In ex-Fort Carson soldier's murder trial, defense points finger at alleged accomplice
By LANCE BENZEL | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: March 8, 2017
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — Charged in a Colorado Springs woman's brutal slaying, an ex-Fort Carson soldier raised the same defense as his alleged accomplice: The other guy did it.
During opening statements at Joseph Tyler Kimsey's first-degree murder trial, his attorneys on Tuesday asked the jury to consider whose fingerprint was left on a plastic bag found cinched over the head of victim Ashley Melnyczok.
"Jonathan Paul Nelson and Jonathan Paul Nelson alone" committed the crime, attorney Cindy Hyatt told a panel, implicating a man who was convicted of murder, and sentenced to life, at a trial last month.
Kimsey and Nelson met in the El Paso County jail in the weeks before the slaying and bonded over their shared history in the military.
Prosecutors countered that both men did it, describing an elaborate plan in which Kimsey and Nelson schemed to get cash Melnyczok kept in her apartment - up to $20,000 at a time - from her work as an escort.
Melnyczok, who advertised online and on a personal website, was found bludgeoned and stabbed in her apartment in north Colorado Springs in June 2015, two days after authorities say she was slain.
She and Kimsey, who was married, had an on-again, off-again relationship and spent time together before the killing.
Biological material linked to both men was "all over" her apartment, said prosecutor Martha McKinney.
Aside from the plastic bag, Colorado Springs police also found touch DNA linked to Nelson on a knife that was recovered.
Meanwhile, Kimsey's DNA was found on a blood-spattered shirt left neatly folded at the crime scene along with a hat and a pair of shorts with the belt still in the belt loops.
Later that same day, Kimsey showed up at Angler's Covey in Colorado Springs sporting fresh scratches and bruises and plenty of spending cash. He peeled off $1,000 in $100 bills to pay a woman who had fronted his bail money from a different charge, and paid cash at the store for a new shirt, pants and belt, prosecutors say.
Despite any suspicious behavior, defense attorneys say there is no evidence to suggest that two men worked together to kill Melnyczok, the defense said.
Hyatt told jurors that the coroner who performed the autopsy will testify that he would expect to see additional indications that Melnyczok was held down, such as bruising on her arms.
Prosecutors played snippets of recorded phone calls they say catch Nelson and Kimsey in the act of plotting the crime - with Kimsey suggesting that Nelson pose as a customer to get access to her.
Nelson, whose attorneys argued that Kimsey was solely responsible for Melnyczok's murder, was convicted of all counts Feb. 14 by a panel that deliberated for less than two hours.
Even if Kimsey's jury concludes that Kimsey didn't participate in the attack, he could still be convicted of first-degree murder under Colorado's so-called felony murder statute. That law says that if someone dies as a result of a felony, anyone involved in the felony can be held responsible.
The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.
If convicted of the murder, Kimsey faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.