Months after escaping an internal investigation and walking away from the Memphis Police Department with a $43,000-a-year pension, former homicide detective Eric Kelly has been indicted on three felony counts.
Prosecutors in District Attorney Amy Weirich’s Office won’t say specifically what the charges involve, yet facts cited in the indictment point to the same controversy that hounded Kelly for months before he suddenly retired in November: his sexual relationship with a murder suspect.
Kelly, 49, a 26-year MPD veteran, faces three counts of official misconduct, according to a news release Weirich’s office issued Tuesday morning, Sept. 1.
Reached by phone, Kelly said he’s hired attorneys to fight the charges, though he wouldn’t name them.
“We’re going to get this resolved,’’ he said before the line went dead.
The indictment alleges Kelly acted “with intent to obtain a benefit or harm another” while “acting as a public servant” and that he committed an act “that constituted an unauthorized exercise of official power.’’
The indictment also alleges Kelly “committed an act under color of office or employment that exceeded his official power.”
A copy of the indictment asserts those acts happened in 2018 between April 25 and Aug. 30.
Those dates align with the timeframe when Kelly arrested Bridgett Stafford, took a statement from her and then engaged in a relationship with her while investigating the 2017 murder of retired chemist Robert Glidden, 60.
Glidden was savagely beaten to death for money and later found bound and nude near a drainage pond in Raleigh. Stafford was booked into the Shelby County Jail on April 26, 2018, records show.
An internal investigation would later reveal that Kelly engaged in a sexual relationship with Stafford, now 30. Records from that investigation assert Kelly bought marijuana for Stafford, gave her $2,000 and allegedly even convinced her to become a dancer in a local strip club.
Weeks before first questioning Stafford, Kelly had signed an affidavit of complaint to secure her arrest as an accessory after the fact in Glidden’s murder.
According to Kelly’s sworn affidavit, two male suspects had put Glidden into the trunk of car in July 2017 and checked into a motel near Sycamore View and Macon.
“While at this location Bridgett Stafford arrived and was made aware of the kidnapping/robbery and the suspect’s attempts to use the victim’s credit cards,’’ Kelly said in the affidavit filed with Judicial Commissioner John Marshall.
“Stafford agreed to take the suspects to several locations to try and run up the charges on the victim’s credit cards. On 08/01/2017 Bridgett Stafford was positively identified by a witness as the person that drove (the suspects) and another male to a cell phone store where the group of people used the victim’s credit cards to purchase over $1,500 worth of cell phones and accessories.’’
But when she was indicted by the grand jury eight months later, she was charged only with theft of property between $1,000 and $2,500. Though both are Class E felonies, that development could factor into a determination of whether Kelly violated any criminal laws by perhaps promising favorable treatment to a witness, legal experts have said.
“How consensual is this relationship?’’ Ron Rychlak, a University of Mississippi law professor, told The Institute for Public Service Reporting in January. Rychlak said then prosecutors may have to weigh the power differential between Kelly, a seasoned detective, and Stafford, who is characterized in reports as a struggling mother of small children who had troubles with drugs.
“Is she thinking she’ll get better treatment if she has a relationship (with Kelly)?’’
Kelly denied any deal for sex in his statements to internal investigators.
“The way it was presented to me from the gentlemen from ISB (Inspectional Services Bureau) was that I had forced a statement out of a person in exchange for sexual favors,’’ Kelly told Deputy Chief Samuel Hines Jr. in an administrative hearing Oct. 18.
“… That is inaccurate and not true.’’
Kelly went on to say the initial charge of accessory after the fact was simply “an arm-twisting tactic’’ to pressure Stafford to come in and make a statement. The detective told Hines to check this out with the District Attorney’s Office and he named a couple of prosecutors with whom Hines should talk.
“It basically is used through the prosecutor’s office to force people to testify, which is what went on in this particular case,’’ Kelly said.
Later in the summer of 2018, Kelly took Stafford on a taxpayer-funded car trip to Alabama where he interviewed a suspect in a separate murder case.
Pictures in the MPD Internal Affairs file show Stafford posing in a bikini with firearms Kelly owns inside Kelly’s home.
MPD supervisors found out about the affair after Stafford’s boyfriend told the FBI Kelly had charged her with a crime as “‘leverage’ to “initiate a sexual relationship with her.’’