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Titus-Ryan Friend Tells Her Version

The scene gets grizzlier when a person close to the threesome speaks to grand jury with her take

Joshua Longobardy

And so it was only natural that she would be subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury when state

Before Craig Titus murdered his roommate Melissa James in cold blood, with the assistance of Kelly Ryan, the tension inside his house had become unbearable. Kelly had suspicions that Melissa was stealing from her, for there were charges to her credit card account (which Craig controlled, just like the house and the red 2003 Jaguar under Kelly's name) for purchases made at stores Melissa had been notorious for frequenting, and because she was told Melissa had had a past record of chicanery in Florida. Melissa (who had been heavy into pernicious drugs at the time) resented the charges, and soon she and Kelly were fighting with such clamor that Craig booked a hotel room for Melissa for two nights: that Monday, December 12, and Tuesday, December 13.

Craig then escorted Melissa to her hotel room at the La Quinta Hotel on West Sahara Avenue, five miles from their Spring Valley home. When he returned, Craig, a man infamous for his short temper and feared even by his friends, found his own reasons to believe Melissa was indeed defrauding them, and he became enraged.

Melissa, who did not possess a car at the time, ended up back at Craig's home the next afternoon (after speaking with her mother over the phone at a quarter to noon, and eating chicken and rice at Kentucky Fried Chicken, detective reports state), and sometime before the winter sun descended, the atrocity occurred: Craig choked Melissa with his bare hands, Kelly held her down, punched her in the face, and shot her six times with an Air Taser Gun, and one of them injected Melissa with an inordinate dose of morphine.

After the irreversible deed had been done, Craig phoned Kelly's best friend, and in unclear rapidity said that he was in some trouble, that he was going to put it in his trunk and take care of it, and that he didn't want to get caught. And then he hung up.

At 9 o' clock that night Craig again telephoned Kelly's best friend, who was eating dinner with her husband at the Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, and Craig said that he had discovered Melissa was stealing from him, but that he took care of it. It was a haunting statement that was not atypical of Craig's character, and so Kelly's best friends thought it was another one of his endless bad jokes and accepted his invitation to come over and watch movies on his home movie theater, as she and her husband had done so many times before.

(But the real reason Kelly's best friend wanted to go over that night was to talk about getting Kelly into an intervention program for her drug crisis. The former world-champion fitness star was shipwrecked during those final months of 2005, sinking so deep into the quagmire of drugs—cocaine and oxycontins and Nubane and crystal methamphetamines—that the Kelly Ryan whom friends, family and fans had known was no longer visible. Kelly, a woman who once had one of the best female physiques in the world, had succumbed to wearing long-sleeve shirts and turtlenecks in those calamitous days. She was witnessed shooting drugs in her toes on a daily basis. Craig had said he would help to rehab his wife, but the truth was that he was in even worse shape than she. In fact, it was the reason he had stopped competing in the bodybuilding contests. He could not stop his interminable succession of ‘one last hurrah's', and everyone knows one can't mix steroids with either recreational or hard-core drugs, for that's how athletes die.

Together the couple had been so imprudent with their money that Kelly—who'd had some $80,000 in her checking account alone less than a year ago—stood frustrated and moneyless in front of an ATM machine while she and Craig were on the run. At the time of the murder they were together harvesting more than $30,000 in monthly income, but most of it went to the couple's insatiable addictions. One of which was Craig's habit for expensive prostitutes.

In other words: the couple who had once been on top of the world were well on their way to hitting rock bottom when Kelly's best friend agreed to meet them on the night of December 13, 2005. And they would hit it, of course, the very next morning.)

Kelly's best friend went to Kelly's house that Tuesday night with her husband, despite the bad feeling that was active and irrepressible in his stomach. And it bothered him for good reason: Kelly and Craig tried to set them up as alibis after they arrived. Craig and Kelly had placed Melissa's lifeless body in their Jaguar, which rested in its normal spot in the garage, and encouraged Kelly's best friend and her husband to go with them into the garage to investigate why the light was on at such an untimely hour. Kelly's best friend and her husband weren't going for it, and so Craig and Kelly confessed their opprobrious deed, concluding with an unrighteous request: Remember to corroborate our story.

Kelly's best friend and her husband left, and then Craig summoned the help of Anthony Gross, a 23-year-old sycophant who was indebted to Craig Titus for $1,000. Craig told him: Help me and I'll forget about your debt. And that's all the convincing Tony needed to meet up with the couple at a convenience store across the street from the Ft. Apache Wal-Mart, where surveillance cameras had just caught Kelly purchasing seven bottles of lighter fluid at 3:31 a.m., and then driving alongside their Jaguar in his gray pickup truck to the Shell gas station on Blue Diamond Road and Rainbow Boulevard. (There, while Craig and Kelly waited outside the scope of Shell's surveillance camera, with Melissa's lifeless body in their trunk, he filled up the gas can that he would, 25 miles down State Route 160 and in the midst of the Mountain Springs Desert, hand to Craig, who would douse the contents all over Melissa's body and the red 2003 Jaguar in which it lay.)

Two days later—on December 16, 2005—Craig and Kelly visited the latter's best friend, offering her a nightmarish account of what had transpired over the past few days, handing her a gym bag with the Air Taser Gun in it, and telling her to remember the light in the garage from Tuesday night when a Detective Dean O'Kelley came around asking questions.

For an entire hour on Wednesday, March 22, 2006, Kelly's best friend told the grand jury all that they wanted to know, some version of this story. That information, in concert with the other evidence and witness testimony prosecutors presented during the private week-long hearing, appears to have been enough, for the grand jury sealed and delivered an indictment to District Judge David Wall on Friday, March 24, charging Kelly Ryan and Craig Titus with the murder of Melissa James.

Attorneys for the couple, who did not return phone calls in time to comment on this witness' story, have said it could be up to a year before the trial commences.

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