A trial date for the suspect in the slaying of a Whitwell, Tenn., pawn shop owner has been set for August, almost two years after the body of 72-year-old Jerry Ridge was found inside his business after a fire.
Angela Denise Kilgore, 51 when charged in 2016, is slated to face a Marion County jury on Aug. 27 in Ridge's death at his shop, Valley Pawn Brokers, 12th Judicial District Attorney Mike Taylor said.
Kilgore was charged in October 2016 grand jury indictments with first-degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, aggravated arson, theft and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Foul play was suspected early on in the fatal May 17, 2016, blaze that officials initially said was started with "accelerants."
Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain will lead the prosecution in the trial.
"We've done a lot of work to get it ready for trial," Strain said of the pending case on Tuesday. "We hope to get it tried in August."
Circuit Court Judge Don Ash, from Rutherford County, is presiding over the case after Judges Thomas W. Graham, J. Curtis Smith and Justin C. Angel each recused themselves from the case earlier citing conflicts, Strain said. The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed Ash to oversee the case.
Kilgore is represented by Assistant Public Defender Norm Lipton, who was in court Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
An autopsy showed Ridge had been shot and stabbed before his State Route 28 business in Whitwell was set ablaze. His body was found May 17, 2016, after firefighters broke through a locked door and extinguished the fire. Ridge had operated the shop for 17 years.
When charged, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Kilgore killed Ridge during a robbery at the business and set fire to it "in an effort to destroy potential evidence in the case."
The only items missing from the pawn shop were weapons, Taylor said at the time charges were leveled. Kilgore had already been in Marion County custody on weapons charges when she was charged on the indicted offenses.
Strain said Tuesday that Kilgore had more than a dozen handguns in her vehicle when she was arrested on a separate warrant for violating terms of her federal release from a previous incarceration. The handgun discovery led to a separate state weapons charge before Kilgore was charged in the homicide case, he said. The guns were later identified as coming from the pawn shop.
Kilgore's previous convictions include ones on federal charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and attempted bank robbery and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Two days after Ridge's slaying, the federal court sealed a portion of Kilgore's record.
But federal court records still available online state that Kilgore pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, then on the same day was convicted in a one-day jury trial of attempted bank robbery and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Records state Kilgore also had a 1990 conviction for aggravated robbery in Marion County.
In her federal case, Kilgore was charged with trying to rob the Citizens Tri-County Bank in Dunlap, Tenn., on Jan. 20, 2004. Records state Kilgore entered the bank and demanded $500,000 in cash, telling bank employees "this is the way it's going to be," while patting a bulge in her waistband.
Kilgore then produced a briefcase but was told by the bank vice president the bank didn't have that much money on hand, records state. The bank official asked Kilgore if she would take a check for $475,000 and take the rest in cash. She agreed to the deal, but the bank official said she would have to fill out a loan application so the computer could create the check.
While Kilgore was filling out the paperwork, Dunlap police were notified and arrived at the bank to take her into custody without anyone getting hurt, records state.
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