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Filings offer preview to oft-delayed murder trial

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

A trial date has been set, again, for Alexander Roberts on murder charges, despite prosecutors’ appeal to a higher court seeking to introduce new evidence.

Nelson Circuit Court Judge Jack Seay last week scheduled a trial for July 24, at least the fourth trial date for Roberts, who is charged with the murder of Rasheed Wickliffe in Bloomfield Dec. 1, 2015.

While many of the details of the prosecution and Roberts’ defense will become clearer once it goes before a jury, the many documents and motions filed in the case have provided a preview of the facts each side will argue.

Nelson County Sheriff Ed Mattingly, whose office investigated the killing, has described the killing as a “drug deal gone bad.” Both the prosecution and defense have not disputed drugs were exchanged and that Wickliffe died at Roberts’ hands after Wickliffe chased him.

Roberts is claiming self-defense. Prosecutors allege Roberts was looking to rob or “hit a lick” on someone, and that he lured Wickliffe to Bloomfield for that purpose.

No one witnessed the stabbing, although the friend who had given Wickliffe a ride saw him chase Roberts, then return bleeding from a stab wound to the neck before he died in front of the Bloomfield Post Office.

Roberts’ attorney, Brian Butler, wrote in a motion that shortly after the incident, Roberts “texted a friend saying that Wickliffe tried to kill him.” He also wrote that Roberts made similar statements to investigators and other friends.

But prosecutors say while Roberts told investigators he had been attacked, he at first claimed he had not stabbed Wickliffe, and that the victim must have fallen on a knife.

In a March 3 motion, prosecutors also claimed the murder investigation revealed that Roberts had been texting and Facebook messaging in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2015, looking to buy marijuana, and “discussed his desire with at least one individual to ‘hit a lick’ on someone, meaning to rob someone of marijuana.”

After a friend hooked Roberts up with Wickliffe, prosecutors also say Roberts messaged another friend “telling him he intended to ‘hit a lick’ on Rasheed and that he would stab Rasheed if he tried anything with him.”

Roberts met Wickliffe in front of the post office and handed him a broken phone wrapped in some dollar bills. When Wickliffe realized he had been stiffed, he chased after Roberts and returned a short time later bleeding from the neck. He died on the scene.

The case has come to the cusp of trial twice, once getting as close as Roberts entering a court room in November before a mistrial was declared because he was led in while shackled. The case was scheduled again for February, but was again delayed after prosecutors tried to introduce statements Roberts had made about the killing while he was out on bond.

Seay ruled those statements inadmissible. Roberts allegedly referred to himself as a “murderer” and said he had not “killed any n****rs lately” while talking to a woman at a restaurant. Prosecutors sought a stay while they appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which was initially granted, but Seay’s new order means the trial is set to go, possibly before the appeals court makes a ruling.