At 26, Patricia Gail Blakley was a beautiful young lady who was beginning to believe she’d never find love. Her parents divorce a few years earlier had done nothing to reassure her and her devout faith was a turn off to some men, limiting her choices even more.
Then she met Ted Kimble, a handsome Baptist preacher’s son. When she first met Ted, he was dating her cousin Janet Blakley but the relationship didn’t last long after Ted laid eyes on Patricia.
The courtship was everything Patricia dreamed of. Ted was doting and kind and, like her, he wanted a home and children. And Ted was an ambitious young man, he would be an excellent provider. Shortly after the first anniversary of when they began dating, Ted proposed to Patricia who answered with a resounding yes.
As Patricia walked down the aisle of Monnett Road Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden, North Carolina, on May 7, 1994, she had no way of knowing that the man she was about to marry had a very dark side; a side that allowed him to love no one but himself and an evilness that made murder justifiable for financial gain.
No, Patricia didn’t know behind the beautiful face of the man she was vowing to love forever was something more sinister.
Or that her promise of “till death we part,” would come much sooner than she ever expected.
Death of a Wife, Daughter, Sister-in-Law, Friend
It was nearing 8:30 p.m. on October 9, 1995, when the first calls came in about the fire at 2104 Brandon Station Court.
Reuben Blakley’s (Patricia’s brother) wife, Tricia, rushed to her father-in-law’s, Richard Blakley, house and told him he needed to come with her. There was an emergency at Ted and Patricia’s house.
When the arrived at the sole house on the cul-de-sac, ithe scene was already chaotic with emergency personnel and the pair could do nothing but stand-by and wait for more information.
Suddenly a fireman shouted, “We have a body!” Richard and Tricia now waited for confirmation of their worst fear: that it was Patricia’s body and she was dead.
With tears in their eyes and a shattered heart in their chests, Tricia and Richard left the scene; the heavy burden of notifying Sheila Blakley, Patricia’s mother, and Reuben about the fire that so crudely ripped Patricia from their lives.
But things aren’t as they always appear, and soon the news would become more devastating than they could have ever imagined.
Arson and Murder
When the fire was finally extinguished, a cursory glance by firefighters showed a clear burn path directly to one area of the home; the area where Patricia’s body had laid. Investigators were certain that an autopsy would reveal Patricia was dead before the fire, and they weren’t wrong. Patricia had actually died of a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
So would murder this well-liked woman who seemingly had no enemies? Her husband had an alibi; he was at work. Her parents, brother, and sister-in-law were devastated by their loss, plus they too had alibis. Patricia’s brother-in-law, Ronnie Lee Kimble, was in the Marines but home on leave; but he claimed to be at his brother’s business at the estimated time of Patricia’s death.
Investigators then turned to the two break-ins that had occured at the Kimble residence in the last couple of years. The earliest burglary had occurred before the Kimbles’ marriage and remained unsolved. The second one had resulted in the arrest of a man who, when investigators checked, was behind bars at the time of the murder; eliminating him as a suspect.
Detectives were stumped. Was the homicide of Patricia Blakley destined for the cold case files?
The Devil Inside
It started with a phone call to the Greensboro, North Carolina, crime tips hotline. A young woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told detectives that Patricia Kimble had told her only days before her death that she feared her husband was going to kill her.
“Why?,” they asked. The tipster responded that Ted had forged Patricia’s signature on a second life insurance policy after she had refused to sign herself. A call to the couples’ insurance agent proved this to be a good lead.
Then a second young lady would come forward. She was a member of the church Ted and Patricia attended and she was disgusted and outraged that Ted was dating again – only ten days after the murder of his wife!
And there was the matter of Ted’s having Patricia cremated that had shocked her family to their core, but Ted had insisted it was her departing wish.
While most people would agree these things, especially when combined, are indicative of a motive for murder, homicide investigators knew it wasn’t proof enough to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. A greedy Casanova does not a killer make.
Ted had been dodging an interview with police since the night of wife’s death, using a variety of excuses such as the funeral and his business. But after the two tips, police decided it was time for Ted to start talking so they visited him at his store: Lyles Business Supply.
Time was all smiles and apologies when the investigators met him outside the store, but he quickly turned stone-cold when they confronted him with the information about a forged insurance policy. With a little further prompting, Ted admitted to having signed the document but, according to him, only because he didn’t want to hassle Patricia with doing so.
Soon after their conversation, the detectives decided to speak with Ted’s brother Ronnie Lee Kimble, Jr. Stationed at Camp Leejune, North Carolina, investigators first spoke with Ronnie in a busy reception area on base. During the conversation, the detective found it strange that during certain questions, especially as pertained to the time and manner of Patricia’s death, Ronnie would respond by saying, “Who would want to do this to Patricia?”
Ronnie Lee was a weird young man and warranted further investigation. In doing so, police learned that Ted had always been the favorite son while Ronnie, considered learning disabled although not mentally challenged, had been the underdog of the family. Several people also claimed that Ted very controlling of Ronnie, calling the shots for his brother when it came to major decisions.
The question became, just how much control did Ted have over Ronnie? Was he capable of forcing his brother to commit murder?
A Terrifying Confession
Investigators recognized Ronnie was the weak link in this murder mystery and continued to make contact with the young Marine, hoping that he would eventually confess to something, anything that would bring justice for Patricia.
In the meantime, 32 reports of theft from construction sites were becoming more frequent and police suspected it was the work of one group of individuals. One of the names that came up in their investigation was that of Michael Melton, an employee of Ted Kimble.
Just as police were ready to lean on Melton about his boss, using the thefts as leverage, an incredible call would come from an unlikely source: attorney Jerry Falwell, Jr., the son of the well-known Reverend Jerry Falwell.
Homicide detectives made a mad dash to the attorney’s office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Upon their arrival, they were introduced to Mitch Wheeler and his wife, Debra, who had an incredible story to tell police.
According to Mitch, a student of ministry at the university, had known Ronnie Kimble when they were fellow soldiers at Camp Lejeune. He and Ronnie had remained in contact and he wasn’t too surprised when Ronnie asked if he could visit Mitch and his family and take a tour of the campus because he was planning to become a preacher, like his own father, after his time in the Marines was over.
Shortly after Ronnie and his wife Kimberly Kimble arrived, she learned that detectives had again contacted her parents with questions about the murder. At hearing this, Ronnie literally fell to the floor, screaming and kicking his feet; described as a child-like tantrum. After a few moments, Ronnie gathered himself and the couples went out to dinner. Mitch and Debra, although bothered by the outburst, tried to put it aside and enjoy the evening, but Ronnie remained distant throughout the meal and the drive home.
Back at the Wheeler residence, Ronnie could not seem to let go of the fact that investigators were making inquiries to his wife’s family about Patricia’s death. Mitch tried to counsel his friend, but Ronnie seemed to only come more distressed.
Suddenly, Mitch told police, Ronnie blurted out, “I did it Mitch. I killed her. I killed Patricia.” Stunned, Mike recovered and asked, “Why, Ronnie?” The answer sent shivers through the soon-to-be minister when Ronnie coldly responded, “Because my brother paid me to do it.”
Mitch recounted how he tried to convince Ronnie to turn himself, but his friend insisted that he would die before he did so.
Terrified and uncertain what his next move should be, Mitch stayed awake all night. He was relieved when he heard Ronnie and Kimberly slip out quietly the next morning. By then, he’d decided he had to tell someone.
And that’s how Mitch Wheeler came to be in the office of Dr. Jerry Falwell and the key to blowing a murder investigation wide open.
Life for Life Insurance
When confronted, Mike Melton rolled on his employer about the thefts and information he had related to Patricia’s murder; as did Ted’s friend, Eric Thompson who had participated in the robberies but was afraid, even after struggling mightly with his conscience, after Ted threatened to kill him, saying he’d gotten away with it over a year while looking at a photo of Patricia.
On April 1, 1997 – almost exactly one year and six months from the night his wife died – Ted Kimble was arrested in a well-organized take-down. Ronnie Kimble Jr. was arrested simultaneously by military police at Camp Lejeune.
In August 1998, after a six week trial, Ronnie was found guilty of the murder of his sister-in-law and arson. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Ronnie’s appeals were exhausted in 2000. He is currently incarcerated at Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville, North Carolina.
After seeing the outcome of his brother’s trial, in January 1998, Ted entered a guilty to plea to the murder charges. But a week before his sentencing, he tried to reverse his plea against the advice of his attorneys. In March 1998, the judge denied his efforts and was sentenced to 107 years behind bars. Prison has done nothing to humble Ted, who is housed at Scotland Prison in Laurinburg, North Carolina, and he has racked up 14 infractions since his incarcerations for weapon possession, theft, escape, fighting and other minor indiscretions. Despite it all, Ted will be eligible to apply for parole in February 2012.
Patricia never got a second chance at freedom. She never got to hug her family good-bye. Justice will never be served unless this two-faced Prince Charming dies still caged like the wild animal he is.
Please, if you believe Ted Kimble should remain behind bars, take a moment to email the North Carolina Parole Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can snail mail your hard-copy letters to the following address:
North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission
4222 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4222