MAYFIELD, Ky. — When a jury found him guilty of complicity to murder and four other charges Thursday, Edwin Russell was silent and showed little emotion. Instead, he slipped his thumb over the gold embossed lettering on his Bible over and over again. Less than an hour later, he took the stand again to ask for leniency.
Russell received that leniency, to a point. The jury recommended a sentence of 25 years, five years shy of the maximum sentence Russell could have received for the seven counts against him related to the home invasion and killing of Richard Jett in 2012. It took an hour and 20 minutes to deliberate on Russell’s guilt and just over a half an hour on his sentence.
“It was closure,” said Amanda Jett, Richard Jett’s daughter. “It wrapped it up into a package. (Richard) Phipps pulled the trigger, (James) Kirby was with him and (Edwin) Russell orchestrated it all. Now we know, and they are all behind bars.”
Russell was arrested in February after an investigation into a Graves County home invasion that left one woman shot and her husband dead. The prosecution said Russell drove two men — Phipps and his cousin, Kirby — to the home of Richard and Sharon Jett outside Mayfield. Russell knew the Jetts through their daughter, Amanda, the prosecution said, and targeted them because of money kept inside of the house.
The two men entered the house and robbed the Jetts, shooting Richard Jett twice in the abdomen and also shooting Sharon Jett five times in her legs. Richard Jett died four days later of his injuries.
Russell, Phipps and Kirby were arrested and charged with a multitude of offenses. Russell is the only one to be tried in the case. Phipps pleaded guilty to murder, robbery, burglary and wanton endangerment in September in exchange for a life sentence. Kirby pleaded guilty to amended murder and burglary charges in February, receiving a 30-year sentence.
When he took the stand on Wednesday, Russell told the jury Phipps had a gun to his head and had coerced him into going to the Jett’s house. Both Phipps and Kirby testified in the trial and said Russell had an inside knowledge of the Jetts’ home and helped plan the robbery, even offering a floor plan. They both testified that after the shooting, they left the Jett home and Russell had fled with his vehicle.
The maximum sentence could have put Russell away for life. The minimum on the charges, if run consecutively, would have run 62 years. The jury gave Russell 25 years on the charge of complicity to murder and 10 years on four other charges, including complicity to attempted murder, two counts of complicity to robbery and complicity to burglary. The jury also recommended one year each for the two wanton endangerment charges. They recommended the sentences run concurrently.
Because they are violent offenses, Russell will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence if the judge accepts it at the Aug. 19 sentencing. Russell would be in front of a parole board in 20 years.
“One thing you did not hear was that Eddie Russell was ever in trouble,” defense attorney Rick Boling said during his sentencing closing arguments. “This is when you get to hear about a criminal record, and you didn’t hear one because he didn’t have one. If there’s one person involved in this who would go out and make something of himself, it’s Eddie.”
During the penalty phase, both Sharon Jett and Richard Jett’s daughter, Amanda Jett, sobbingly testified asking the jury for the maximum. Prosecutor Richie Kemp, who contends that the story Russell told on the stand was not true and Russell intended to drive the pair to the Jetts’ house, also asked the jury for life.
“We went to bed that night and he was sitting, watching TV like he always is,” Amanda Jett told the jury. “The next day my son saw his Paw, he was in a casket. Every day, he cries asking me where his Paw is.”
Russell’s sister, best friend, mother and ex-wife all testified on his behalf. He took the stand himself, as well, explaining that he had gone through college courses and has been preaching since going to jail. His stoic, unemotional exterior broke when his sister took the stand, and he stifled tears through the rest of the proceedings.
Sharon Jett testified on being alone and explained the multitudes of surgeries and procedures she has had to undergo to fix her leg. At one point, she put her head on the table to stifle uncontrolled sobs and pointed at Russell, telling him she hopes he finds the Lord before he dies. Amanda Jett, who was in the house during the robbery with her 4-year-old son, also testified to the emotional toll the home invasion and the trial have taken on her.
“Every time I hear a noise, I become absolutely crazy,” Amanda Jett said through tears. “I have to call people to check the house for me a lot. I am always afraid. Always.”