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Craig Titus & Kelly Ryan Investigation » Blog Archive » Bodybuilder’s attorney to seek taxpayers’ help

Bodybuilder’s attorney to seek taxpayers’ help

Public money would pay experts to testify at murder trial
By: Glenn Puit | Las Vegas Review Journal

Article from: The Las Vegas Review Journal

kelly ryan

craig titus
Craig Titus, above, appears in District Court on Thursday for a pretrial hearing to discuss preparation for the murder trial of him and his wife, Kelly Ryan, below, who also appeared. Authorities are discussing the possibility of delaying the trial, and Titus’ defense attorney is seeking court funds to help pay for the couple’s legal defense. Photos By: Gary Thompson.

The main reporter covering the Titus/Ryan case brings us another story. The main things we took from the article are that Titus and Ryan are in need of money and that the trial could be delayed.

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At one point in their fitness careers, Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan seemed to be well-off financially.

The nationally known bodybuilder and his fitness champion wife each was the beneficiary of lucrative endorsement contracts with major fitness supplement companies, and they also owned three homes in different areas of Las Vegas.

But now, a little more than a year after being charged with killing their personal assistant, they appear to be broke.

Titus’ defense attorney revealed Thursday that he plans to ask a judge to give him taxpayer funds to help pay for a portion of his client’s legal defense.

The attorney, Marc Saggese, said he needs the money from District Court to hire a forensic toxicologist, a forensic pathologist, an addiction expert and a psychologist for Titus’ upcoming murder trial.

He said the expert testimony is being secured as part of an effort to prove that the victim in the case, Melissa James, died of a drug overdose and not murder.

Saggese estimates that the bill for the experts will approach $50,000. He told District Judge Jackie Glass that he will need help from the court to pay at least a portion of the bill. “I need to make a request to ask the court for assistance in paying for these experts,” Saggese told the judge. “It’s very expensive.”

Saggese said the expert testimony is necessary to make sure Titus gets a fair trial, but it is still unclear whether Glass will give any court money to Titus and Saggese, who was retained privately by the bodybuilder.

When asked outside of court whether Titus and Ryan were broke, Saggese said they were not, but he added, “They are incapacitated. They are in jail, and their ability to raise funds is limited.”

Authorities allege that Titus and Ryan killed James in December 2005 at their southwest Las Vegas home. They are accused of poisoning the young woman, jolting her with a Taser, beating her, duct-taping her face and then setting her on fire in the trunk of Ryan’s 2003 Jaguar.

The burning vehicle was found off state Route 160.

During subsequent interviews, police said the couple lied about James’ death, then fled across country to Massachusetts, where they were apprehended by the FBI at a strip mall.

Titus, 42, is a former competitor in the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition. Ryan, 34, is recognized as perhaps the greatest competitor ever in the sport of women’s fitness. Both have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, arson and kidnapping.

After their arrests, they sold their homes to pay for their legal defense.

Saggese’s comments Thursday about hiring a forensic pathologist and toxicologist make clear that Titus’ defense will be based on the premise that James, 28, overdosed on drugs and was not slain.

The medical examiner in the case, Peter Kubiczek, found the presence of amphetamine in James’ hair during an autopsy, indicating methamphetamine use. Also in James’ system were high levels of morphine and its metabolytes, which would indicate the use of either heroin or morphine.

“They (the drug levels) were highly toxic,” Kubiczek told the Clark County grand jury that indicted Titus and Ryan. “Some specialist may call them lethal, but they were very high.”

A cause of death for James could not be determined because her body was so badly burned. But police and prosecutors say the premise that she died of an accidental drug overdose is not consistent with other evidence in the case. Witness testimony introduced in front of a grand jury suggested that Titus and Ryan had drugged James, that the victim had been duct-taped, and that Titus and Ryan originally lied to police about James’ demise.

Also, police have recovered Titus’ Taser, and an analysis of the device showed it was discharged multiple times at the exact time Titus and Ryan placed themselves with the victim. In addition, police recovered physical evidence from the couple’s home to prove that the Taser was discharged in the residence.

According to court proceedings Thursday, the inability of Titus’ defense team to pay for experts could prompt a delay in the pair’s trial, now set for April 2. A decision on any delay will be made in February.

Clark County prosecutor Robert Daskas said it was possible the high-profile trial could be delayed until 2008.

Glass said if the trial is delayed, she hopes to see it begin by the end of the year at the latest.

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