Troy Kell was still a teenager when he committed his first murder however it would be a prison murder that would make him infamous and land him on Utah death row. On this article on My Crime Library we will take a closer look at Troy Kell.
Troy Kell Nevada Murder
Troy Kell was eighteen years old when he was approached by his friend 15 year old Sandy Shaw to beat up the victim James “Cotton” Kelly aka James Thiede for constantly pressuring her for sex. Troy Kell, Sandy Shaw and William Merritt would kidnap Cotton and drive him out to the desert in 1986 .
Once in the middle of nowhere Troy Kell would shoot Cotton six times in the face. The trio would leave Cotton body and head back to the city. Sandy Shaw and William Merritt in the upcoming days would bring other friends to the murder scene to show off the body. Needless to say police would hear about the murder and the trio would be soon arrested.
It would later be noted that Sandy Shaw never brought people to the murder scene however a friend of hers who she told would. Sandy Shaw would initially be sentenced to life in prison however this would be reduced after the parole board commuted her sentence. Sandy Shaw would spend 21 years in prison.
William Merritt would be convicted at trial and sentenced to eight to twelve years in prison. Merritt would only serve four years however soon after he was released he would be arrested again and sentenced to life in prison.
Troy Kell would be sentenced to life in prison. A number of years after the first murder Troy Kell would be transferred to Utah due to overcrowding.
Troy Kell Prison Murder
Troy Kell was having problems with an inmate named Lonnie Blackmon and according to other prison inmates the two were in constant arguments from their respective cells.
On July 6. 1994 Troy Kell along with another inmate Eric Daniels would be released at the same time as Lonnie Blackmon. Kell and Daniels would attack Blackmon and while Eric held him down Troy would stab the man over sixty five times. The murder would be caught on tape and would be at the center of the documentary Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder
Troy Kell 2023 Information
- Offender Number: 72819
- Offender Name: TROY MICHAEL KELL
- DOB: Thu, 13 Jun 1968
- Height: 5 Feet 10 Inches
- Weight: 145
- Sex: M
- Location: UTAH STATE PRISON
- Housing Facility: UINTA
- Parole Date: N/A
- TROY MICHAEL KELL
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The nation’s top court is considering whether to take up a death penalty case from Utah.
Troy Kell is on death row for the 1994 murder of Lonnie Blackmon inside the Utah State Prison in Gunnison. Kell is accused of stabbing Blackmon numerous times in a racially-motivated murder that was caught on camera. After the slaying, he walked around a cell block with blood on his arms screaming “white power.” Kell’s attorneys argued the killing was self-defense.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Kell’s case, essentially arguing over delays to carry out a death sentence. On Friday, the justices met in conference to determine if they will hear the case.
Earlier this year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an appeal, saying Troy Kell had not exhausted all his federal and state court processes so they didn’t have jurisdiction to hear it. The court never considered the central issue of the appeal — how long it has taken to exhaust Kell’s death penalty claims.
In its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state said some courts are causing some of the delays and they ought to have the ability to appeal a lower court judge’s determination — which they are unable to do right now.
“The federal district court delayed Mr. Kell’s case unjustifiably,” deputy Utah Solicitor General Andrew Peterson said Friday. “The sovereign state of Utah should be entitled to appeal that decision.
Kell’s lawyers say the Court should not take up the case. In their own filing, they argued that proper procedures are being followed. Those procedures, they said, were set up by the very states complaining about it.
“If the State thinks a claim is truly meritless, it can waive exhaustion and ask the court to grant summary judgment on the merits,” Kell’s lawyer, Dale Baich, wrote. “But the State has not exercised this option and is simply complaining about Rhines, which the district court dutifully followed.”
Death penalty appeals take years to exhaust. Lawmakers in the Utah State Legislature have long complained about delays and have recently pushed legislation to cut down on the appeals process.
Earlier this week, notorious killer Ron Lafferty died of natural causes after decades on Utah’s death row awaiting a firing squad execution. In that instance, Peterson said, there were delays in carrying out the sentence.
“Ten years for federal habeas corpus and two years to decide on appeal that he doesn’t have the right to appeal? In our view, it’s too long,” Peterson said of Lafferty’s case.
In Kell’s case, Utah is getting support in its arguments from other states. Indiana, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and South Dakota all filed a “friend of the court” brief arguing that the Supreme Court itself warned this could happen.
“The Court’s prediction that capital petitioners would abuse Rhines stays to delay their executions has proven correct. District courts have delayed numerous executions by issuing stays based on plainly meritless claims,” Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill wrote.
The U.S. Supreme Court did not announce on Friday if it would hear the case. A decision could be announced next week, or the justices can hold it over for another conference.
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The Utah Supreme Court on Monday heard for the third time arguments by attorneys representing death-row inmate Troy Michael Kell, who wants his conviction for fatally stabbing a fellow prisoner at a state prison in 1994 to be overturned.
Megan Blythe Moriarty, a federal public defender representing Kell, said Kell’s prior attorneys failed to investigate 106 claims that Kell identifies as “red flags” in how his case was handled.
Among Kell’s chief concerns is a claim that his attorneys didn’t investigate and present to a jury “mitigating circumstances” that may have swayed jurors to convict Kell to life in prison instead of death for the July 6, 1994 murder of Lonnie Blackmon at the Gunnison prison.
Video footage captured another inmate holding Blackmon, 32, down while a 26-year-old Kell stabbed him 67 times with a shank. Blackmon was serving a sentence for robbery and theft. He had been transferred to Utah’s prison from Arkansas, while Kell had been transferred to Utah from Las Vegas.
Kell, now 42, was convicted in Nevada for the 1986 murder of a Canadian tourist in Las Vegas. He was sentenced to two life sentences. A Sanpete County jury in 1996 convicted Kell of capital murder and sentenced him to die for Blackmon’s murder.
The execution has failed to proceed as the case continues to be held up in appeals.
“This is an ugly case,” Moriarty told the high court. “That is why it required good and thorough [investigation into] post-conviction relief. His counsel didn’t do anything.”
Assistant Utah Attorney General Thomas Brunker disputed Moriarty’s claims, arguing that Kell’s counsel did an in-depth examination of potential post-penalty conviction options. Brunker said “every effort to curb Kell’s violence have been tried and failed” leaving death as the only punishment not tried.
Kell, a white supremacist, yelled “white power” while wiping the blood of Blackmon, an African-American, from his hands as other inmates cheered. Kell stabbed Blackmon nine times in the eyes, a tactic Brunker said was done to ensure the victim experienced the most excruciating pain possible.
Brunker said that evidence in Kell’s case includes testimony from a guard he threatened, saying he had “nothing to lose” by acting out in prison because he was already serving two life sentences in the Nevada case.
If the high court should rule in Kell’s favor, Brunker said, it could open the door for the other eight inmates on Utah’s death row to stall out their cases by filing similar post-conviction relief appeals.
Troy Kell Videos
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Defendant Troy Michael Kell, an inmate at the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF) in Gunnison, Utah, was charged with aggravated murder, a violation of section 76-5-202 of the Utah Code. After being tried in a courtroom located inside the prison facility, he was convicted and sentenced to death.
¶ 2 Defendant stabbed fellow inmate Lonnie Blackmon (Blackmon) to death on July 6, 1994. Prior to the attack, defendant, a white supremacist, had been involved in race-related altercations with several African-American inmates, including Blackmon.
¶ 3 On the day before the killing, defendant and two of his accomplices, Eric Daniels (Daniels) and Paul Payne (Payne), submitted medical request forms to visit the prison’s medical facility. In addition, Daniels forged a medical request form in Blackmon’s name so that Blackmon would be transported to the medical facility at the same time defendant and his accomplices were being transported.
¶ 4 Moments before the attack occurred, defendant and Blackmon were moved from the upper tier of the building at the CUCF where they were housed to the lower tier where they awaited transfer to the prison’s medical facility. Both defendant and Blackmon were placed in double locked handcuffs fastened to a belt around the waist. Their feet were not placed in shackles so that they could safely descend the stairs from the top tier of the cell block. By this time, Daniels had also been moved to the lower tier to go to the medical facility. Payne’s request to go to the medical facility had been denied because he was in punitive isolation on the top tier of the cell block. Nevertheless, at his insistence, Payne was permitted to shower on the lower tier of the cell block rather than in the showers located on the second tier of the cell block, where his cell was located.
¶ 5 While descending to the lower tier, defendant removed his handcuffs with a partial handcuff key that had been altered with a homemade handle made from melted plastic utensils. Defendant also produced a shank.1 Blackmon was standing with his back to defendant talking to other inmates, when defendant began to stab him repeatedly in the neck, eyes, face, back and chest. Defendant was free to use his unrestrained hands and arms during the attack, but Blackmon could only kick at his attackers to defend himself because he was still in handcuffs that were attached to his waist. Blackmon’s efforts were futile in any event because Payne choked and punched him and Daniels held onto his legs during the attack.
¶ 6 For over two and a half minutes, defendant slashed Blackmon with his shank, inflicting sixty-seven stab wounds, only two of which were described by the forensic examiner as being capable of inflicting death in the short term. Despite Blackmon’s pleas to stop, defendant continued the assault and, in fact, after walking away, returned twice to inflict more wounds, until Blackmon lay motionless on the floor of the cell block. Blackmon bled to death and defendant was charged with aggravated murder. A more detailed account of the attack can be found in the companion case of State v. Daniels, 2002 UT 2, 40 P.3d 611.
¶ 7 Following two pretrial evidentiary hearings, the trial court determined to hold defendant’s trial in a regular courtroom located inside the CUCF. This decision was based on security risks particular to defendant, including his criminal background, prison disciplinary record, and overall prison history. In addition, several logistical problems regarding security existed in trying defendant in either of the two courtrooms available outside the prison. Because most of the numerous witnesses in the case were either prison guards or high security inmates, the security risks and costs associated with transporting all of them to a courtroom located outside of the county would have been extremely high; thus, the trial court decided to hold the trial in the courtroom located within the confines of the prison.
¶ 8 At trial, defendant testified that he killed Blackmon because Blackmon had overtly threatened him. According to defendant, Blackmon wanted to make an example of him to the other inmates to demonstrate Blackmon’s power in the prison. Defendant stated he believed Blackmon was making a threat when he overheard Blackmon say to another inmate on the day of the killing, “Yeah man ․ it’s on. You know it,” even though Blackmon made no threatening gestures toward defendant. Defendant claimed that due to conditions in the prison and circumstances surrounding Blackmon’s threats, he was suffering from “extreme emotional disturbance” at the time of the homicide. One eyewitness testified, however, that during the attack defendant’s demeanor was “very business like, as cold as cold gets. It was like he was doing a job.”
¶ 9 Based on his testimony, defendant asked the court to instruct the jury on the defense of imperfect self-defense manslaughter, but the court declined his request. The trial court did, however, instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of murder, as well as aggravated murder. The jury unanimously found the defendant guilty of aggravated murder and sentenced him to death.