Michael Rimmer set for April 7 execution Feb 4, 2009 3:57:38 GMT -5
Post by mr dio on Feb 4, 2009 3:57:38 GMT -5
The State of Tennessee has scheduled Michael Rimmer to be executed April 7 , 2009
Michael Rimmer, was convicted of one count of premeditated murder, one count of
aggravated robbery, and one count of theft of property. In the penalty phase of the trial, the jury
imposed a sentence of death for the first degree murder.
During the middle 1980’s, the Defendant had an on-again-off-again romantic relationship
with the victim. They started dating sometime after the victim obtained a divorce in 1977 from her
first husband, Donald Eugene Ellsworth, by whom she had two children. At the time, the victim was apparently struggling with a drinking problem and Ellsworth was experiencing drug problems.
Later, after his relationship with the victim had come to an end, the Defendant was indicted for the
aggravated assault and rape of the victim and the first degree burglary of her residence. In 1989, he
entered pleas of guilt to each charge and was sentenced to the Department of Correction.
During his incarceration, the victim often accompanied the Defendant’s mother, Sandra
Rimmer, on visits to the prison. Because the victim participated in a religious program that
ministered to inmates from about 1988 to 1992, she saw the Defendant regularly. According to the
Defendant’s mother, the victim and the Defendant displayed an affection for each other during the
prison visits. Despite this purported renewal of their relationship, however, there was evidence that
during this period of time, the Defendant informed two inmates, Roger LeScure and William
Conaley, of his desire to kill the victim upon his release from the prison. He even described to
LeScure how he intended to dispose of her body. The Defendant explained to the inmates that he
blamed the victim for his incarceration and was entitled to money from her.
The Defendant was released by the Department of Correction in October of 1996 and began
work at an auto body repair shop in Memphis. By that time, the victim, who was employed as a
night auditor at the Memphis Inn, had remarried Donald Ellsworth and had experienced some
success in controlling her alcohol problems.
On February 7, 1997, the victim was scheduled to begin her shift at 11:00 p.m. Her husband
awakened her and kissed her goodbye. She drove to the hotel in her 1989 Dodge Dynasty. The only
access to her office was through a door, which was locked, or through a small opening in the glass
security window. Several hotel guests saw the victim at her office desk between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m.
Before 2:00 a.m., one of the guests noticed a “dark-maroonish brown” car that had been backed into
an area near the hotel entrance. Although it was raining at the time, the trunk was open.
At about 2:30 a.m., Raymond Summers, a railroad supervisor with CSX Transportation,
drove to the hotel when the management service was unable to make telephone contact with a work
crew, which was staying there overnight. Because no one was at the front desk, Summers entered
the office area. When he heard the sound of water running in the office restroom, he looked inside
and discovered blood splatters on the sink, the wall, the toilet bowl, and some towels. He reported
his findings to Shelby County officers who were leaving a nearby Denny’s Restaurant. The officers
notified Linda Spencer, the hotel manager, who lived on the premises. When they investigated, they
discovered signs of a struggle in the office area. There were “puddles” of blood throughout the
restroom. The sink was cracked, and the lid had been ripped off the commode. Police found the
victim’s purse. There was a trail of blood approximately thirty-nine feet long that led from the
restroom, through the equipment room, office, reception area, and to the vending space. The trail
ended on the curb outside the night entrance, indicating that the victim may have been dragged from
the restroom to the curb. Some $600 in cash was missing from the register, and three sets of sheets
had been taken from the equipment room. Officer Robert Moore of the Memphis Police found a
green cigarette lighter under a bloody towel and discovered the victim’s gold ring between the office and the bathroom.
Sergeant Robert Shemwell of the homicide department testified that during the investigation
the police questioned Richard Rimmer, the Defendant’s brother, and Richard Rimmer’s exgirlfriend,
Joyce Frazier. According to Sergeant Shemwell, the Defendant appeared at his brother’s
house during the morning hours after the murder. The Defendant’s car was muddy and so were his
shoes. The back seat of the car appeared to be wet. There was a shovel inside. The Defendant had
asked Richard Rimmer, who was a carpet cleaner, if he knew how to get blood out of carpet.
Richard Rimmer admitted that sometime after he had learned of the victim’s disappearance, he
disposed of the shovel in a dumpster.
The police learned that the Defendant left Memphis without taking the last paycheck he was
due from his employer. He gave no notice of his departure. He also left without taking his work
tools or the clothing he had stored in the room he occupied.
On March 5, 1997, Michael Adams, a Johnson County, Indiana deputy, stopped the
Defendant, checked the license plate number on the Honda, and determined that the vehicle had been
reported as stolen in early January. The Defendant was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle
and public intoxication. He registered .06 on a blood-alcohol test. A receipt in the vehicle indicated
that the Defendant was in Myrtle, Mississippi on the day after the victim’s disappearance. Receipts
from Florida, Missouri, Wyoming, Montana, California, Arizona, and Texas with dates ranging from
February 13, five days after the police were alerted of the crime, to March 3, 1997, two days before
the Defendant’s arrest, were found in the vehicle.
There were blood stains on the carpet and on a seat belt in the back seat of the Honda.
Subsequent testing of the stains in the car revealed that the DNA from the blood was consistent with
the bloodline of the victim’s mother, Marjorie Floyd, who lived in Florence, Alabama. It was also
consistent with the blood type of the victim, as compared through a sample previously taken from
a pap smear. Frank Baetchel, the FBI forensic expert who performed the tests, also examined a
bloody hotel towel found at the Memphis Inn, concluding that the blood sample matched the stains
found inside the Honda.
According to Sergeant Shemwell, the Defendant attempted to escape from Indiana authorities
on at least two different occasions. Initially, they caught him trying to cut through a fence with nail
clippers. Afterward, the officers there found two home-made shanks that he had made in his cell.
While in route to Tennessee, the Defendant attempted to escape a second time, gaining control of
the extradition van, which included three other inmates, and driving four hours before finally being
apprehended by the authorities. A third attempt took place at the Shelby County Jail.
During the course of the investigation, the police had explored numerous leads. One report
indicated that between 1:45 and 2:00 a.m., James Darnell, along with Dixie Roberts, saw two white
males at the Memphis Inn. It was dark and the weather was rainy. He said that both men had blood
on their knuckles and appeared to have been fighting. Darnell told officers that one of the men, who
he believed to be a clerk, was behind the hotel window and appeared to be giving change to the
other. Darnell inferred that the clerk was trying to get the other man, who was “very drunk,” to leave. Darnell also saw a dark-colored car “backed in front of the night entrance.” Darnell, when
shown a photographic line-up, was unable to identify the Defendant as one of the two men. Two
composite drawings were made of these individuals, based on Darnell’s descriptions. This evidence
was not presented to the guilt-phase jury. Although Darnell’s testimony was presented at the
resentencing hearing through Officer Shemwell, the composite drawings were not.
The Defendant’s mother, Sandra Rimmer, testified on his behalf, confirming that the victim
had visited the Defendant while he was in prison. She claimed that the Defendant was innocent of
the rape charge and contended that the victim admitted fabricating her claims, saying that her
boyfriend at the time, Tommy Voyles, was pushing her to file the charges. Ms. Rimmer also testified
that the victim sent photographs to the Defendant while he was in prison and “acted like” his
girlfriend. Prison records indicated that the victim ceased visitation with the Defendant after her
remarriage to Donald Ellsworth.
The defense also presented testimony by a sociologist and mitigation specialist, Dr. Ann
Marie Charvat, who had interviewed the Defendant and had conducted a study of his background.
She testified that she had learned that the Defendant’s parents married very young and then had three
children in quick succession, the Defendant being the middle child. Thereafter, the family moved
from Memphis to Houston, where the father was arrested for a minor offense and placed on
probation, and then to Indianapolis, where the parents divorced. Later, the parents remarried and
returned with the children to the Memphis area. The father worked for the city government and,
when the mother left the residence to work full-time, the Defendant, at age eleven, first began to
exhibit behavioral problems at school. The Defendant was a “C” student but, according to the
mitigation expert, would have benefitted from special education classes. Dr. Charvat testified that
the Defendant was hospitalized as an adolescent during a time his father was being treated for mental
illness. Afterward, the Defendant was hospitalized on at least two other occasions, one of which was
the direct result of his involvement with an older woman, possibly a teacher. The Defendant dropped
out of school in the ninth grade and began working at a gas station and in his father’s shop.
At eighteen, the Defendant was arrested and served a prison sentence. Although the incident
came about when he and some friends attempted to purchase some marijuana, he was the only one
involved to serve a term in prison. The others received jail terms or probationary sentences. Dr.
Charvat learned that while the Defendant was in prison, he met an inmate, Jimmy Watson, who had
a relationship with the victim, Ricci Ellsworth. When the couple broke up, the Defendant became
involved with the victim. Upon his release from prison, he lived with the victim and her children,
describing this period as the happiest time in his life. Dr. Charvat also understood that the Defendant
resumed his relationship with the victim, through prison visits, even after he had entered his guilty
pleas to the burglary and to her assault and rape. The names of the victim’s two children also were
on the prison visitation list.
Barbara Dycus, a prison minister at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, testified that the
victim was engaged to the Defendant in 1993, a year before she remarried Donald Ellsworth. She
stated that the Defendant played music, wrote gospel songs, and sang during their religious services. Thomas Mach, another prison minister, confirmed that the Defendant had encouraged other inmates
to participate in the various programs, including Bible study. During his testimony and in response
to a question posed by defense counsel, Mach mentioned that he had met the Defendant on “death
row.” Defense counsel repeated the term during direct examination. Mach made two more
references to “death row” in the context of when he met the Defendant. After weighing evidence from both sides, the jury returned a sentence of death. The sole
aggravating factor was the presence of prior felony convictions with statutory elements involving
the use of violence to the person. The jury concluded that this aggravating factor outweighed all