LIBERTY — Gleason Pyles was replacing a sprocket on a conveyor system at Tarter Industries when he was confronted and tried to flee.
The first shot grazed Pyles’ head. Investigators found his hat with a bullet hole in it 60 feet from where he had been working.
The second shot went through Pyles’ left shoulder, leaving a trail of blood that started 40 feet from his hat.
About 50 feet farther on, the third and fatal shot went through the back of Pyles’ head. His body was found face down in the gravel in a parking lot at the pallet mill.
“The victim was running when he received that third shot,” Kentucky State Police Detective B.J. Burton testified Thursday in Casey District Court during a preliminary hearing for David Salyers.
Salyers is accused of complicity to murder for allegedly orchestrating Pyles’ death as payback for a debt Pyles owed to Salyers over membership in the Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club.
The fellow Iron Horsemen member accused of shooting Pyles and charged with his murder, William “Bobby” Rigdon, also had a preliminary hearing Thursday.
Salyers, 59, of Taylor County, and Rigdon, 28, of Lebanon, have pleaded not guilty and remain in the Casey County Detention Center under $1-million bonds after Judge Michael Loy denied requests to reduce their bail Thursday.
After the hearings, Loy determined there was enough probable cause to believe the men committed the crimes as alleged and handed up the cases to a Casey County grand jury, which next meets on Friday. Extra security was on hand in case of trouble between the families of Pyles, Salyers and Rigdon, but members of Rigdon’s and Salyers’ families sat together in the courtroom and no one from Pyles’ family attended the hearings.
Loy was presented with plenty of evidence to consider during the two hearings that were conducted back-to-back and lasted more than three hours.
Under questioning from County Attorney Tommy Weddle, Detective Burton testified that Salyers was immediately identified as a suspect when a trooper went to Pyles’ home in Adair County to notify his wife and family of his death. Tina Pyles and two of her sons told investigators that Gleason Pyles and Salyers had engaged in a running argument over money owed to Salyers and Pyles’ efforts to quit the outlaw motorcycle gang, Burton said. Family members said Salyers had twice pulled a gun and threatened to kill Pyles in the months leading up to his murder.
Burton said he later learned after interviewing Salyers that Pyles had joined the Iron Horsemen at Salyers’ invitation a year earlier. Salyers previously had belonged to the Horsemen in another state and wanted to rejoin their ranks, so he restarted the club’s defunct Frankfort chapter and made himself president, a position that required him to recruit five new members, Burton explained.
To entice Pyles to join, Salyers bought him an orange Harley Davidson motorcycle, club patches and other paraphernalia, and paid for gas, with the agreement that Pyles would repay him over time, the detective testified. When Pyles decided he wanted out of the gang, Salyers increased efforts to collect what Pyles owed him, reported to be various amounts up to $5,000.
Burton testified that Pyles also was upset with the manner in which Pyles had quit the club. Instead of turning in his patches and “colors” in person, as required by Horsemen bylaws, Pyles sent the paraphernalia to Salyers via someone who was not a full-fledged member of the gang.
A key piece of evidence was gathered when detectives obtained a surveillance video from the Crockett Trail store in Casey County, about 8 miles from the Tarter facility in Dunnville and 10 miles from Salyers’ home in the Elk Horn area of Taylor County, Burton said.
The video showed two men, later identified as Salyers and Rigdon, stopping at the store at 9:20 p.m. on Sept. 26, about 40 minutes before Pyles’ body was discovered.
The men bought five gallons of diesel fuel, a couple of sodas and $17 worth of beef jerky, which Salyers paid for with a $50 bill. Rigdon had either a handgun or large knife strapped to his side, the detective said.
About 11:30 p.m that day, Salyers’ truck was discovered burned alongside a road not far from his home. A passerby spotted flames in the interior of the unoccupied truck and removed burning wads of crumpled up paper before leaving the truck to drive to a hill where there was better cell phone reception to call 911. While making the call, the passerby heard what sounded like a loud motorcycle and returned to find the exterior of the truck, including the windshield, fully engulfed in flames, Burton testified. The next day, Salyers reported the truck stolen.
Under the guise of investigating the reportedly stolen and burned truck, Burton and fellow KSP Detective Ricky Brooks went to Salyers’ home, where they observed two handguns. They later brought Salyers to the Campbellsville police station, where Burton read him his rights and informed him he was suspect in Pyles’ murder.
Salyers initially denied involvement, Burton said, but after being confronted with the video from the store, he admitted he drove another man to Tarter’s and that the other man shot Pyles. He refused to identify the shooter, saying “I’m not a rat,” Burton testified.