Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 19, 2013

Four indicted in double homicide

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

GREENUP — A Greenup County grand jury has indicted four in connection with a 2008 double murder and arson.

Three of the four could get the death penalty or life in prison if they are convicted.

The grand jury on Friday handed up true bills charging Chrissie Bertram-Royster, 24, Sammy E. Bertram, 23, and Willie Burns, 24, all of Garrison, with two counts each of capital murder and one count each of first-degree robbery, first-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence.

Ashley N. Craft, 23, also of Garrison, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery.

The charges stem from a Feb. 23, 2008, slayings of Jeffrey Long, 45, and Pamela Willis, 21. Their bodies were discovered inside Long’s burned-out trailer in the 4900 block of Leatherwood Road.

The fire was so intense it destroyed most of the evidence at the scene, and the Greenup County Sheriff’s Department spent nearly five years investigating the slayings. The final pieces of the puzzle finally fell into place when another defendant, Mitchell Royster, 26, of Garrison, agreed to provide authorities with information about the murders and testify against the others involved as part of a plea deal.

Royster, who was indicted in 2010, had been the only person charged in the murders.

Royster, who was originally charged with two counts of murder and one count of arson, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of second-degree manslaughter, one count of facilitation to first-degree arson and one count of conspiracy to commit first-robbery. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Feb. 7.

Royster, the husband of defendant Chrissie Betram-Royster, will be eligible to meet with the parole board after he had served 20 percent, or roughly 53 months, of his sentence. He has already served about half that, having been in custody since Dec. 17, 2010, meaning he will be parole-eligible in a little more than two years. However, studies have shown the vast majority of Kentucky offenders don’t make parole the first time they seek it.

Betram-Royster, Betram and Burns are lodged in the Greenup County Detention Center. Greenup Circuit Judge Bob Conley set the defendants’ bond at $1 million each.

Craft was not listed on the jail’s online inmate roster on Monday.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.