KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Seventeen years after the deadly shooting of a grocery store manager in Westwood, Kansas, a man has been charged in connection with the crime.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Thursday that Eugene Clayton Keltner, 40, was charged with first-degree murder in the 2003 death of David “Ray” Ninemire, 68.
Howe did not elaborate on what led to the charges against Keltner, but credited a number of law enforcement agencies with "reassessing" and "reexamining" the case, particularly over the last two years.
"The last two years is when things really started to move ...," Howe said at a news conference announcing the charges. "It was really within those last two years that the focus started to go toward Mr. Keltner and allowed us to bring these charges."
Keltner is currently serving a sentence at the Lansing Correctional Facility for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery, Howe said, adding that he will be brought to Johnson County "in the near future."
Westwood Police Chief Greg O'Halloran said Thursday he appreciated "the expertise and willingness" of other area agencies to assist the small police department in the investigation.
"Every act of violence like this deserves a good and thorough investigation, whether it’s quick or it takes years," O'Halloran said. "And it’s important to the victim, their family and to the community as a whole, and we appreciate everyone’s effort in this today."
At the news conference, O'Halloran also read a statement from Ninemire's family, who did not attend. At the time of his death, he was a father of four and had 10 grandchildren. Today, his legacy has grown to include 15 great-grandchildren, his family said.
Ninemire was a "man of faith who deeply loved his family" and others, O'Halloran read, and his family was "not surprised that his last act on earth was to run to the rescue of someone else."
Authorities previously said that on Aug. 15, 2003, a man tried to rob the former Westwood Apple Market store, 4701 Mission Road, while wearing a disguise that included a fake beard and black hat.
He grabbed an employee working at a cash register, causing her to scream out for help, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Ninemire, who was working in the produce department, ran over to help his co-worker and was shot and killed in the encounter.
The man then walked out of the store and was last seen heading into Kansas City, Kansas, according to authorities.
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.
Annual homicide details and data for the Kansas City area are available through the 41 Action News Homicide Tracker, which was launched in 2015.