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'I'm the one that lied. Tonya didn't.'

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Tonya Ford's mother says Ford did not confess to murder

By Calen McKinney

 

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Linda Williams says her daughter, Tonya Ford, didn't call her and say she killed her husband. She said she simply made that story up to see how far law enforcement would take it.

And law enforcement took that admission as fact, as Ford is currently on trial for murdering her husband, David Ford, who was a Lebanon Police Officer.

The trial began in Taylor Circuit Court on Monday, three and a half years after Officer Ford's death.

Proceedings began with jury selection, in which Taylor Circuit Court Judge Dan Kelly and defense and prosecution attorneys asked a series of questions to the pool of 150 potential jurors.

A jury of four men and 10 women was seated at about 11:15 a.m. After the case concludes, two of the 14 jurors will be excused. The remaining 12 will be asked to deliberate and decide whether Ford is guilty.

Ford, 39, is accused of shooting and killing Officer Ford on Feb. 10, 2009. She pleaded not guilty in November 2010.

Officer Ford, 40, was found shot to death in the head at his Graham Road home in Campbellsville. Ford called the Campbellsville/Taylor County E-911 Center and said she had arrived at the home and found that her husband had been shot.

Taylor County Coroner Terry Dabney said in 2009 that an autopsy confirmed Officer Ford's death as a homicide.

A year and a half after Officer Ford's death, on Oct. 19, 2010, a Taylor County grand jury convened in special session to hear from 17 witnesses and then issued an indictment charging Ford with first-degree murder. She was arrested at 9:52 a.m. the following day at the Taylor County Courthouse.

She was released from the Taylor County Detention Center on Nov. 9, 2010, after family members posted a $30,000 cash bond. She has remained out on bond since.

Monday, which was three and a half years after Officer Ford's death, was Ford's sixth trial date.

If convicted, she faces as much as life in prison. The prosecution has said it will not seek the death penalty.

At press time, the prosecution was presenting its witnesses in the case. Ford's defense attorney, Danny Butler of Greensburg, had yet to present his opening arguments or any witnesses.

 

Opening Statement

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Miller, who is prosecuting Ford, told jurors during his opening statement. "That's what this case involves."

Miller said Ford and her husband, who separated just a few weeks before Officer's Ford's death, had been married for about 14 years. He said the couple had problems that stemmed from affairs, but had always reconciled.

In January 2009, he said, Officer Ford began dating Mary Ramose of Lebanon and decided he wanted to divorce Ford.

Ford began living with Ramose, Miller said, but came to Campbellsville each Tuesday and Wednesday to be with his and Ford's son.

Miller said the Fords had been receiving anonymous notes on their vehicles that contained threatening messages. The notes made the two a bit paranoid, he said.

Miller said Ford began her plan to kill her husband a week before his murder, on Feb. 3, 2009. That's when Ford called a local tax preparation office to make an appointment for her and her husband to complete their taxes.

Exactly a week later, at 1:07 p.m., Ford called 911 to report that her husband had been shot.

The morning of Feb. 10, 2009, Miller said, Officer Ford left Lebanon to come to Campbellsville to get some paperwork from home to prepare for the tax appointment. Miller said the jury would see several cell phone records showing where Officer Ford was on his trip from Lebanon to Campbellsville.

At 10:59 a.m., Miller said, Officer Ford called his wife and was talking about getting their tax return completed.

When that call was placed, Miller said the jury would learn, Ford was in the area of her Graham Road home.

At about 11:12 a.m., Miller said, Officer Ford arrived home, came inside and sat down at a computer desk to try to remove a virus from the Fords' computer. He lit a cigarette, Miller said, and typed in a website address at 11:16 a.m.

Miller said Officer Ford was then shot in the head from two to four feet behind him. The bullet, he said, exited Officer Ford's right eye. Blood pooled on the desk, Miller said, and Officer Ford fell on his side.

Miller said Ford needed to make sure no evidence was left at the scene, so she took the gun and bullet, but left a shell casing. Then, he said, she had to go and create her alibi.

Miller said he is confident that jurors will hear that Ford went driving around Campbellsville looking for apartments, went to buy cigarettes, get something to eat and then visit family. She then went home and found Officer Ford.

He said jurors will hear from witnesses that she visited Sonic restaurant to see a family member between 10:50 a.m. and 11:08 a.m. Miller said that isn't possible because cell phone records place Ford near her home when Officer Ford called her at 10:59 a.m.

"The defendant made one major, major mistake," Miller said.

Ford called her sister at 11:20 a.m., Miller said, and cell phone records say that call also originated from the Graham Road area.

Miller said jurors will hear Ford when she called 911, saying that her husband had been shot. He said Ford has said she was in her kitchen when she saw her husband, which is about 30 feet away from where Officer Ford was found.

"She didn't run to the body to see if he was alive," Miller said. "She was totally unconcerned with herself. She doesn't run next door, thinking there is a shooter in the home. She had a reason not to worry. Because she's the murderer."

Miller said jurors would hear from an EMS employee who arrived at the scene, who says it isn't possible for Ford to have known her husband had been shot just by seeing his body from 30 feet away.

Miller said Kentucky State Police Detective Israel Slinker will tell jurors that there was no forced entry at the Graham Road home. He said Slinker will testify that no gun shot residue was found on Ford's hands, though the detective wasn't surprised since she had more than enough time to wash her hands and change her clothes.

Miller said jurors will hear from two witnesses who said they heard Ford say she would kill her husband if she knew she could get away with it. And they will also hear from Ford's mother, Linda Williams, who says Ford called her and admitted to shooting her husband.

Miller said the evidence against Ford is circumstantial, but that jurors will hear that Ford was a scorned woman.

"And that's exactly what this case is about," he said.

Butler reserved his opening statement for when the prosecution finishes presenting its evidence.

 

Testimony

Jurors heard from several witnesses on Monday and Tuesday, the first of which was from Slinker, who was in charge of the Officer Ford murder investigation.

As Slinker testified, Miller showed the jury photos of Officer Ford. Ford, who was dressed in black, hid her face and cried as the photos were shown.

Slinker said a .40 caliber gun was used to kill Officer Ford, though the gun was never recovered. He testified many officers went to great lengths to find the weapon to no avail.

Jurors heard the three interviews that Slinker and other detectives conducted with Ford, during which she denied having anything to do with killing her husband.

In the interviews, Ford said she and her husband loved each other, but separating was mutual.

On the day her husband was killed, Ford said she took her children to school and then went back home. She said she left a while later and drove around town to look for apartments. She said she went to buy cigarettes, got something to eat at McDonald's and went to Lumpkin's Auto Sales & Salvage and Sonic to talk to family.

She said she arrived home at about 1 p.m. and saw her husband's truck in their driveway. She went in the kitchen, she said, and saw Officer Ford and then ran out of the home.

"Did you have anything to do with David's death," Slinker asked during one of the interviews. "No, I didn't," Ford replied.

Slinker said the truth will come out and that Ford needs to be honest.

"I have absolutely nothing to hide," Ford said during the interview. "I did not kill my husband. I didn't."

Ford told Slinker that she doesn't know who killed her husband.

In a later interview, Slinker said witnesses reported that Ford's car was at the home when Officer Ford arrived. Ford said that isn't true.

In the third interview, Ford denied making an appointment to complete the couple's tax returns on Feb. 10, 2009, at noon. She said she called the tax office but did not make an appointment. Slinker said witnesses said Officer Ford told them he was going to Campbellsville for the appointment.

"I loved David," Ford said. "We wasn't in love anymore ... I did love him. He was my best friend. We still talked every day."

In the third interview with Slinker, which he said was more of an interrogation than an interview, he told Ford that she needs to explain where she was the day of Officer Ford's death. He told Ford that he knows she was at home until 11:20 a.m. that day, which Ford denied. Slinker said cell phone records prove differently.

"I didn't kill David," Ford said during the interview. "You're just gonna have to take me to court."

Slinker said Ford either killed her husband or knew who did. He said others have solid alibis, though part of hers isn't clear.

"I can put you there," Slinker told Ford. "I was not," she replied.

"You can lie to me all you want. It's gonna come out," Slinker said.

"I don't know who done it," Ford said. "He was the love of my life."

Slinker later said, "It's not me saying you did it. It's facts."

Ford said, "I did not kill David Ford. If I was gonna do it, I'd done it a few years ago."

Slinker testified that Ford was at the Tobacco Shed at 11:40 a.m. At 12:10 p.m., Ford was at McDonald's. At 12:15, she was at Lumpkin's Auto. He said those stops can be verified, but it can't be verified when Ford was at Sonic. Some witnesses say it was between 10:50 and 11:08 a.m., Slinker testified, but cell phone records show that Ford was in the area of her home at that time.

Jurors heard the 911 call Ford made to report her husband had been shot.

During the call, she said, "I live at 109 Graham Road and my husband is shot."

Slinker said from where Ford said she was standing, there is no way she could have known that he had been shot. He said he had to be 5 to 10 feet away to see that Officer Ford had been shot.

Butler asked why Slinker didn't interview Ramos' husband. Slinker said the man had signed in at his employment with a thumb print scanner and his boss said he was there the entire shift, which was when Officer Ford was killed.

Butler asked Slinker if he can say Ford was at her home when Officer Ford was killed. Slinker said he can't, but can say she was in the area at 11:20 a.m.

Testimony from a worker at the tax preparation office told jurors that Ford called her and made an appointment for Feb. 10, 2009, at noon. She said the Fords did not show up for the appointment.

Williams testified that she doesn't have a relationship with her daughter and hasn't spoken to her since she was charged with murder.

She said she didn't receive a call from Ford confessing that she had killed Officer Ford.

Jurors were shown a video of a controlled drug buy in which Williams is shown selling drugs to a confidential informant. During the transaction, Williams tells the CI that her daughter said she shot Officer Ford in the head.

Williams said that conversation was just discussion amongst people.

"I'm the one that lied, Tonya didn't," Williams testified.

Jurors heard an interview with Williams and other KSP officers in which she said Ford confessed to the murder.

"She said, 'I just snapped. I just snapped.'"

Williams also spoke about a grandchild named Ashley that was her favorite, and that she believes Ford did kill her husband. Williams said Ford asked her to follow Officer Ford but she refused.

Williams testified that she loves her daughter and that Ford never called her.

Miller asked why Williams would say that Ford called her if she didn't. He also asked if Williams realizes that the accusation is serious. Williams said she understands.

"I made up the conversation," she said. "I had no idea they would take it this far ... this call never happened. Never."

Williams said she felt harassed and told law enforcement what she thought they wanted to hear.

"I don't even talk to Tonya. Tonya doesn't even talk to me," she said.

Miller asked what Williams thought would happen when she came forward with the alleged confession.

"What better proof than the defendant's own mother?" he said.

"I wanted to see how far it would go," she said.

Miller said, "It's gone pretty far, hasn't it."

When asking his questions, Butler said he didn't know where to begin.

"I didn't know you were going to tell the truth," he said to Williams.

Butler asked, "Who the hell is Ashley?"

Williams replied that she made the name up and Williams said she has never met Ford's children and never been to her home.

"That's all false," she said.

"She didn't call you. Period," Butler asked.

"No," Williams said.

See the Monday, Aug. 27, issue for more on the trial and watch for updates online at www.cknj.com.

• An indictment is a legal accusation only. It does not establish guilt.