Video: Bodybuilder arrested in killing

updated 12/27/2005 4:46:21 PM ET 2005-12-27T21:46:21

Professional bodybuilder Craig Titus and his wife, Kelly Ryan, were arrested Friday in Massachusetts as fugitives in the slaying of a woman whose body was found last week in Ryan’s burned-out luxury car abandoned off a remote desert highway.

Titus, 40, and Ryan, 33, were arrested by federal agents and local police at a grocery store parking lot in Stoughton, Mass., and were being held in nearby Canton, FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz said. The two towns are about 15 miles south of Boston.

An FBI spokesman in Las Vegas said the two are expected to be returned to Las Vegas next week.

Titus and Ryan were being held on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on a warrant issued Dec. 20 in Las Vegas. Titus is wanted on state murder charges, and Ryan was sought as an accessory to murder. Titus and Ryan also are charged with third-degree arson.

Titus, who won a 1996 bodybuilding championship and competed in Mr. Olympia events, had told Las Vegas police that he’d had a secret romance with the dead woman, Melissa James, 28, court records show.

In an interview with police before they disappeared, neither Titus nor Ryan admitted any involvement with James’ slaying.

Victim lived with the couple
She had worked as a live-in personal assistant to the couple at their Las Vegas home. Her charred body was discovered Dec. 14 in the trunk of Ryan’s burned red 2003 Jaguar in a remote spot southwest of Las Vegas.

Titus and Ryan told a friend last week that they planned to go to a country that does not extradite people to the United States, according to a police report submitted to Las Vegas Justice Court.

Titus told a business partner that he intended to meet a friend in Boston, liquidate his assets and leave the country, police said.

Details of police interviews with the bodybuilding couple were provided in a document seeking an arrest warrant for Titus, Ryan and Anthony Gross, 23.

Gross was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas and charged with accessory to murder and third-degree arson. He is scheduled for an initial court appearance Tuesday.

The married bodybuilding couple remained free after telling detectives that James had been fired and evicted Dec. 13 because they believed she had been embezzling from them, and that they suspected James stole Ryan’s car.

Titus and Ryan had not previously reported the financial theft nor the missing vehicle, police said.

Titus told a detective that his wife was not aware of his affair with James. He told police he booked a hotel room Dec. 12 for two nights and spent most of one night there with James.

James was last heard from when she spoke with her mother in New Jersey by cell phone shortly before noon Dec. 13.

Suspected drug overdose
Four days later, Amanda Polk, a bodybuilder who trained with Ryan, told police that Ryan told her she found James dead from a drug overdose and that she thought Titus had someone get rid of the body.

Credit card receipts and security videotapes show that Ryan bought seven half-gallon bottles of charcoal starter fluid and a barbecue tool set at a Wal-Mart store in Las Vegas about 3:30 a.m. Dec. 14. The videotape shows her and a man putting the items in the back seat of a red mid-sized car similar to a Jaguar.

Phone records showed Titus called Gross early Dec. 14, police said. Gross told investigators he met Titus, who drove the red Jaguar while Gross bought a can of gasoline and followed in his pickup to a remote area off state Highway 160.

Gross told police Titus took the gas can, disappeared, and then jumped in the pickup. Gross said he drove back to Las Vegas, but the two never discussed what happened.

Authorities later found James’ body in the trunk of the burned Jaguar with white fabric around her neck and duct tape across the face. A suitcase was found in the back seat, along with the charred remains of a barbecue tool set.

The Clark County coroner determined James was probably asphyxiated, police said.

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