Editor's Note: The name of victim Corey Kemp was misspelled in this article. The Chronicle regrets the error.
A Wadley, Ga., man tried in Augusta for the stabbing deaths of two people, was convicted of multiple charges Friday and sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences, without the possibility of parole, plus 30 years.
The trial for Willie Kitchens, 33, was moved from Jefferson County to Richmond County because there were not enough potential jurors there.
At the end of a five-day trial, the Richmond County Superior Court jury deliberated for nearly two hours before finding Kitchens guilty of two counts of murder, two counts of false imprisonment, armed robbery, burglary and criminal attempt to commit rape in the June 23, 2011, slayings of 22-year-old Melanie Troupe and 33-year-old Corey Kemp.
When firefighters extinguished the fire set in the rural trailer home where Troupe lived with her grandmother and child, Kemp’s body was found in the living room and Troupe’s body was found in her bedroom. He had been stabbed 27 times. Troupe, whose hands were tied behind her back with a shoestring, was stabbed 39 times.
When Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents who were questioning all of Troupe’s neighbors got to Kitchens, he was trembling. Before they could ask a single question, he blurted out “You got the wrong man. I didn’t do it,” Assistant District Attorney Kelly Jenkins reminded the jury in her closing argument.
Kitchens was obsessed with Troupe but she didn’t want anything to do with him, witnesses testified during the trial. Kitchens was always watching her and the night of June 23, 2011, he watched as Troupe’s grandmother loaded up her vehicle and took Troupe’s baby on a trip, the prosecutor said.
Kitchens became enraged when he realized that Troupe was romantically involved with Kemp and not him, Jenkins said. He broke into her home that night and attacked the couple.
Kitchens left his shoe prints in the victims’ blood and trailed blood out the back door and through a briar patch as he ran home.
Along the way he dropped a child’s shirt soaked in the victims’ blood and a white rag with a small amount of his blood, Jenkins said. The next afternoon, Troupe’s wallet was found in Kitchens’ yard.
But defense attorney Tobe Karrh of the public defender’s officer attacked the case against Kitchens.
Law enforcement officers never found the murder weapon nor any of Kitchens’ tennis shoes that matched the prints in the house.
Kitchens wasn’t the only person seen wearing the shirt with Kemp’s blood on it, Karrh said.
There was no telling how long that white rag with Kitchens’ blood on it had been out in the woods, Karrh argued.
There was no evidence Kitchens was obsessed with Troupe and there was no physical evidence of rape, he said.
Harrh’s criticisms of the law enforcement in investigating the murders were meritless, District Attorney Hayward Altman told the jury.
But, he said, there was one aspect in which they had failed Troupe and Kemp – when there was no prosecution of Kitchens when he choked and beat a former girlfriend, a woman who told investigators after the murders that Kitchens had raped her after tying her hands behind her back.