Kentucky man pleads guilty in family murder plot

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2016 3:59 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky man charged with orchestrating the slayings of his parents, sister and an acquaintance who was enlisted to kill the family has avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty Thursday to four counts of murder.

Ryan Champion, 38, also pleaded guilty to kidnapping in an agreement that calls for Champion to be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

After the slayings in October 2014, Champion portrayed himself as the lone survivor of the attack on his family in western Kentucky's Trigg County.

Champion said in media interviews after the killings that 22-year-old Vito Riservato had killed the family and Champion survived because he "turned the tables" and fatally shot Riservato.

Prosecutors have said the investigation revealed it to be a murder-for-hire scheme with a twist: Champion sought Riservato's help in carrying out the slayings, and then Riservato was also killed. Champion was arrested about five days after the slayings.

"It was an awful case. There's nothing good that can be said about this case or the facts of it," said Commonwealth's Attorney Carrie Ovey-Wiggins. She said the remaining family members sought "closure and certainty" with the plea agreement.

Ovey-Wiggins declined Thursday to comment on the details of the case before Champion's sentencing Jan. 27. She said she could have secured a death sentence for Champion, but the family did not want to endure the years of appeals associated with execution cases.

In Champion's own account to media, he said he was at the home with his parents, Lindsey and Joy Champion, and sister Emily when Riservato entered the home and started shooting. He said at the time he had only met Riservato once before the shooting.

Champion posted updates on Facebook, saying he had survived and was recuperating, with later updates saying he was in need of money and seeking odd jobs.

The kidnapping charge pertained to 31-year-old Emily, a veterinarian in Louisiana who was in town visiting her parents at the time of the slayings. Prosecutors said she was restrained by duct tape during the attack.