Brother now charged with the death of veterinarian Emily Champion and their parents
Ryan Champion faces four capital murder charges for the deaths of his family and the initial suspect, as well as one count of kidnapping.
Ryan Champion, brother of murdered veterinarian Emily Champion, has been charged with four counts of capital murder in the deaths of Emily, their parents and Vito Riservato, the initial first suspect in the case, who was found shot to death at the scene along with the other victims.
Ryan ChampionTrooper Jay Thomas of the Kentucky State Police indicated days after the murder, which took place in the elder Champions' Cadiz, Kentucky, home on Oct. 26, that detectives believed Ryan Champion knew Riservato longer than the brief encounter he told the media.
Champion, 36, was quick to take to Facebook and the media after his sister and parents were murdered that Sunday morning. He recounted to WSMV Nashville that he was "able to turn the tables" and overpower Riservato, making him the sole survivor of the encounter. It seems Kentucky State Police have now turned the tables on Champion. Along with with the capital murder counts, Champion was also charged with one count of capital kidnapping. Local reports indicate that the kidnapping charge involved his sister, though Thomas would not confirm that at press time.
Because the investigation was ongoing, Thomas would not discuss any details of the case. He did credit the diligent work of detectives-interviews, attention to statements made the day of the murders and the collection of evidence on scene-with Champion's arrest Oct. 31. There is enough evidence against Champion that Kentucky attorney G.L. Ovey said in an arraignment Nov. 3 in district court that the state would seek the death penalty in the case.
Champion told local media outlets that he and his sister were home visiting their parents. He said Emily, who worked at Baronne Veterinary Clinic Equine Medical and Surgical Facility in Sunset, Louisiana, was spending time there before starting a new job in November. But details of what actually happened are still sketchy. Initial accounts indicated that Riservato restrained Champion and his sister during the attack, and their parents returned home while the attack was happening.
Champion told WSMV, "He got close enough to me that I could turn the tables and that was it. Every minute the entire thing was going on, that's all I was waiting for. I was waiting for an opportunity." Champion was unharmed in the incident.
After Champion took to the media the day after the incident, a roommate of Riservato felt compelled to speak up as well. Ariel Lower, who introduced herself to WSMV as a longtime friend of Riservato, shared a home in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, with Riservato, his 1-year-old son and six other roommates. She contradicted Champion's statements, saying Champion and Riservato had known each other for years.
Lower told the NBC affiliate that she could tell something was wrong with Riservato the morning of the murders. She said he had been let go from his job and for the past three weeks had been struggling to provide for his son. He had mentioned he was on call for a welding or molding job in Cadiz. Lower also shared that more than a week earlier, Riservato told her someone had approached him about killing someone for what she called an "extreme" amount of money. Champion's arrest now makes Riservato both victim and suspect.
Champion was processed at the Christian County Detention Center on a $1 million bond Friday as the community prepared for his family's joint funeral Nov. 2 at Trigg County High School.
Champion was the notable absence as hundreds of people filled the school gymnasium for the funeral. "They were very well known," Thomas says of the Champion family. "There was a very large turnout for the funeral." Lindsey Champion, 62, had spent 38 years working for Farm Credit Services in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and served as an elder, lay speaker and Sunday School teacher at Cadiz Church of Christ. His wife, Joy, 60, was a teacher at Trigg County Elementary for more than 30 years and taught Sunday School at Cadiz Church of Christ. Emily Champion, 31, was a veterinarian practicing in Louisiana who specialized in equine medicine. She graduated from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008.
A grand jury was scheduled to hear the state's case against Ryan Champion on Nov. 12. If the grand jury indicts Champion, a preliminary hearing would be scheduled the following day. It may take at least a year for the case to go to trial.