LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky death row inmate is set to be extradited to New Mexico to face murder charges in the 1991 slaying of a paramedic prosecutors say he kidnapped and shot and left to die remote desert area.
Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, told The Associated Press that a governor’s warrant has been signed for 55-year-old Michael Dale St. Clair. The inmate is scheduled for trial on Jan. 22 in Clayton, N.M., on charges he killed 22-year-old Timothy Keeling, of Denver.
Dennis Gene Reese, who is serving life in prison in Oklahoma, is also charged with participating in Keeling’s slaying.
Donald Gallegos, the district attorney in Clayton who is prosecuting the men, said St. Clair and Reese should be in New Mexico by next week. Gallegos said no decision has been made on whether to seek the death penalty.
“I wanted to wait to get them here before I decided that,” Gallegos said. “I still need to talk to the victim’s family, too.”
Kentucky Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb cited security concerns in declining to comment on the extradition of St. Clair, who is on death row for killing a Bardstown man in October 1991.
Tim Keeling’s widow, Lisa Keeling Hill of Waxahachie, Texas, has pushed to have St. Clair and Reese prosecuted for the slaying.
“St. Clair has never really had to answer for Tim’s death,” Hill told The Associated Press.
Retired New Mexico State Police Detective Toby Dolan, who investigated Keeling’s death, said the pending extradition of St. Clair and Reese is a relief. Dolan, the second officer to arrive at the scene, said he’s kept copies of crime scene photos and reports with him since retiring more than a year and a half ago after 21 years with state police.
“You kind of have that hollow feeling for that poor guy … who was murdered for no reason out in the middle of nowhere,” Dolan said. “It’s just one of those things that stuck with me all these years.
Reese and St. Clair had broken out of the county jail in Durant, Okla., on Sept. 19, 1991. At the time, St. Clair was serving four life sentences for murder and Reese was awaiting trial on charges of strangling and beating a woman to death.
What happened after the breakout is detailed in court testimony, documents and interviews with St. Clair and Reese. The pair went on a cross-country spree that led them through Texas and on to Denver, where they came across Keeling outside a grocery store.
St. Clair and Reese posed as buyers interested in purchasing Keeling’s truck, then kidnapped him. Reese drove as Keeling sat next to him and St. Clair held a .357 magnum revolver in the passenger seat. They stopped near Clayton, N.M., a small crossroads town, where prosecutors say St. Clair ordered Keeling out of the truck and shot him.
The run ended a few weeks later in Kentucky, where police charged them with kidnapping and killing distillery worker Frank Brady near Elizabethtown after they ditched and burned Keeling’s truck.
In an interview with The Associated Press in June, Reese acknowledged his role in Keeling’s death and said he plans to plead guilty. St. Clair, in letters to The AP, has remained defiant in his denials and doesn’t expect to live long enough to face execution in either state.
“Mother Nature has first mortgage on my death,” St. Clair said in a 2011 letter.