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Prosecutor seeks death penalty in 4 Indy slayings

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 8:37 am

INDIANAPOLIS — A prosecutor filed a request for the death penalty Tuesday against one of the defendants in the drug-related slayings of four people in a crime that has come to symbolize a year of violence in Indianapolis.

Kenneth "Cody" Rackemann was the primary triggerman in the slayings Feb. 20 on the city's south side and had worked security for one of the victims, drug dealer Walter Burnell, 47, court documents have said.

"Four individuals were executed, we allege, for no good reason," Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said at a news conference with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Rick Hite by his side.

Burrell sold methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and prescription narcotics, taking in as much as $60,000 in single day, investigators have said, but Rackemann and his co-defendants only took a few dollars from one of the victims.

Three aggravating circumstances in the request for the death penalty are the multiple slayings, the intentional killing of each victim while committing a robbery, and that Rackemann was on parole at the time of the offenses, Curry said.

Rackemann, 24, faces four counts each of murder and felony murder as well as robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery counts. He is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 15.

Rackemann allegedly was searching for a safe inside the home shared by Burrell and victim Jacob Rodemich, 43, when he started shooting those inside, prosecutors have said. Rackemann fatally shot the two men and Kristy Mae Sanchez, 22, and wounded Hayley Navarra, 21, before he ran out of bullets, they said.

Rackemann then allegedly called in 21-year-old Valencia Williams, who was sitting in a car outside, to kill the fourth victim, a probable cause affidavit said. Williams killed Navarra as she begged for her life, according to the affidavit.

Williams faces one count of murder, four counts of felony murder and charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Samantha Bradley, 20, faces four counts of felony murder and charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. A fourth defendant, Anthony LaRussa, 26, was not at the home during the shootings, but helped set up the robbery, according to court records. He faces four counts of felony murder as well as robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery counts.

The slaying were among eight homicides in Indianapolis within a 24-hour period and occurred early in a year marked by more than 70 slayings in the city.

Hite said pursuit of the death penalty in the case should send a message to others.

"We are asking others who consider this life of crime to reconsider," Hite said. "We don't want you to face a similar fate."

Indiana last executed an inmate on Dec. 11, 2009.