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Craig Titus & Kelly Ryan Investigation » Blog Archive » Shame on The Columbus Dispatch’s weak cover story

Shame on The Columbus Dispatch’s weak cover story

This story ran on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch Friday morning, the beginning of the Arnold Classic. The murder case was not on the minds of 99.9% of the athletes and this story is a weak attempt at causing controversy where it isn’t needed. The Arnold Classic as brought millions of dollars to the Columbus economy, why would their city paper use this to headline their paper? Shame on them.

Murder case on minds of athletes
Friday, March 02, 2007 Jeffrey Sheban - THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Not long ago, Kelly Ryan was riding high.

A crowd favorite at the Arnold Classic and similar events worldwide, she was known as “Flyin’ Ryan” for her leaping ability and boundless energy on stage.

Competitors sometimes called her the Michael Jordan of women’s fitness, a flashy sport combining gymnastics, dance and bodybuilding.

On her first try in 2000, the chiseled athlete won the Arnold’s Ms. International fitness title and $20,000 in prize money, followed by a string of top-three finishes in Columbus.

She and her bodybuilder husband, Craig Titus, also a fixture in Columbus during the annual Arnold weekend, missed last year’s competition but are about to be judged again, this time in a Nevada courtroom.

They’ve been jailed for more than a year, charged with killing their live-in personal assistant, Melissa James, in their Las Vegas home. Their celebrity status in bodybuilding and fitness and the brutal circumstances of the crime have attracted considerable attention while casting a shadow on their sport.

Titus, 42, and Ryan, 34, are accused of poisoning James, 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.

Authorities say the couple was preparing to flee the country when they were arrested near Boston in January 2006.

With their murder and kidnapping trial set to begin next month, Titus and Ryan are on the minds of many former colleagues and fans gathering in Columbus this weekend. Those who knew them are expressing shock and disbelief.

“It’s an unfortunate thing,” said Jim Lorimer, who co-founded the Columbus fitness event with Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Anyone has to be saddened to see this type of tragedy happen.”

The case is sure to be a topic at Downtown’s World Gym, where most of the Arnold Classic competitors train while in town. Titus and Ryan also hosted lavish after-hours parties at the former PromoWest Pavilion and a nightclub across the street from World Gym now called Club Ice.

Amateur bodybuilder and World Gym employee Allen Forrest described Titus and Ryan as an odd couple: She was the darling of the fitness industry while he cultivated a thuggish, bad-boy image. If Titus, who previously was jailed for drug offenses, didn’t like you, he let you know.

“I never saw the dark side, but he liked to talk a lot of trash,” Forrest said. “Still, I don’t know that either one of them were the type” to commit murder.

Titus wasn’t, according to Las Vegas attorney Marc Saggese, who is representing him.

“I have the luxury of having an innocent client,” Saggese said. “He did not commit the crime of murder.”

Saggese said an autopsy shows that James, 28, overdosed on drugs at the couple’s home and that Titus and Ryan panicked and burned the body to avoid bad publicity. And they weren’t trying to flee the country when they were arrested near Boston, he added.

“The defense is going to revolve around Kelly and Craig finding their overdosed assistant and their mishandling of what to do next,” Saggese said. “It was a huge mistake not to call the police. They’re charged with murder because their conduct was that of a guilty person.”

World Gym manager Mark O’Neil said the case has damaged bodybuilding because it feeds stereotypes that participants are overly aggressive bullies pumped up on steroids.

O’Neil said while most of the athletes are “really nice people,” they can be intimidating.

“In the gym you do see another side that you might not always be able to keep in the gym,” he said.

Glenn Puit, a reporter who has followed the murder for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and written a book about the case, Fire in the Desert, said while there’s no certain motive, police think Titus and James might have had an affair and that all three were believed to be using recreational drugs, including cocaine.

What is known is that Ryan’s career started going downhill after she married Titus.

“She was successful in everything she did in life and was widely considered to be the best female fitness athlete ever,” Puit said. “Within four years of hooking up with Craig, she’s charged with murder.”

Puit said all the publicity surrounding the case may not be all bad for bodybuilding, a sport that craves legitimacy but is dogged by the steroids issue.

“There is one thing that (this) has done, and that is to draw more attention to the sport — good, bad or indifferent.”

Full story here.

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