By Karen Hall
A man with connections to the Valentine's Day murder victim Bill Ross recently had his appeal denied by the Court of Criminal Appeals in Nashville.
A Marshall County jury found Jimmy Lee Whitmire, 45, guilty of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and aggravated burglary. At Whitmire's 2007 trial, just a week before he was murdered, Ross testified as a character witness.
Ross told the jury he rented Whitmire a place to park his camper trailer at the Ross property on Wartrace Pike, Shelbyville. Ross testified Whitmire had been his friend for seven years, and another witness said Whitmire was the one who recommended Ross for the job he held at the time of his death, salesman at a Nissan dealership.
Searching for a motive during the investigation of Ross's murder, Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce interviewed Whitmire in Marshall County Jail. Boyce asked Whitmire if he'd ever seen Ross abuse his wife Kimberly. Whitmire said, "He'd never seen Bill bother her and he didn't think Bill would hurt her," Boyce reported to the Tribune.
Kimberly Ross pleaded guilty to plotting the murder of her husband, and was sentenced to life in prison. One of her accomplices, Ashley Mai Cook, 29, had two jury trials. The first ended in a mistrial, but after the second Cook was convicted of the murder of Bill Ross and sentenced to life in prison. The second accomplice, Justin Paul Young, 25, a former Marshall County High School student, pleaded guilty to planning the murder and testified against Cook. In return for this, he received a 30-year sentence, which ends in 2034.
Young loaded the pistol and handed it to Cook, after helping her climb through a window into the Ross home on Feb. 14, 2007. Cook then shot Bill Ross three times as he slept. Young tied up Cook and Kimberly Ross, and left with the gun, while the two women called 911, claiming Bill Ross had been killed during a home invasion.
The crimes for which Whitmire was tried took place almost a year earlier, in the early hours of March 23, 2006, when he talked his way into a home in Cornersville. The victim knew Whitmire's parents, and had dealt with him a few months before when she bought a truck, so she let him in to use the phone. Whitmire then held the woman at knifepoint while he told her about his troubled past. The victim secretly dialled 911, and law officers arrived just after she persuaded Whitmire to relinquish the knife.
Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler sentenced Whitmire to 18 years in prison, but this sentence was reduced to 15 years on appeal. In the current appeal Whitmire's attorney, Hershell Koger of Pulaski, argued his client was denied effective assistance of counsel at the trial. Specifically, Whitmire claimed he was advised not to testify, though this was refuted by the trial record which shows Crigler questioning Whitmire about whether he would testify, and telling him the decision is his, and his alone.
After a thorough review of the record, the appeal court concluded, "The Petitioner has not shown that trial counsel was ineffective or that if trial counsel was ineffective that he suffered prejudice from such. Therefore, we affirm the denial of the petition for post-conviction relief."