Investigation continues into apparent homicides

By Lisa Rogers
Times Staff Writer

Published: Friday, December 18, 2009

Cadaver dogs are expected to help search a field where burned remains of two men have been found south of Attalla in Etowah County.

The biggest piece of bone found so far is about 4 inches, Sheriff Todd Entrekin said in a news conference Thursday.

The burned remains are believed to be those of Rocky Morgan, 55, and his nephew, James Bachelor, 38, Entrekin said.

Morgan's daughter, Margie Morgan Kelley, 35, is charged with hindering prosecution, and her husband, Robert Wayne Kelley, 35, is charged with two counts of capital murder, Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp said.

Robert Wayne Kelley was arrested by sheriff's investigators late Wednesday at a local hospital after he went there earlier in the week.

“We believe he was trying to get somewhere that he thought we couldn't get to him,” Entrekin said.

Harp would not discuss details that led to Margie Kelley being charged with hindering prosecution, but said in a typical hindering prosecution charge, a suspect usually helps dispose of the body.

“Her actions fall within that,” Harp said. “As this investigation goes on, those charges may morph into something else and they may not.”

The men were reported missing on Dec. 11 and were last seen on Dec. 2 where they lived at Rocky Morgan's home on Rocky Hollow Road, Entrekin said.

Margie Kelley had been living with her father, but her husband was living somewhere else. She continued to live there after her father's death until she was arrested Tuesday.

It first was reported the men were last seen with plans to go fishing in Guntersville, but the men never went fishing, and it was part of the Kelleys' story about their whereabouts. The men were supposed to be in Morgan's truck, a 1993 Chevrolet, and it has been found, Entrekin said. A family member other than either of the Kelleys reported them missing, Entrekin said.

It is believed the men were shot and killed at the Rocky Hollow Road home, left there for several days, then taken in a van during a period of a few days about three miles to the field on Center Road, just off U.S. Highway 11, Entrekin said.

Entrekin said it is believed the Kelleys piled tires and wood onto the men's remains and started the fire Saturday night.

“They stood around it like a campfire and kept it going throughout the night,” he said. “They (men) were burned to nothing.”

Entrekin said it is not unusual for people to have a bonfire in the rural setting.

“What they were doing was unusual,” he said. “While cremation is acceptable in a mortuary, it is not acceptable in a wooded field.”

Etowah County Coroner Michael Gladden said the condition of the bones is similar to bones after someone is cremated. A fire's temperature must reach about 1,400 degrees for cremation, Gladden said.

It is believed the remaining pieces of bone were strewn across the field after the fire, which accounted for the need to search in such a widespread area, Harp said.

There has been a lot of evidence gathered and a lot of statements from others, Harp said.

“We have first-hand accounts of some of what occurred,” he said. “That information substantially bolstered our case.”

Harp said officials have some suspicions about motive, but it is too early to discuss them.

He said Kelley is charged with capital murder in that two or more people were killed in the commission of the same crime. A capital murder conviction could result in life without parole or the death penalty, he said.

“We're too early in this to determine if we will seek the death penalty,” Harp said.

Investigators with the sheriff's office, Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and the state fire marshal's office have searched most of the week, recovering small pieces of remains believed to be those of the men.

Entrekin said investigators have worked hard to gather information and evidence, but the fire marshal's office and Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences have especially been a big factor in this investigation.

“They are out there, doing a lot of work that nobody ever sees,” he said. “These folks are the ones that make these types of cases. They've been on their hands and knees, digging in the dirt.”

Entrekin said one of the most shocking factors in the investigation is the lengths allegedly gone to in an effort to destroy the evidence by burning the bodies.

“They watched as these two people burned,” he said. “This was two people they interacted with ... it's just unusually cold.”

DNA testing will be necessary to positively confirm the identities of the men, but investigators are almost certain the remains are those of Morgan and Bachelor, based on statements and evidence, Entrekin said.

Bachelor is a convicted sex offender, but that is not related to the deaths, Entrekin said. When the men first were reported missing, that information was released because it was known that Bachelor was missing and he was not where he was registered to live.

Harp said other charges are possible, but only the Kelleys are believed to be involved.

“We have a sense of ease there is not anyone else out there running around that (is) involved,” he said. “We have the persons responsible for this crime.”

There still is much evidence to gathered and the investigation will continue.

“There has been too much speculation,” Harp said. “We felt the people in that community needed to know we have resolved this.”

A $100,000 cash bond has been set for Margie Kelley and her husband remains in jail with no bond.

Harp said anyone who has any information or might have seen something suspicious in early December during the time the crime is believed to have occurred is encouraged to contact the sheriff's office at 546-2825.

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