JOHN NEIL WILLIAMS v. COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKYAnnotate this Case
RENDERED: May 25, 2001; 10:00 a.m.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
C ommonwealth O f K entucky
C ourt O f A ppeals
JOHN NEIL WILLIAMS
APPEAL FROM McCRACKEN CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE R. JEFFREY HINES, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 98-CR-00040
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY
** ** ** ** **
BUCKINGHAM, EMBERTON AND TACKETT, JUDGES.
EMBERTON, JUDGE: John Neil Williams was convicted of criminal
conspiracy to commit murder of his wife, Bobbi Holman Williams,
and sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment.
Neil and Bobbi, high school sweethearts, married in
Two children were born of the marriage.
graduation from Murray State University, where he played
football, Neil became an employee of his brother’s construction
company and Bobbi operated the Holman House Restaurant, a wellknown restaurant in Paducah, owned by Neil, Bobbi, and Bobbi’s
Bobbi was also involved in the Chamber of Commerce and
had become a well-known business woman.
In 1993, Neil became romantically involved with Kathy
Sue Beach, an employee of the construction company.
Kathy sums of money on a monthly basis, and when needed, provided
bail money to her following her arrests on various criminal
In January 1995, Dickie Beach, Kathy’s husband,
informed Neil that he knew of the affair and contrived to
blackmail Neil to keep the affair secret from Bobbi.
Neil paid Dickie $2,500 for his silence, Dickie told Bobbi of the
Dickie Beach later committed suicide.
In the midst of this romantic turmoil, in the late fall
of 1995, the construction business deteriorated and the bank
having extended the company a $6,000,000 line of credit
determined there were not adequate assets to cover the credit
A buyer subsequently purchased the assets of the company
After Neil and Bobbi separated in March 1996, Neil
lived with Kathy but frequently returned to the marital residence
to visit the children.
On July 16, 1996, when returning his son
to the marital residence, Neil discovered Bobbi’s body in her
At the time of trial no one had been charged with
A key player in the Commonwealth’s conspiracy theory is
Neil met Valva in October 1994, when he came to
her tanning, tattoo, and hair salon looking for Dickie Beach.
Dickie and Kathy were friends of Valva and her husband, Rocky.
Buford assisted Neil in getting Kathy from jail on various
occasions and in return, Neil provided financial support for
In the fall of 1995, Neil and Valva had had a
conversation in which Neil informed Valva that he was interested
in having Bobbi killed and went so far as to suggest that there
could appear to be a robbery at the restaurant she operated.
Valva contacted Randall Yost, a friend of Rocky’s, who agreed to
Neil provided $5,000, blueprints of the
restaurant, and Bobbi’s photo.
Subsequently, in addition to
cash, Neil provided information to Valva concerning Bobbi’s
vehicle and a further physical description with the instructions
that she pass the cash and information to Yost.
told Valva to inform Yost that he wanted the killing done by
However, it did not occur by that date.
testified that things then began to “settled down.”
Yost testified that he received approximately $46,000
in February 1996, through Valva, to carry out the murder.
However, he stated that he had no intention of murdering Bobbi
but simply took the money.
When the murder did not occur, Yost
received several calls from Valva inquiring about the scheme.
testified that by the end of March he had no further contact with
Valva or Neil regarding the matter.
However, when Yost learned
that someone had murdered Bobbi, he contrived a complicated
scheme to extort money from Neil.
Yost stole Chicago Police Department incident reports
and evidence tape and falsified a report describing a raid on a
Hell’s Angels Clubhouse in Chicago, which resulted in the
restaurant blueprints and photograph of Bobbi being confiscated
by Chicago police.
He also prepared a report describing two
fictitious offenders involved in the raid as having provided
information to the Chicago police about a murder for hire scheme
in Paducah, Kentucky.
Posing as a Chicago policeman, Yost then
met with Valva and Neil, who had not previously met Yost, and
demanded $300,000 to destroy the evidence and information.
The following day, on March 16, 1997, Neil and his
brother, Greg Williams, met with Marshall County Sheriff Brian
Roy and told him of the attempted extortion by Yost.
Roy’s request, Neil tape recorded a telephone conversation with
Valva discussing Yost’s proposal.
Several days later, Valva and
Yost met with Greg Williams and renegotiated a price of $95,000.
Yost and Valva were subsequently arrested by federal authorities
and charged with extortion.
Yost was convicted for his extortion
activities and Valva pled guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit
the murder of Bobbi and was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.
Both Valva and Yost implicated Neil in the murder conspiracy.
As would be expected this tragically bizarre case
received more than the usual amount of publicity for a murder in
McCracken County, where it was tried.
Neil contends that the
trial court erred when, based on that publicity, it refused his
motion for a change of venue.
Decisions regarding proper trial
venue are left to the discretion of the trial court.1
for a criminal trial is presumptively the county in which the
Nickell v. Commonwealth, Ky., 371 S.W.2d 849 (1963).
crime is committed.2
Publicity alone regarding a case does not
necessarily require a change of venue.
“It is not the amount of
publicity which determines that venue should be changed; it is
whether public opinion is so aroused as to preclude a fair
The trial court found that Neil failed to demonstrate
that the publicity prejudiced his right to a fair trial.
noted that a survey conducted by the Commonwealth revealed that
of the 140 people surveyed, 123 refused to answer the question as
to Neil’s guilt.4
From thirty-nine responses, seventeen stated
they believed Neil to be guilty.
Neil countered with affidavits
from 203 residents of McCracken County stating that Neil could
not get a fair trial in that county.
It is not clear, however,
if these affidavits were part of a random survey or if the
affiants were selected by Neil.
In either event, this court has
reviewed the affidavits, the Commonwealth’s survey, and most
important, the news coverage regarding this case.
articles expressed sympathy for the Holman family, none was
inflammatory toward Neil.
In fact, several of the articles were
written after Neil contacted the media and made statements
Kordenbrock v. Commonwealth, Ky., 700 S.W.2d 384, 387
(1985) cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1153, 106 S.Ct. 2260, 90 L.Ed.2d
704 (1986) habeas granted, in part, on other grounds, Kordenbrock
v. Scroggy, 919 F.2d 1091 (6th Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S.
970, 111 S.Ct. 1608, 113 L.Ed.3d 669 (1991).
The number who refused to respond should be 101, not 129,
as stated by the trial court.
regarding his innocence.
We find no abuse of the trial court’s
discretion in refusing to change the venue of Neil’s trial.
Neil did not object to the sufficiency of the
indictment until he filed a post-conviction motion to dismiss,
arguing that the indictment failed to allege an overt act in
furtherance of the conspiracy as required by KRS 506.040.
Kentucky Rules of Criminal Procedure (RCr) 8.18 provides:
Defenses and objections based on defects in
the institution of the prosecution or in the
indictment or information other than that it
fails to show jurisdiction in the court or to
charge an offense may be raised only by
motion before trial. The motion shall
include all such defenses and objections then
available to the defendant. Failure to
present any such defense or objection as
herein provided constitutes a waiver thereof,
but the court for cause shown may grant
relief from the waiver. Lack of jurisdiction
or the failure of the indictment or
information to charge an offense shall be
noticed by the court at any time during the
And, RCr 6.12 provides:
An indictment, information, complaint or
citation shall not be deemed invalid, nor
shall the trial, judgment or other
proceedings thereon be stayed, arrested or in
any manner affected by reason of a defect or
imperfection that does not tend to prejudice
the substantial rights of the defendant on
Realizing that his claim of error is unpreserved for
review, Neil contends that this court should review this issue
pursuant to Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure (CR) 60.02, citing
counsel’s negligence in failing to object to the indictment.
Quite simply, counsel did not object to the indictment because it
was not defective.
If the language of the indictment, coupled
with the applicable statute, gives notice to the defendant of the
nature of the charged crime it is not necessary to detail the
The indictment set forth the offense in both
the caption and the body.
There is no error in the trial court’s
denial of Neil’s post-trial motion to dismiss.
We find no merit in Neil’s final contention that he is
entitled to a new trial because the trial court did not permit
him to introduce evidence concerning Bobbi’s death.
Specifically, Neil sought to introduce evidence of the details of
Bobbi’s murder and that Bobbi was having a romantic relationship
with an old high school boyfriend, identified only as John Doe.
Essentially, Neil sought to implicate John Doe in Bobbi’s murder.
The actual death of Bobbi was collateral to the
The jury was informed that Neil was not
charged with murder nor did the Commonwealth allege that he was
involved in her death.
Under KRS 506.040, it is not relevant who
killed Bobbi or even whether the victim of the conspiracy was
The trial court did not abuse its discretion
in refusing to permit evidence surrounding Bobbi’s murder.
The judgment of the McCracken Circuit Court is
Thomas v. Commonwealth, Ky., 931 S.W.2d 446 (1996).
BRIEF AND ORAL ARGUMENT FOR
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:
Albert B. Chandler III
David A. Sexton
Assistant Attorney General
ORAL ARGUMENT FOR APPELLEE;