Tennessee Supreme Court upholds death sentence for man convicted of ex-girlfriend’s 1997 murder

Tennessee Supreme Court upholds death sentence for man convicted of ex-girlfriend’s 1997 murder
Michael Rimmer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction and death penalty of a man found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend at a Shelby County hotel.

Michael Dale Rimmer’s first conviction in 1998 was overturned, but another Shelby County jury convicted him in 2016 of murdering Ricci Lynn Ellsworth.

On Feb. 7, 1997, Ellsworth left home to go to work at the Memphis Inn. Investigators say Ellsworth disappeared, leaving behind her purse, her wedding band, her car and a chaotic and bloody crime scene.

Her body was never found.

Years before her disappearance, Ellsworth and Rimmer had a tumultuous romantic relationship,. He was convicted of raping her in 1989 after they broke up, and authorities say he told a fellow inmate he would kill her when he was released.

When she disappeared, witnesses at the Memphis Inn described a man matching Rimmer’s description with blood on his hands putting something heavy, wrapped in a blanket, in the trunk of a maroon Honda.

According to the Court, Rimmer was later arrested in Indiana driving a maroon Honda. Tests found blood in the car matched blood at the hotel crime scene, and both samples belonged to Ellsworth.

The Court says Rimmer tried to escape prison several times, and he described the murder and bloody crime scene to another inmate.

He never helped authorities find Ellsworth’s body.

The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Ellsworth’s second conviction and sentence.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is required to review all death penalty cases, so his case was automatically appealed. Rimmer said his second conviction violated double jeopardy laws but the Court disagreed.

He also said DNA evidence from the car should not have been allowed at trial because the vehicle was released before his attorneys inspected it. The Court said all evidence taken from the car by police technicians was available to his attorneys for review.

Rimmer also challenged admission of his escape attempts and the rape conviction, but the Court said the attempted escapes showed consciousness of guilt and the rape conviction showed motive, identity and premedication.

Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the murder convictions and the death penalty.

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