LIBERTY — A judge denied bond reduction requests for two of the men charged in the murder of Gleason Pyles, in part because of concern that their connections to an outlaw motorcycle gang would allow them to be spirited away and avoid prosecution if they were released from custody.
David Salyers and William Bobby Rigdon were sent back to jail under $1 million bonds after Casey Circuit Judge Judy Vance rejected their requests to have their bonds reduced, saying she believed they are a flight risk.
Both men have been held in the Casey County Detention Center since September, where they were charged in the death of Pyles, who was shot three times as he worked alone at a pallet mill owned by Tarter Gate Co. in Dunnville.
Salyers, 58, of Taylor County, is charged with complicity to murder Pyles. Police say he wanted Pyles dead because Pyles owed him money for a motorcycle and Salyers was also displeased with the manner Pyles quit the Iron Horsemen motorcycle gang, of which Salyers was president of the local chapter.
Rigdon, 24, of Lebanon, is charged with murder. Police say Salyers brought Rigdon to the pallet mill the night of Sept. 26 and Rigdon shot Pyles three times, including a fatal bullet to the back of the head as Pyles was trying to flee. Salyers had recruited Rigdon into the Iron Horsemen not long before the shooting, authorities said.
In making his case for Rigdon’s bond reduction, public defender Shelby Horn called Rigdon’s wife, Faith Rigdon, to testify. Faith Rigdon testified that she is enduring a complicated pregnancy while raising three other children on food stamps.
“Bobby has been the sole supporter of the whole family,” she said.
Horn asked Vance to reduce his client’s bond to $50,000.
“Certainly, $1 million is the same as no bond for Mr. Rigdon. I don’t know if he could make $50,000,” Horn said.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Gail Williams argued against Rigdon being released for several reasons. He has an extensive criminal record and “appears to be a very dangerous person,” and was out on bond from a charge in Taylor County when Pyles was murdered, the prosecutor said. Plus, the Iron Horsemen are an international gang known to provide refuge for members who are on the lam from authorities, he said.
“We believe if he makes bond we would never see him again,” Williams said.
Vance, who was elected in November and is presiding over her first big case, said she had given the matter careful consideration but would not reduce Rigdon’s bond, citing the concerns expressed by Williams.
After his request was denied, Rigdon extended two middle fingers to a photographer as he was being led from the courtroom, telling him “to put that in your camera, bud.” He also could be heard yelling in the corridors outside the courtroom as he was returned to jail.
Things got a bit testy during Salyers’ hearing, with both defense attorney Ted Lavit and Williams accusing each others’ witnesses of lying on the stand.
Lavit, an experienced attorney from Lebanon who was hired by Salyers, was especially aggressive in his cross examination of Kentucky State Police Detective B.J. Burton. Lavit contended that Burton was less than honest in his account of a recorded telephone conversation from the jail between Salyers and his wife during which they discussed going to Mexico, suggesting the couple planned to flee there if Salyers made bond. Nothing in the conversation suggested Salyers planned to go to Mexico to avoid prosecution, Lavit said, it was just a talk between a long-married couple dreaming of celebrating with a vacation after the case was over.
In turn, Williams said Ruth Salyers was lying when she testifie she and her husband talked of going to Mexico to celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary on Feb. 13 if Salyers was able to make a reduced bond. They would return afterward for the trial, Ruth Salyers said.
Ruth Salyers, along with son Derrick Salyers, has been charged with tampering with evidence related to Pyles’ murder and both are free after posting $15,000 bonds. Police allege that Ruth and Derrick Sanders removed a pistol, possibly the murder weapon, from Salyers’ home before police executed a search warrant there.
Salyers’ brother-in-law, Anthony Byrd, is also under indictment for criminal facilitation in Pyles’ murder. Byrd worked at Tarter Gate as Pyles’ supervisor and police said he told Salyers that Pyles would be working alone on the night he was gunned down.
Police continue to investigate and more arrests are expected.
Burton said he believes Salyers would go to Mexico and never come back if given the opportunity. The detective also said Salyers has deep connections within the Iron Horsemen, a group he has belonged to, off and on, since the early 1970s.
On the night of Pyles’ murder, Salyers received text messages from a former national president of the motorcycle gang and a former national “enforcer” for the club, Burton said without discussing the contents of those messages.
Lavit said Salyers owns between 200 and 300 acres in Taylor County and could post a $200,000 property bond. He has never been convicted of a felony, has several health issues and helps his wife look after three grandchildren who were abandoned by their father, the attorney told Vance in arguing for a reduced bond. It was to no avail.
“He has the financial ability and the motivation to flee,” the judge remarked. “He’s been in that club longer than I’ve been alive.”
Afterward, Lavit said he doesn’t expect Salyers to accept any plea offer that doesn’t set him free and that he will be pushing for a speedy trial. Lavit said he hopes the case will come to trial before the end of the year.