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Rusty Earnest
« on: Oct 11, 2008, 05:50 »
The man arrested for the murder of Rusty Earnest in 2007 pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison on October 4, 2008.  Details of the final court appearance can be found at and do a search for Rusty Earnest.  Rusty was a good man and is still missed, but now his family has some closure to this tragic event.

From the Times Daily article:

Kenny Strickland's attempt to shift blame for the 2007 beating death of Rusty L. Earnest backfired and resulted Friday in Strickland pleading guilty to murder and being sentenced to life in prison.

Matt McKean/TimesDaily Dorothy Earnest, mother of Rusty L. Earnest, who was killed May 1, 2007, in his home in Rogersville, addresses Kenny Strickland, who is standing between his attorneys. Strickland pleaded guilty to murder and received a life sentence.
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click to enlarge Strickland Strickland, 25, of Eva, was scheduled to stand trial in November for the May 1, 2007, homicide. Those plans changed when Strickland was arrested Tuesday and charged with making a false statement to police.

During a brief hearing Friday in Lauderdale County Circuit Court, Strickland pleaded guilty to murder, waived his right to a pre-sentencing investigation and received the life sentence.

The plea agreement was reached after Strickland was charged with calling investigators earlier this week, claiming to have information about Earnest's death. Earnest, 47, was found dead on the floor of his smoke-filled home on Wheeler Lake in Rogersville.

Strickland, who lived next to Earnest at the time of Earnest's death, was arrested May, 24, 2007, and charged with capital murder. In April 2008, Strickland was indicted on murder, first-degree arson, first degree burglary and second-degree theft charges.

Strickland had maintained he was innocent until the new charges were lodged against him this week. Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly said the filing a false report charge stemmed from Strickland calling investigators in an attempt to blame his uncle for Earnest's death.

Travis Clemmons, chief investigator for the Lauderdale sheriff's office, said Friday that a man called him Tuesday claiming to be a friend of Strickland's uncle.

"He was telling me that we had arrested the wrong man," Clemmons said. "He kept saying Kenny didn't kill Rusty and that Kenny's uncle killed him."

As Clemmons talked to the man, he began to suspect it might be Strickland. With the help of other investigators, Clemmons was able to determine the call was from a pay phone at an Elgin convenience store.

According to reports, investigators called the store and a clerk was able to get the tag number from the vehicle belonging to the man on the telephone. When investigators found that the vehicle belonged to Strickland, Rogersville police were called; they made a videotape of Strickland talking on the telephone before he was arrested, Clemmons said. Clemmons also made an audio recording of the 20-minute phone call, including when Strickland provided details about Earnest's murder that only the killer would know, he said.

After his arrest on the filing a false report charge, Strickland and his defense attorneys, Ralph Holt and Melinda Morgan Austin, both of Florence, decided it would be in Strickland's best interest to change his plea to guilty and accept the life sentence being offered by the Lauderdale District Attorney's Office.

"Based on the newly discovered evidence, there was a distinct possibility Kenny could get two consecutive life sentences if this case had gone to trial or the case could have been re-presented to the grand jury with the new evidence and he could have been indicted on capital murder," Holt said.

By pleading guilty and being sentenced to life in prison, Strickland will be eligible for parole. If he had been indicted for capital murder and convicted, he could have received the death penalty.

Holt said the filing a false report charge lodged against Strickland completely changed the nature of the case.

"It's the most dramatic turn of events I've seen in a case during my career as a lawyer," Holt said.

Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly said it is one of the most unusual cases he has even been involved with.

Before Lauderdale Circuit Court Judge Mike Jones imposed the sentence, Strickland said, "I'm sorry." Strickland told Jones that he was high on crack cocaine when he used a hammer to kill Earnest.

When Earnest's mother, Dorothy Earnest, asked Strickland why he killed her son, Strickland replied "I don't know."

Earnest's brother, Grant Earnest, of Loretto, Tenn., told Strickland he has forgiven him and urged Strickland to turn his life around.

"There's only way you are going to avoid spending your eternal life in hell, and that's to give your life to the Lord," Grant Ernest said. "You better not be too proud to do it."

After the hearing, Grant Earnest said his family is satisfied with the life sentence Strickland received. He commended the sheriff's office and other police agencies that worked on the case and the district attorney's office for securing the guilty plea.

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Re: Rusty Earnest
« Reply #1 on: Oct 11, 2008, 07:46 »

Wow, that was a really nice piece of police work!  The fact that it brought at least some closure for Rusty's family makes it all the better.  It's just sad that the idiot wasn't hauled off the street before he had murdered somebody.

Another day, another opportunity for excellence!

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Rusty Earnest Murder
« Reply #2 on: Mar 17, 2009, 01:40 »
Hi my name is Patsy Earnest Michael, I am Rusty little sister.  I know it has been almost six months since Kenny Strickland was rearrested and plead quilty to Rusty murder.  We have contacted so many over the months, and I thought the other day how the  forum had wrote so many nice things from co-workers, when this happen, and I wanted to update, to find that FLA-Keys1 had actually posted in October when this happened.  THANK YOU FLA-KEYS1.  It has been very overwhelming, only any that has experienced, an ordeal like this or the jursidal system would know.  Six months after his pleading quilty, we are still learning of things he had been doing, and not being arrested for.  Kenny Strickland had a bad drug problem for many years and was enable by some family members until it lead up to murder.  We actually knew one side of the family, they owned a river house next to Rusty.  This has been a very difficult thing, and one of those things you never get over but have to learn to live with.  It will soon be 2 years May 1.  and only have we made it with the help of God in our lives.  Rusty lives on daily, in our lives and we still come in contact often, with people who share with something he did for them or touch there lives.  So thank you for being the co-workers and friends he worked with from all areas, and the kind words when he passed.
Continue to pray for my family, my mom is 78 years old and I have one brother living Grant and there family's.

By Alabama law Kenny should serve 30 years for a life sentence, but come up for parole at 15 if laws do not change.  Anyone that wishes to send a letter to parole, to deny that, we have been told we can send them and they will stay there until that time.  So any would like to I can give info to anyone.  He is at Holman prison in South Alabama, suppose to be one of the worst.  Who knows who will still be on earth then!  Nobody!

Thank you again!

Patsy (Earnest) Michael


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