the time,” Callahan said. “He was always jabbering about everything.”
According to Callahan, Rigdon admitted to shooting Pyles three times in the back, shoulder and the back of the head, that a silver dually pickup truck involved in the crime was burned in Taylor County and his wife was supposed to provide an alibi.
Callahan, who was jailed on a charge of complicity to manufacture methamphetamine, appeared to waver on a motive for the shooting, saying initially it was over a drug deal, then mentioning a motorcycle as the reason, before bringing up the motorcycle club.
“From what I was understanding, this was going to be like his initiation to get in the Iron Horsemen, Callahan said of Rigdon.
Callahan acknowledged testifying against another inmate, Willie Fain, in a criminal case, which provided an opening for Hofler to challenge Callahan’s credibility as a witness.
Under questioning from Hofler, Callahan denied looking at Fain’s discovery evidence file for information against him and denied concocting a pen pal for Fain that provided a way for Callahan to relay information about Fain’s case to prosecutors.
Callahan said he had been living in a pop-up camper at a public campground since June while under witness protection, and received money from the government during that time, claiming that he had been told threats had been made against his life.
He was evasive, however, about who placed him in witness protection and whether he had a security detail at the campground.
Rigdon, co-defendant on camera night of shooting
Jurors saw surveillance camera footage of Rigdon and Salyers, his co-defendant, inside and outside Crockett Trail General Store in Liberty on the night of the shooting.
Lasting less than 10 minutes, the video clips showed the pair filling a truck with diesel fuel, buying items in the store and driving away.
Salyers was convicted last year of complicity to commit murder and sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison. He can be seen in the video footage walking with a cane, while Rigdon is wearing a dark baseball cap.
Jacqulyn Hardwick, who worked as a clerk at the convenience store at the time, testified Wednesday about her recollection of that night, telling jurors a detail about Rigdon.
“On his hip there was outline of what a concealed weapon would look like,” Hardwick said, clarifying that she saw no actual weapon.
Hofler pounced on inconsistencies between statements Hardwick made to police and her testimony at trials for both Salyers and Rigdon.
During a police interview, Hardwick reportedly said she did not notice anything alarming about Rigdon.
Hofler pointed out that at the trial for Salyers, however, Hardwick, whose boyfriend was at the time a prospective Iron Horsemen member, testified that Rigdon appeared to be carrying a gun.
Hofler asked whether Hardwick’s testimony was meant to protect Salyers, whom Hardwick knew.
“The bottom line is when the police needed your help to solve a murder, you said nothing had alarmed you about the guy in the ball cap, but when David Salyers needed your help, you said (Rigdon) had a gun,” Hofler said.
Doug Johnson of Liberty Electronics testified about installing the surveillance system at the convenience store, and about how the software in the system leads to an inaccurate date and time stamp on the video footage.
Autopsy: Pyles wounded six times
Virginia Graham, who performed Pyles’ autopsy for the Kentucky associate chief medical examiner’s office in Frankfort, said that the lethal wound entered the back of Pyles’ head, traveled left to right and exited on an upward path beside his nose.
Pyles was grazed in the back of the head by another bullet, while a third bullet entered the back of his left shoulder and existed on an upward path through the shoulder, breaking two bones.
The bullet responsible for the fatal wound fragmented, causing a sixth wound to the head, Graham said.
Pyles would have died “within seconds” of the wound that killed him, according to Graham.
The nature of the wounds did not allow for Graham to determine at what distance the bullets traveled, except to say that they came from a gun fired at least 3 feet away from Pyles – classified in the autopsy as “indeterminate range.”
Graham also testified that the wounds could not help her determine the caliber of bullet that caused them.
Police recovered one bullet from the crime scene, but it has not been linked to Pyles’ death. No weapon related to the shooting has been recovered.
Sgt. Bradley Stotts of the Kentucky State Police Post 15 attended the autopsy and testified about recovering a leather vest with Iron Horsemen insignia, several documents and a photograph from Salyers’ house in Elkhorn during the execution of a search warrant.
Salyers’ ex-wife testifies
Ruth Salyers said her husband had suffered a pair of strokes a few years ago that limited his mobility, required him to walk with a cane and led to him sleeping in a hospital bed in his living room.
Rigdon had come over to the Salyers’ home often to work on cars and help on their farm, Ruth Salyers said.
During questioning from Kincer, Ruth Salyers said she did not know what Rigdon and her then-husband talked about when Rigdon visited, but she had not known them to argue with one another.
Ruth Salyers said she had gone to sleep around 7 or 8 p.m. on the night of the shooting and did not know what time her husband left the house.
She was initially charged with tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution in the case. Those charges have been dismissed.
While Ruth Salyers knew her husband was a chapter president and that Rigdon was involved in the Iron Horsemen, she testified that she had not seen Rigdon carry a gun and did not know her ex-husband to keep a gun in his truck or on his person.
“I’d see (Rigdon) wear a knife, but when I saw him I’d say ‘hi’ and then I’d go inside and cook supper,” Ruth Salyers said.
She was also not overly familiar with the everyday happenings of the motorcycle club.
“That was (David’s) getaway, mine was bingo,” Ruth Salyers said.
David Miller, Pyles’ nephew, said he took an $800 payment to Ruth Salyers to pay down a debt Pyles owed David Salyers on a motorcycle.
David Salyers fronted some of the cash toward the motorcycle, and Hofler argues that Salyers shot Pyles over unpaid debts. Miller said he is a longtime friend of David Salyers.
Taylor County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Coppage investigated the fire that destroyed Salyers’ truck, which was discovered abandoned on Raikes Hill Road hours after the shooting.
Coppage said he contacted Salyers about it the next day, and Salyers had already filed a report about the missing vehicle.
KSP Sgt. Greg Brown drew a diagram of the crime scene, but acknowledged it was not to scale and there was no measurement made of the distance from Pyles’ maintenance truck to pieces of evidence recovered by police, including a bullet, cigarette butts and a baseball cap. KSP Detective Jamie Richard collected the evidence.
Then-Casey County Coroner Tommy Clark pronounced Pyles dead at 10:45 p.m., Sept. 26, 2012, took custody of the body and delivered it to Frankfort for autopsy the following day.