DYER CO. Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – A west Tennessee attorney charged with extortion says he’s done nothing wrong, but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation believes lawyer Charles Sam Kelly, Jr. tried to extort money from a Dyersburg businessman in connection to the 8-year-old unsolved murder of Karen Swift.
The 44-year-old mother of four was last seen on Halloween night in 2011. Next week marks the 8-year anniversary of when Swift’s decomposed body was found.
Thursday in court, a judge ruled the extortion case could move forward. The judge wouldn’t allow cameras in the courtroom, but prosecutors said audio recordings played in court prove what happened was extortion. The defendants disagree.
“I did nothing wrong,” said defendant Kelly.
Kelly left court Thursday proclaiming his innocence. Prosecutors say Kelly and his co-defendant Mark Morgan tried to extort $25,000 from Darrell Sells and his family. The Sells’ own several McDonald’s franchises in the Mid-South.
For years, there have been rumblings that the Sells family was somehow connected to the 2011 unsolved murder of Karen Swift.
“I don’t need to extort anybody particularly Darrell Sells and his crummy family,” said Kelly.
On tapes played in court, co- defendant Mark Morgan claimed to possess information that the Sells would not want the FBI to have.
Also, on the tapes, Darrell Sells said as part of the deal, he wanted Morgan to get information on private investigator Heather Cohen who was independently investigating the case of Karen Swift.
“I think they need to look into why he would pay $25,000 for information on me. That kinda feels like a threat to my life, ” said private investigator Heather Cohen.
Kelly said what’s being lost in all of this is the Swift case. It remains unsolved. The 44-year-old was last seen alive at a Halloween party in 2011.Her decomposed and naked body was found nearly two months later by hunters in a rural cemetery, just a few miles from her home.
“I feel it’s terrible, it’s a shame this woman has been dead for eight years and nothing. No arrests, no anything,” said Kelly.
On the stand, Darrell Sells said he and no one from his family had anything to do with the Swift murder. Sells wouldn’t say much as he left court except, “We’re happy.”
Kelly’s final comment to Local 24 News was, “I don’t need their money or want their money. That’s all I gotta say about that.”
Kelly said he has been a lawyer in Dyer County for 25 years and never had a bar complaint against him. Kelly said he was a liaison between Sells and Morgan.
On the tapes, you hear that Kelly drew up an “employment agreement” trying to document the transaction between the parties involved, which is why he says he was not extorting. Prosecutors say it was extortion, pointing out that at several times Kelly referred to the agreement as “protection.”
Morgan waived his right to a preliminary hearing. His and Kelly’s case will now go to the grand jury in February.