A Hamilton County judge Thursday set a trial date for two people charged with felony murder and especially aggravated battery in the November 2014 slaying of a Chattanooga pastor.
Steven Kelley, 23, and Jordan Craig, 27, will appear before Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz on May 3.
Police found Kenneth Johnson, an ex-con, veteran and associate minister at Mount Canaan Baptist Church, beaten to death in a ditch off Blackford Street on Nov. 13. After searching his ransacked car, investigators traced text messages on his cellphone to Craig and her boyfriend, Kelley, who were later arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Craig told police she met Johnson to buy illegal drugs, dropping Kelley off in a nearby hiding spot in case the deal went sour, according to her affidavit. When Johnson asked her for sexual favors, she said Kelley came to her defense and attacked the pastor, according to court records.
Kelley told investigators a different story: He said he stowed away in Craig's back seat as she drove to an alley to meet Johnson and got out of the car after the pastor propositioned her. When the pastor started beating him with a crowbar, he fought back, records said.
Kelley told authorities he was hit in the head and across the chest, but investigators only found a scratch on his skull, and no bruise on his torso. After searching the crime scene, police also reported they never found evidence of illegal drugs, leading them to believe the pair lured Johnson into the alley to rob him.
Indicted in April, the duo appeared before Greenholtz on Thursday. While she was led to the stand, Craig waved at Kelley.
Greenholtz set their pretrial conference on March 14.
Craig's criminal history dates back nine years and includes domestic aggravated assault, theft, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges. Kelley has no prior record in Hamilton County.
Johnson's family and church peers have said he met the pair to minister to them. His wife, Sandra Johnson, said he had a reputation for working on the streets. He would often meet with people, to help them find a safe place, just to help in any way possible.
Contact Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow @zackpeterson918.