A cold case investigation into a 17-year-old Westwood murder led to charges announced Thursday against an inmate at Lansing Correctional Facility. Eugene Clayton Keltner, 40, has been serving time for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery in connection with an unrelated Wyandotte County case.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, Westwood Police Chief Greg O’Halloran and Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden said at Thursday press briefing that they were able to make the charges in the killing at the former Westwood Apple Market with the help of a cold case squad made up of active and retired law enforcement officers.
After re-examining the evidence and ruling out things that were no longer relevant, investigators were able to turn their focus to Keltner, who has been behind bars in Lansing since 2006.
Howe declined to give further details about what, specifically, those clues were.
The murder of David “Ray” Ninemire, 68, on Aug. 15, 2003, was not caught on camera and the case has stymied law enforcement officers for years because of the lack of a good suspect description. The gunman was said to be wearing a black hat, wig, fake beard and dark coat.
Witnesses said his get-up made him resemble Abraham Lincoln.
Ninemire was shot at the grocery store, which once stood at 4701 Mission Road, in what appeared to be an attempted robbery. In the early morning hours, a gunman confronted a cashier at the store, police said. When Ninemire, an employee of the Apple Market, rushed to the cashier’s aid the robber fired at him, hitting him in the leg.
The shot severed an artery, and Ninemire consequently bled to death. The gunman was then seen walking northward away from the store.
A Walmart Neighborhood Market has since replaced the Apple Market at that locaiton and a plaque commemorating Ninemire still stands near the store.
Keltner will be returned to Johnson County to face a First Degree Murder charge as soon as he can be processed out of Lansing, Howe said. His bond is set at $1 million.
“It’s been an incredible journey for law enforcement and our office to work this case to the point that we can announce these charges,” Howe said.
Sheriff Hayden said it was a “heartwarming moment to be able to advise [Ninemire’s family] that they have some closure in this case.”
Westwood Police Chief Greg O’Halloran said the Ninemire family has asked for privacy, but he read a statement from them thanking law enforcement.
Since Ninemire’s death, 15 great grandchildren have been born to the family, the statement said. They described him as “a man who saw value and potential beauty in things that others might discard or ignore.”
“The family was not surprised that his final act here on earth was to rush to the aid of another,” the statement continued.
The charges were made possible partly through the efforts of some retired officers.
Lou Hoskins, a retired major with the county sheriff’s office, said they spent many days eliminating old and irrelevant information. “Putting two and two together,” eventually led to a good conclusion.
“We do this because we love our job,” he said.
Hoskins said officers had met with Ninemire’s widow, Phyllis. “I can’t tell you how good it feels to know she has some closure and can probably sleep a little sounder tonight,” he said.