Testimonies heard in Nicholas Rucker case

WHITLEY COUNTY — A Corbin man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend in May before fleeing the scene and eluding police for more than a month will have his case presented to a Whitley County grand jury following a preliminary hearing Tuesday.

Nicholas M. Rucker, 38, was arrested July 4 in connection to a May 22 incident in which he allegedly shot Vicki S. Conner, 57, causing her death. As a result, he now faces charges of murder, convicted felon in possession of a handgun and tampering with physical evidence.

Rucker appeared in Whitley District Court for Tuesday’s hearing, where the investigating officer and homeowner of the residence where the shooting occurred provided testimony to the court.

Kentucky State Police Post 11 Detective Dackery Larkey was the first to take the stand, stating that he took over the case after being dispatched to the scene by Whitley County 911. Upon arrival, Larkey said that witnesses stated that they saw a male, identified as Rucker, leaving the home with blood on his arms and carrying a handgun.

According to Larkey, Conner’s body was located in the bedroom of the residence with a gunshot wound.

“Through investigation, we determined that Vicki Conner suffered a single gunshot wound to the head,” said Larkey.

Conner’s body was sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Frankfort for an autopsy to be performed, which Larkey said also revealed the cause of death to be from a gunshot wound. The entry wound was located just above Conner’s brow line on her forehead with the exit wound in the rear of her skull. Larkey stated that the wound showed severe stippling, something that is common with gunshot wounds received at close range.

The medical examiner believes that the gun was just a few inches away from Conner’s head when the gun was fired, according to Larkey.

A Taurus G2 9mm handgun was located approximately a mile from the residence where the shooting occurred, which was buried under some dirt and leaves. Larkey said that the gun was “damaged and disabled” when it was found and appeared to have blood on it. The gun is believed to be the weapon used to kill Conner and has been sent off to the KSP Crime Lab to be analyzed.

There were allegedly at least five other individuals in the home where the incident took place, one of which being the homeowner, Roger Witt, who was also called to the stand to testify. Witt stated that Rucker and Conner had been living with him for “a couple of weeks,” and that they helped him around the house in exchange for board.

On the night of the shooting, Witt detailed the moments leading up to the incident, saying that Conner had came from the bedroom to the living room with the others as she was making a grocery list, but was allegedly called back to the bedroom by Rucker. Within just a few minutes, Witt said he heard a gunshot. Rucker soon emerged from the bedroom, according to Witt, holding a gun out in the palm of his hand with his arms covered in blood.

“The first thing he said to me when he came out was ‘Oh, my God, Roger. Vicki just shot herself,’” said Witt.

Witt then got his phone, called 911 and went down the hallway to the bedroom, where he said he found Rucker standing over Conner’s body. Witt said that he put the phone on speaker and began doing chest compressions in an attempt to give Conner CPR. It was during this time Witt said that Rucker fled the residence. Rucker never returned to the home.

Police obtained a warrant for his arrest, but he could not be located for several weeks. Multiple reports of people claiming to have seen Rucker were received by different law enforcement agencies during that time, with some coming out of Tennessee. Rucker continued to elude police until a tip was received in the early hours of July 4 that he had been spotted at a residence on Meadow Lark Circle in Corbin, where deputies with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department located him walking out of a wood line and through the backyard of a residence.

Rucker allegedly ran into a nearby home and then out of one of the exits in attempt to flee. He ran from deputies on foot before being tackled to the ground. Rucker allegedly refused to be handcuffed, but after following a brief scuffle with deputies, he was taken into custody.

Following Tuesday’s testimony, Judge Cathy Prewitt, who presided over the hearing, ruled that the case showed probable cause to be presented to the grand jury, where prosecutors will seek to indict Rucker on his charges.

The next meeting of the Whitley County grand jury to return indictment is set for Aug. 19.

Rucker currently remains jailed in the Whitley County Detention Center.

He also has a case in Knox District Court as a result of his arrest, where he faces charges of second-degree fleeing or evading police, second-degree disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was arraigned on the charges last week and has a pretrial conference currently scheduled for July 23.

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