For 19 years, the cold case of two murdered prostitutes sat in an Oak Grove, Kentucky police station. Now, a seven-year investigation by the Kentucky State Police has resulted in the charging of 3 men, including 2 ex-police officers, one of which was the lead detective on the case.
“I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think there are more arrests coming,” said Dan Potter, who wasn’t mayor when the killings occurred in 1994, “Wouldn’t the other police officers know?”
One of the former accused officers is Leslie Duncan, 50, who is currently serving a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to tampering with physical evidence in the case. He was the original lead detective on the cold case. The other former officer is Edward Carter, 43 and the other accused man, who was never a police officer, is Frank Black Jr., 39. Black’s father said he believes his son is innocent and isn’t sure how his son came to be associated with the two accused officers, if he knew them at all.
Duncan’s attorney, Stephanie Ritchie, said his client “maintains his innocence and denies being involved in the murders or intentionally doing anything to cover up or conceal the identities of the murderer or murderers…Mr. Duncan pled guilty in September of this year as a result of his mishandling of the police investigation immediately following the murders in 1994. He expressed remorse and regret to the victims’ families and to the court for his inadequacies as a young inexperienced detective with too much responsibility on his shoulders.”
The men are accused of killing Candida Belt, 22, and Gloria Ross, 18, who both worked as prostitutes in 1994 at the New Life Massage Parlor, according to authorities. Belt and Ross were shot in the head and their throats slashed.
Three years after the murders, then-Councilwoman Patty Balew announced that she had worked as a prostitute at the massage parlor and that they were instructed to give police discounted or free “favors.”
Batew told CNN in 1997, “If they were police officers, that’s what we had to do whether we wanted to or not, which we didn’t like.”
That same year, the parlor’s madam, Tammy Papler, interrupted a city council meeting and accused the police of extortion and murder, in relation to the deaths of Belt and Ross,
“They weren’t getting any more money from us, and they knew we had stuff on them. The only way to keep us quiet is to kill the girls…”
Papler made further accusations to CNN, “I did what they told me to do. If they needed new police lights, I bought new police lights. If they needed birthday money, I gave them birthday money. If they needed money for a trailer to be moved…basically anything they told me they needed, I gave them the money…” Around the same time as Papler’s accusations, the Christian County sheriff’s department admitted that the crime scene had been compromised by police and then-Sheriff Thomas Scillian publicly stated that Carter was a suspect because he had been at the scene 30 minutes before the murders.
In 1998, four years after the murders, Ross’ husband and her two children won a lawsuit against Tammy Papler and her husband, Ronnie, who owned the massage parlor business. The court issued a default judgment in their favor because the Paplers failed to respond or defend against the accusations.