Tuesday, April 06, 2004
DNA forged last link for investigators
Longtime suspect in 1 death now charged in 3 Suspect in 1980s slayings of three women is arraigned
By JESSIE HALLADAY
BY MICHAEL CLEVENGER, THE C-J
James Ray Cable pleaded not guilty yesterday in Jefferson Circuit Court to the murders of two women. He also is charged in Daviess County with murdering a third woman. Cable was out of prison on parole at the time of all three slayings, which took place in the 1980s.
BY MICHAEL CLEVENGER, THE C-J
Victims' advocate Kathy Armstrong, left, consoled Jennifer Logsdon, the daughter of Helen Booth, during James Ray Cable's arraignment. Cable is accused of killing Booth and two other women.
Helen Booth's body was found in Jefferson County's Riverside Park in May 1989. While Cable became a suspect early on, it took nearly 15 years for police to find enough evidence to charge him.
The diary of a dead man had hinted at the person who had raped and killed Helen Booth, whose bound and gagged body was found in Riverside Park in May 1989.
But the diary, written by a man who was a convicted rapist himself, wasn't enough to bring charges against James Ray Cable.
It would take DNA evidence, tested last December, to finally provide enough evidence to charge Cable in Booth's death and in the deaths of two other women killed in the 1980s.
Cable, 55, was arraigned in Jefferson Circuit Court yesterday on charges of raping and killing Booth and Oma Marie Bird, whose partially clad body was found in an alley off Dixie Highway in 1986. He pleaded not guilty.
A Daviess County grand jury indicted Cable last week on a charge of murder in the death of Sandra Gail Kellems in Owensboro in 1982.
Police knew where to find Cable.
He was in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville, serving a 100-year sentence in the 1990 kidnapping of a 15-year-old girl in LaRue County, where she had been chained to a tree and raped for three weeks.
His accomplice had been Phillip Clopton, whose diary implicated Cable in Booth's slaying. Clopton was alone with the 15-year-old one night when he forgot to chain her. She shot him and escaped. Clopton died, leaving the diary.
At the time of each slaying Cable had been out of prison, paroled twice despite convictions for crimes that included the rape of a 7-year-old, prison escape, killing a fellow inmate, parole violation and assault.
Changes in parole
Records show that it was during Cable's first parole from a life sentence imposed in 1971 for raping the 7-year-old that Kellems was slain in Owensboro in June 1982.
Kellems had celebrated her 18th birthday the day before she was found in a vacant lot, dead from a blow to the head. Owensboro police suspect she was also sexually assaulted but cannot prove it conclusively, Owensboro Detective Mark Saffran said last week.
Harry Rothgerber, now deputy commonwealth's attorney in Jefferson County, served on the Kentucky Parole Board at the time of Cable's 1981 parole. Rothgerber said Cable's case doesn't stand out in his memory, among the roughly 24,000 cases he considered during his six years with the board.
The board would have reviewed Cable's case file, looked at his prison behavior and interviewed him before making a decision, he said.
Records show Cable was paroled despite a prison escape and a 1978 manslaughter conviction for killing a fellow inmate by striking him with a horseshoe stake. Cable's first request for parole was rejected, but it was granted six months later.
Because parolees are monitored and have to meet certain conditions, such as having a job and a stable place to live, "I always believed that parole was the most effective, most humane and least costly way to reduce the risk that ex-offenders present to our society," Rothgerber said.
But he acknowledged that the system is not infallible.
"The easiest thing is not to parole anybody," Rothgerber said. "But for the most part parole works."
At the time of Cable's life sentence for raping the child, he had to serve only about six years before being eligible for parole, said Keith Hardison, executive director of the Parole Board.
Felons now must serve more of their sentence before they are eligible for parole. In addition, sex offenders now must complete a treatment program that lasts about 20 months before they can be paroled, said John Coy, the Parole Board's chairman.
That treatment offers the board a detailed analysis of the inmate, giving board members more on which to base their decisions, he said.
Kellems' aunt, Donna Tuttle, said she's lived with her niece's brutal death every day because she and her husband, Steve, adopted Kellems' infant son, Brandon, who is now 22.
While she's thankful charges have been brought in the case, the news revived painful memories. It's been particularly difficult for Brandon, who marked his first birthday on the day of his mother's funeral in 1982.
"There's always been an empty space there," Tuttle said of his questions about what his mother was like. Even though "we tried to tell him what a kind person she was, how sweet she was."
In again, out again
When Cable violated parole by being convicted in 1983 of a misdemeanor assault charge reduced from an attempted rape charge he was sent back to prison.
He won parole again in February 1986.
About 10 months later, Bird's body was found in Louisville. The woman, whom police describe as a street person, had been raped and killed with a blow to the head.
Bird's sister and brother-in-law attended Cable's arraignment yesterday; they didn't want to talk to the media.
While out on his 1986 parole, Cable was charged with traffic violations, shoplifting and harassment. Several of the charges would be dismissed; the others resulted in minor penalties and fines.
None prompted his parole officer to recommend that he be sent back to prison.
In a May 5, 1990, Courier-Journal story, parole officer Roosevelt Lightsy said he couldn't remember why he did not recommend that the Parole Board revoke Cable's release. But at the time he said, "I remember not having good feelings about the guy."
It wasn't until after the 1990 abduction and rape of the 15-year-old that Cable landed back in custody.
By that time, Booth had been dead for a year.
A break in the case
Only recently did threads in the three cases from the 1980s begin to come together, said Capt. Gene Sherrard, head of the Louisville Metro Police criminal investigation unit.
Cable had been a suspect in the Booth case early on, because of Clopton's diary.
The unsolved murders of Kellems and Bird resurfaced about a year ago, when the Kentucky State Crime Lab linked DNA found on Kellems' body to evidence found on Bird. The link was found during a routine check of crime lab data, said Saffran, the Owensboro police detective. He had reopened the Kellems case in 2001 and submitted DNA evidence from that case to the crime lab at that time.
That link between Kellems and Bird got Owensboro and Louisville Metro Police talking. Then, because Booth's slaying was seen as similar to the Bird case, Louisville police added Booth as a third potentially linked victim, Sherrard said. That led to Cable, who had been an original suspect in the Booth case, and was out of prison at the time of all three deaths.
In December, Louisville and Owensboro detectives interviewed Cable in prison and got his permission to take a sample of his DNA for testing.
Cable's DNA was tested against DNA samples that had been taken from all three crime scenes and saved, as is done with evidence in all unsolved murder cases.
The DNA matched all three cases, Sherrard said.
That led police to work with prosecutors to put together their cases, leading to the charges filed this week.
The charges shook up 17-year-old Tessa Logsdon, Booth's daughter, who lives in Caneyville. Tessa was just 2 years old when her mother died. Both Tessa and her sister, Jennifer, were raised by their grandmother.
While the charges bring up painful memories, Tessa said this might be the opportunity the family needs to heal.
"I believe that from now on it will be better," Tessa said. "It's been like a taboo subject my whole life."
The charges "mean a lot," said Juanita Logsdon, who raised Tessa and Jennifer. "It's going to be closure."
Copyright 2004 The Courier-Journal