A local prosecutor says he plans to present Franklin County’s latest murder to a grand jury Wednesday, and officials are keeping mum about the details of the case until then.
Charles Monroe, 30, of Frankfort was found dead a little after 9 a.m. Sunday on the shoulder of the eastbound ramp to Interstate 64 off U.S. 127. Two of the three suspects accused of his murder have family ties to top elected officials in Owen County.
The murder stemmed from an alleged “drug deal gone bad,” Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said Monday morning. The three men met Monroe in the Walmart parking lot on Leonardwood Drive to purchase prescription pills, Melton said.
The interstate ramp was shut down for a few hours Sunday as deputies investigated. They also collected evidence from a second crime scene relating to the homicide on the shoulder of the Kentucky River bridge not far from where Monroe’s body was found on the ramp, Melton said.
Melton declined to comment on what was found near the bridge.
Joshua Hammond, 31, who has been identified as the son of Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond, was arrested in Franklin County; David Bruce II, 44, who has been identified as the son of former Owen County jailer David Bruce and the brother of the current jailer Cindy Bruce Walker, was arrested in Owen County; and James Simons, 35, was arrested in Grant County. The Owen County Sheriff’s Office and the Bruce family declined to comment.
All three are charged with murder and robbery. Franklin County Coroner Will Harrod and Melton have declined to comment on the cause of death of if any weapon was involved. Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland has also declined to comment.
While they say they are grateful for the speedy arrests, Monroe’s family wants to know why law authorities didn’t investigate a report Saturday night of a suspicious object – which turned out to be Monroe’s body – until Sunday morning.
The Monroe family says a friend, who asked to remain anonymous, dialed 911 – connecting to city dispatch – around 11 p.m. Saturday and gave the license plate number of a truck dumping what he thought was a body on the side of the ramp. However officials say they didn’t know about the body until 9 a.m. Sunday.
Melton said he didn’t hear about the Saturday night call until late Monday morning.
“We are looking into that currently,” Melton said over the phone and declined further comment.
Police arrested the three suspects less than 24 hours after the incident was reported.
Tammy Cook, Charles Monroe’s oldest sister, said Monday afternoon that the family friend saw two men dragging Monroe from the shoulder of the I-64 eastbound ramp from U.S. 127 through the grass.
“I guess they got scared when they seen him slow down, and they jumped back in truck and took off,” she said Monday from the family’s front porch on Skyline Drive where her parents live.
“You see it in the news, and you read about it about other families, but you never think it’s going to come home to you,” she said about her brother’s death.
Charles Monroe is survived by his parents; seven brothers; three sisters; a son, Charles, 6; and a daughter, Madison, 8 months old.
“He left behind all of us, and all of us hurt,” said Larry Monroe, Charles Monroe’s brother, while holding his 8-month-old niece. “This family is destroyed because of three cowards.”
Hammond, Bruce and Simons – who each pleaded not guilty via video arraignments Monday morning – are being held at Franklin County Regional Jail on $200,000 bonds, according to the jail website.
“I know my brother’s done wrong, I know my brother was into drugs – I’m not denying that – but he did not deserve to be murdered and thrown to the side of the road and treated like a dog like this,” Cook said.
“We need answers, because there is no reason for this.”
Monroe was indicted for sexually abusing a child under 12 and intimidating a witness in March 2011, according to court records. He was slated to stand trial in July in Franklin Circuit Court.
However his sister disputes the charges, because Cook says the accusations came from an angry ex-girlfriend.