Editorial by Seth Dukes
The Meade County Messenger’s headline for the April 8, 1992, edition was one that no one in the community wanted to see.
“Body of Louisville girl discovered on Meade farm”
That was the first of many headlines that would chronicle this story that rocked Meade County and beyond.
Over the coming weeks, I will be taking you along with me through my research of this horrific event. What I present will be based on what has been published in our paper and others, as well as court filings. The two individuals initially charged with the murder filed wrongful conviction lawsuits in federal court in 2017, with Meade County, former Meade County Sheriff Joseph Greer, Meade County Sheriff’s Deputies Ernie Embry and Cliff Wise, and Meade County Coroner William Adams and others named as defendants. That suit is still pending. But, we will get to all of that.
Naturally, we need to start at the beginning.
Rhonda Sue Warford was a 19-year-old from Louisville. At approximately 7 p.m. on April 1, Warford went to the Kroger grocery store near her home. After returning approximately 30 minutes later, she told her mother that, as she was leaving the parking lot, a strange man harassed her and told her he wanted to marry her. Warford left home again that night, and the family assumed she was returning to the grocery store. Warford was never heard from again. A missing persons report was filed with the Louisville police the morning of April 2.
Three days later at approximately 7:30 a.m., her body was discovered 9 miles southwest of Brandenburg near the Meade-Breckinridge County line off Highway 823 by a couple looking at real estate. Court filings say that her body was found lying face down, clad in white canvas tennis shoes, red sweat pants, a dark blue shirt, and a multi-colored jacket.
Many stab wounds were found on Warford’s back. She had a 1-inch cut on the surface of her right hand, and she had a 0.4-inch cut on her right index finger. The Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Kentucky observed a stab wound that pierced her lung through her upper right chest and stab wounds at the base of her skull, one of which severed her brain stem. The examiner also saw that Warford had an inverted cross tattooed below her left clavicle. The medical examiner concluded that Warford’s death was the result of multiple stab wounds following a close-range violent struggle, as evidenced by defensive wounds on Warford’s hands. Evidence obtained at the autopsy included three hairs recovered from Warford’s right hand and hairs found on the victim’s red sweatpants. Fingernail scrapings were obtained as well.
The police investigation that would follow, as well as the proceedings in court, involved twists and turns that no one could see coming.