Cook shot Ross, TBI agent reports

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The murder of a Shelbyville car salesman was planned by his wife and a Lewisburg teenager with the shooting by their friend who was mad because the salesman didn't want to support her if she wouldn't help herself, according to statements in Bedford County General Sessions Court on Monday.

Agent Wayne Wesson of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified to those events on Valentine's Day during a preliminary hearing conducted by Judge Charles Rich. Nearly 30 friends and relatives of three defendants and the victim were in the courtroom when Rich said the case should be considered by the Bedford County Grand Jury which meets next on April 23.

The victim, Bill Ross, and his wife, Kimberly who's charged with his murder, lived in Lewisburg and earlier in Cornersville for several years. The couple moved to Shelbyville where Bill Ross sold cars at the Nissan dealership there. The salesman died on Valentine's Day in Bedford County Medical Center.

"I stood in the doorway and fired some shots," Wesson wrote in his Feb. 14 report, attributing the confession to Ashley Mai Cook, 23, for the murder of Bill Ross, 40, who was shot while asleep in bed at his home just east of Shelbyville.

"I think I fired two or three times," Cook said, according to Wesson's report. "I don't know where I hit him."

Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce has reported Ross was shot once in the head and twice in the torso with a .32 caliber automatic pistol. Cook, of Shelbyville, was one of several friends frequenting the Ross home.

Wesson's report also shows Justin Young, 19, of Lewisburg, allegedly loaded and cocked the pistol.

Ross' widow, Kimberly Ross, 37, told Wesson about the murder plot, the agent's report and testimony show.

"I planned with Justin and Ashley for Ashley to come in [the Ross home] through Justin's window and tie me and Justin up and shoot William," Kimberly Ross told the TBI agent in an interview within 12 hours of the salesman's death, according to Wesson's report.

"Then she [Cook] was going to take the car and gun and leave," Wesson's report states as it quotes Kimberly Ross.

The murder plot unraveled as Wesson's interviews with Ross, Cook and Young revealed discrepancies within and between the statements, so follow-up interviews were conducted with Wesson asking for the truth.

Ross and Young told lawmen from the Sheriff's Department that there had been two intruders who tied them up and shot the man of the house. Sheriff Boyce has credited Wesson for bringing the investigation to a quick conclusion and Wesson was the only witness called by Assistant District Attorney Bud Bottoms for Monday's hearing so Rich could conclude there was probable cause to send the case to the grand jury.

Wesson quotes Young as telling him that Cook "grabbed a gun out of the cabinet and went to Dad's room and shot him multiple times."

Bill Ross was apparently a father-figure to Young and others. The salesman had been providing financial assistance to some of the people in the household's circle of friends.

After Bill Ross was shot, Cook "tied us [Young and Kimberly Ross] up and told us what to say and then left the house," Young told Wesson, according to the agent's report.

Ross' wife was referred to as "Mom" by Young who told Wesson what seems to be the motive for the murder.

"The argument was about Mom and Dad not paying her [Cook] rent for her any more," according to the agent's report which became a public record because he read it into the court record during the hearing.

Cook, Ross and Young are charged with first degree murder.

Assistant Public Defender Michael Collins represented Cook on Monday and clarified various aspects of the case. Cook's bond had been lowered from $2 million to $1 million by Judge Rich during a hearing in late February.

Young is represented by Pulaski-based defense attorney Hershell Koger who asked Judge Rich to lower his client's bond and that request was granted, although Rich lowered it from $2 million to $1 million, noting that was the same change he granted to Cook.

Young's mother, Melissa Renee Rowland, 37, of Lewisburg, testified that she and other relatives of her son may be able to raise $5,000 cash for a bond so Young could be released before trial, but Rich ruled that a $50,000 bond was too low. Koger asked about a $100,000 bond. Rowland said the family would try to raise the $10,000 needed for that amount of bond, he indicated it probably was unattainable.

Shelbyville-based defense attorney Robert Marlow represents the victim's widow. He's indicated he may request a lower bond for Kimberly Ross later this month. That could be after the grand jury reports. Defendants are arraigned after indictment and requests for lower bonds are not uncommon at that point.

Among the people observing the court proceedings were Larry and Kathy Gillum of Cornersville who said they'd attended the wedding of Bill and Kimberly Ross. The widow's statement to Wesson included allegations of abuse by the salesman against his wife. Larry Gillum said he believes that could never happen.