Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kenny Strickland: The Murderer Speaks

When Lauderdale County detective Travis Clemmons learned that Kenny Strickland (pictured) had spent the night in the Wheeler Lake cabin from which he had been previously evicted, the 24 year-old meth addict became a prime suspect in the brutal murder of Rusty Lynn Earnest. Informants reported that on the day of May 2, 2007, Strickland was seen at various drug houses flashing a large roll of hundred dollar bills. After two interviews, Clemmons returned to Strickland's new home in Eva, Alabama, and arrested him on capital murder charges.

Because of the gravity of the charge, Strickland was initially denied bail; but when an April 2008 grand jury indicted the suspect only on felony murder, burglary, and arson charges, Strickland's family provided the bond for his release. Strickland was scheduled to stand trial in November 2008, but had other ideas.

Seeking to place the blame for Earnest's death on an uncle against whom he had a grudge, Strickland placed an anonymous phone call to Lauderdale authorities. Pretending to be an acquaintance of the uncle, Strickland called from a payphone at an Elgin convenience store. Authorities traced the call and obtained both the suspect's license number and a video tape of him leaving the scene.

During the phone conversation, Strickland told of the brutal attack on Earnest, whom he bludgeoned on the small porch before returning hours later to drag the body inside and set fire to the lake house. Only parts of the conversation have previously been published, but family members who are familiar with the tape tell of the depravity of the crime--Strickland even throttled Earnest's small dog in an attempt to keep it silent, leaving its body lying in the living room with its owner.

Arrested a second time for giving false information to police, Kenneth Strickland decided to enter a plea. At the time of the defendant's court appearance, Rusty Earnest's sister Patsy and her husband were visiting in Pennsylvania, but Earnest's mother Dorothy and brother Grant were in attendance. When Dorothy Earnest asked Strickland why he killed her son, he replied that he didn't know.

Now serving a life sentence at Holman Prison for Rusty Earnest's murder, Kenneth Bradford Strickland will be eligible for parole at some point, perhaps as early as 2015. If you would like to write a letter of protest to be maintained in Strickland's file, you may address it to:

Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole
Post Office Box 302405
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-2405
Re: Kenneth Bradford Strickland - AIS# 234843

Thanks to D.K. for his help with this series on the murder of Rusty Earnest, with whom he had once worked.

Special thanks to Patsy Earnest Michael for her assistance with previously unpublished information. Mrs. Michael has been especially kind to help with these blogs and wants others to know her brother as he was--not as a faceless victim.

While Det. Clemmons and some others characterized Rusty as one who carried large sums of money, Mrs. Michael has further related to us that, while these amounts may have seemed large to Kenny Strickland, Rusty usually just carried enough cash to carry on day-to-day living in Rogersville where debit cards are not always welcome. Rusty had sold his fishing boat in order to help finance a Lasik eye surgery not covered by his insurance.

We're happy to make these addenda, but it should be noted that no matter how much money anyone carries, they do not deserve to be the victim of a brutal beating, to have perhaps half their life taken from them. We're sure that all those who knew Rusty, and many who never met him, have been moved by the story of this sadistic murder, a crime that even took the life of Rusty Earnest's dog.