“I want to know how you just kidnapped me and brought me here?” defendant Darnel Chivers asked Whitley Circuit Judge Paul Winchester during his arraignment Thursday morning in connection with the 2017 triple homicide of a local family.
On May 20, 2019, a Whitley County Grand Jury indicted Chivers, 39, and Anthony Hester, 34, both of Indianapolis, on three counts of murder in the strangulation deaths of Robert Mack “Little Man” Kennedy III, who had just turned 16 years old; his mother, Emogene Ormae Bittner, 36; and her husband and Kennedy’s stepfather, Christopher Michael Bittner, 24, who were all found dead on Sept. 13, 2017, at a 1602 Deep Branch Road residence.
The killings are believed to have taken place on Sept 11 or 12, 2017, and drug involvement is suspected as a partial motive in the case, Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said previously.
The grand jury also indicted Chivers and Hester for first-degree burglary, and tampering with physical evidence in the case.
Jeremy Hatfield, who is a co-defendant in the case and is also from Indianapolis, was indicted in March on three counts of murder, first-degree burglary, tampering with physical evidence, receiving stolen property-firearm and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon in connection with the case.
Both Chivers and Hester were arraigned separately in Whitley Circuit Court Thursday morning, and both appeared in court wearing handcuffs and leg irons.
When Winchester offered to appoint the public advocate’s office to represent Chivers, Chivers replied, “I don’t want an attorney.”
He went on to say, “I ain’t been provided with any paperwork. I have been kidnapped and brought here.”
Winchester appointed the public advocate’s office to represent Chivers anyway, and entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Public advocate Caleb Pittman noted that because he had been appointed to represent Hester, who was arraigned first, he would have to get a conflict attorney from another office to represent Chivers.
During arraignments Thursday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Bowling formerly entered motions to seek the death penalty against both Chivers and Hester.
Bowling asked that both defendants be held without bond in part because prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
“I think it’s appropriate at this time,” Winchester noted during Chivers’ arraignment.
Bowling noted that he also had filed a motion to have Chivers held in contempt of court because he would not give law enforcement officers a DNA sample, despite being ordered by a different judge to do.
When Bird and ATF Special Agent Todd Tremaine, who investigated the case, went to obtain a DNA swab from Chivers, he refused to comply and the officers opted not to press the matter at that time and seek an additional order from the court, Bowling said.
Bowling said that the DNA sample is necessary so the ATF forensic lab can compare Chivers’ DNA to DNA found at the crime scene.
Bowling cited various legal precedents that allow DNA to be obtained from a suspect, and noted that there is no legal precedent for a defendant to deny such a request.
He asked for a court order allowing officers to use force, if necessary, to obtain either a blood, hair or saliva sample from Chivers.
Chivers said he opposes this, and that his DNA had been “stolen” from him in federal court.
Bowling replied that if this had been the case, he wouldn’t be filing his motion to obtain Chivers’ DNA.
Pittman noted that he felt Chivers needed a conflict free attorney to argue on Chivers’s behalf, and Winchester scheduled a July 25 hearing to hear arguments just on the issue of allowing law enforcement to obtain Chivers’ DNA by force.
Bowling said that he would ask for the contempt of court motion to be taken up at a later time, which could potentially deny Chivers’ credit for some of his time served prior to trial towards his sentence if he is convicted.
By contrast, Hester’s arraignment, which was done first, went smoothly with him replying, “No sir,” to Winchester’s question about whether he had an attorney.
Winchester appointed the public advocate’s office to represent Hester, and Pittman waived formal arraignment and entered a not guilty plea on Hester’s behalf.
Winchester has scheduled a pretrial conference in both men’s cases for Sept. 17.
Hatfield, who was arraigned previously, already has a Sept. 17 pretrial conference scheduled in his case.
Prosecutors aren’t seeking the death penalty against Hatfield, who has cooperated with investigators. He is being held in jail in lieu of a $1 million cash bond.
The case went unsolved for more than a year. At the request of the victim’s family Williamsburg police started investigating the case in July 2018 and made three arrests in late January 2019 in connection to the case.
Shortly before 5 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2017, Kathy Faulkner, Emogene’s mother, called 911 reporting that she had found her daughter dead at the residence.
Faulkner owned the residence but her daughter, grandson and son-in-law had been staying there while she was away from home.
Kathy Faulkner found Emogene with a bag over her head inside the house. The other two victims were found outside the house.
“It looks like they put a bag over her head. Oh, my God!” Kathy Faulkner told a dispatcher during a 911 call. “I have been having some problems out of some guys in Indiana, but I think that they put them in jail or something. I don’t know.”
Kathy Faulkner first met Chivers in 2012 or 2013 while he was serving time for another offense. The two began dating after Chivers was paroled in 2016, Bird said.
In connection with the 2017 murder investigation, Hester was also indicted on Feb. 28, 2019, on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for having a Colt. 38 revolver in Whitley County on Aug. 17, 2017.
Hester had been scheduled to stand trial on June 18, but instead his attorney filed a motion on June 4 to have him re-arraigned on the charge.
The motion notes that Hester plans to withdraw his previous not guilty plea and enter a guilty plea to the single count indictment pursuant to a written plea agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office.
The re-arraignment in the case is scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 9 in U.S. District Court in London.
Hester faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release, according to his indictment.
If it is determined that he has three prior violent or serious drug offenses, then he could face at least 15 years imprisonment, according to his indictment.
Chivers was indicted on Jan. 24, 2019, in U.S. District Court on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for allegedly having a Hi-Point Luger C9 9mm caliber pistol in his possession on May 20, 2017, in Laurel County, according to his indictment.
He is currently scheduled to stand trial Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court in London.
If convicted, he faces the same penalties as Hester.