Man pleads guilty in deaths of two people
The man accused of murdering a Calhoun County couple in 2003 entered a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Ronnie Allen Rush, 23, was 16 years old when he was arrested in May 2003 for allegedly shooting Warden Groves, 69, and Mary Hicks, 60, with a shotgun while the two were sleeping in their Sand Ridge home. Rush had been staying the night with the pair when the murder occurred.
He was indicted by a Calhoun County grand jury in September 2004 on two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree robbery, one count of burglary, one count of grand larceny, two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery.
The case has become increasingly complex through the years as allegations of improper conduct by investigating officers and missing evidence slowed the judicial process.
Rush had been convicted twice in the case following trials in both Calhoun and Jackson counties, but the state Supreme Court overturned both convictions, citing improper conduct by State Police troopers working on the case.
The most recent Jackson County conviction was overturned because the lead investigator in the case was caught speaking to jurors during a lunch break.
Rush, who is illiterate and whom court records say was found to have an IQ between 64 and 69, had also entered a plea with prosecutors in May 2007 agreeing to plead guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder, as well as the remaining felony counts.
However, Matthew Minney, the special prosecutor appointed to the case at that time, moved to vacate that plea agreement after Rush gave inconsistent statements during a polygraph.
Rush was required under the terms of the plea agreement to give truthful statements to the police. However, he changed his story several times during an interview with police, court records show. He first said he shot the couple while under the influence of methamphetamine before changing his story to say that an accomplice actually killed the two.
In the current plea negotiated with special prosecutors Woody Hill and Matt Harvey of Kanawha County, Rush agreed to plead guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter. Prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining charges in the case.
Under the sentencing guidelines, Rush could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. However, if sentenced to the minimum under the law, he could be released from jail with credit for time served at sentencing.
Judge Thomas Evans III of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, who has overseen proceedings in the case since the 2004 indictment, granted a motion from Rush's defense attorney, Teresa Monk, to have Rush undergo a 60-day evaluation at the Anthony Correctional Center prior to sentencing.
Following the hearing, family members of the victims, who had come prepared to speak at a possible sentencing hearing, vented their frustration over the further delay in the case and the fact that Rush could be released following sentencing.
"I think the whole family's been screwed," Rose Settle said. "The cops have just swept it under the rug - I don't think it's fair. We're just like...we're nobody."
Rush is now being held at South Central Regional Jail.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5148.