Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 18, 2013

Royster, 26, pleads guilty in 2008 killings

Mike James
CNHI News Service

GREENUP — A Garrison man has pleaded guilty in the killings of two in 2008 and given police ammunition they needed to charge four others in the murders.

Mitchell Royster, 26, pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and two lesser charges Thursday in Greenup Circuit Court, almost four years after the deaths of Jeffrey Long, 45, and Pamela Wills, 21, in Long’s Leatherwood Road trailer.

Earlier in the day, sheriff’s deputies arrested four and charged them in the murders. They include Chrissie Bertram-Royster, 23, of Garrison, who is Royster’s wife; Sammy E. Bertram, 22; Willie Burns, 23, of Garrison; and Ashley N. Craft, 23, of Garrison. Bertram-Royster, Bertram and Burns face two charges of capital murder and one each of first-degree robbery, first-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence. Craft was charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit robbery.

Royster originally had been charged with two counts of murder and one of arson. His plea bargain required him to cooperate with investigators and testify against the other four, Commonwealth’s Attorney Mel Leonhart said.

All the charges stem from the Feb. 23, 2008, blaze that killed Long and Wills. Police believe the killers set the trailer on fire to kill them.

The fire was so severe it destroyed most of the evidence at the scene, and police spent five years, almost to the eve of Royster’s Feb. 4 trial, investigating the murders.

Bertram-Royster, Bertram, Burns and Craft all were taken to the Greenup County Detention Center where they were being held without bond, according to Sheriff Keith Cooper.

MIKEā€ˆJAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com.

 or (606) 326-2652.