47-year-old cold murder case trial to begin in November - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

47-year-old cold murder case trial to begin in November

JACKSON COUNTY, AR (KAIT) -

Oct 28, 2016 UPDATE:  Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce said motions for the James Ricks murder trial are scheduled for Nov 28. 

He said representatives with his office recently traveled to Delaware. 

Boyce said while there, they spoke with investigators and the FBI. 

He said they now have witnesses scheduled to fly in from Delaware to testify during the trial.


More than 47 years after his skeletal remains were found on a farm near Newport, police have finally made an arrest in the kidnapping and murder of James Ricks.

According to a news release from Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas, a man and his son found Ricks' remains on August 27, 1967, while walking in a rural area of the county.

An autopsy revealed Ricks had died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head, according to an affidavit submitted Monday by Lucas.

Two months before the discovery of Ricks' remains, police had arrested 20-year-old James Leon Clay and 25-year-old Leon Junior Clay, both of Ellicott, Maryland. At the time of their arrest, they were driving Ricks' 1964 Oldsmobile, which Ricks' brother reported missing along with his brother.

The 2 men were transported to Little Rock where they were arraigned, indicted and convicted by a federal jury for transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines.

James Leon Clay was also convicted of transporting a stolen firearm.

Neither was ever charged with the murder of James Ricks.

According to Lucas, while James Clay was in prison in 2012 for an attempted bank robbery he revealed to his cell mate that he had killed Ricks.

Clay told the cell mate he and his brother “robbed a pawn shop and stole some guns, jewelry and handcuffs,” the affidavit said.

When their car broke down they started walking down some railroad tracks until they found Ricks sleeping in his car, the court document said.

“At that time James Clay knocked on the window and startled Ricks,” the affidavit stated. “James Clay said that he shot Ricks through the glass in the side of his face, but that it did not kill him.”

Clay reportedly said they removed Ricks from the car, handcuffed him then placed him in the trunk of his car.

Clay told the cell mate they then drove around all night before ending up in Newport.

According to the court document, the Clays drove Ricks to a secluded area. At first they handcuffed him to a tree, but Clay said his brother told him they would face as much jail time for shooting him as they would if they shot him.

“Clay said that they took the handcuffs off of Ricks and told him that they would have someone come and get him,” the affidavit stated. Then Clay “walked behind James Ricks and shot him in the back of the head.”

On April 17, 2012, the cell mate contacted the FBI in Baltimore and relayed the story to agents.

Two years later, on Dec. 18, 2014, while wearing a recording device the cell mate had 2 conversations with James Clay.

During these conversations, according to the documents, Clay “again stated that he killed Ricks in Arkansas and did not get charged with murder.”

He also reportedly told the cell mate that if he had been charged with the murder, “he would have gotten the death penalty because Arkansas kills a lot of people.”

On Tuesday, March 10, police in Georgetown, Delaware arrested 67-year-old James Leon Clay on a warrant from the Jackson County Circuit Court for kidnapping and murder in the first degree.

He is currently being held in the Sussex County Correctional Institution in Delaware without bond. He is expected to appear before a judge for an extradition hearing this week.

“I am very pleased with the results of this investigation, which was a collaborative effort between the Jackson County Sheriff's Office; the Federal Bureau of Investigations Little Rock and Baltimore Field Offices; the Georgetown, Delaware Police Department; and the Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney's Office,” Lucas said. “It has allowed us to give the family of Mr. Ricks some closure after 47 years.”

Copyright 2015 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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