By Karla Ward Lexington Herald-Leader
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Two men who could have faced the death penalty for the shooting death of a Richmond police officer entered guilty pleas Friday afternoon.
Raleigh Sizemore and Gregory Ratliff accepted a plea deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to murder in the 2015 death of officer Daniel Ellis.
Sizemore, 37, will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole for murder and attempted murder, among other charges. Ratliff, 28, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for wanton murder.
They entered the pleas at a hearing before Madison Circuit Judge William Clouse and were sentenced immediately.
Ellis’ widow, Katie Ellis, said in a written statement that she supported the plea agreements because of her and Ellis’ son Luke, who is now 5 years old.
“My ultimate desire is to protect Luke and provide for him the best life possible, because that is what Daniel would have wanted,” she said.
Life without the possibility of parole for Sizemore means that “we will not spend the next 20-40 years in appellate courts or in front of parole boards pleading our case.”
As for Ratliff’s sentence, she said, “At least for the next 30 years, I will sleep well at night knowing Luke can grow up in our community without fear of these individuals.”
But Daniel Ellis’ father and brother addressed the court, saying they strongly opposed the plea deals because they had hoped a trial by jury would result in the death penalty for the men. Eric Ellis asked Clouse to reject the plea deals.
“What does it say to the people who put their lives on the line every day?” he asked. “A lot of people around the country are fed up with this process.”
Clouse responded that he had considered the points the men made, but “I believe that I’m going to comply with the wishes of the widow.”
The audience in the courtroom included a large contingent of police officers.
Police have said Sizemore tried to rob a gas station in Richmond on Nov. 4, 2015. The investigation led Ellis, 33, a seven-year veteran of the Richmond department, to Ratliff’s apartment in search of Sizemore.
Sizemore was holding a woman named Rita Creech against her will in a back bedroom.
Ratliff let Ellis into the apartment and allowed him to search it. He admitted in court Friday that he told police that no one else was there and that there were no weapons in the apartment. If he hadn’t done that, attorneys said, Ellis would still be alive.
When Ellis crossed the threshold of the bedroom, Sizemore shot him and fired at two other Richmond police officers. Ellis died two days later.
Katie Ellis addressed Sizemore and Ratliff after their sentencing, saying her Christian faith compelled her to offer them forgiveness, though it was extremely difficult.
“Daniel would not want me to spend the rest of my life with hate in my heart for you,” she said. “The only way we can begin to have peace is to forgive.”
She also urged them to turn to God in repentance and accept forgiveness from him.
“Your life isn’t over,” she said. “You do now have a chance to be better people.”
The defense had sought to hold a hearing Friday to move the trial, scheduled to begin July 5, from Madison County to Fayette County or even outside Central Kentucky. The defense also wanted to separate the one trial into two trials, one for Sizemore and one for Ratliff.
Two people have already been sentenced in the case.
Carl Lee Banks, 37, who drove the van to the gas station where Sizemore attempted to commit robbery, was sentenced to four years in prison in August. He pleaded guilty to first-degree wanton endangerment, criminal facilitation to attempted robbery and bail jumping.
Creech was sentenced to probation last summer after pleading guilty to criminal facilitation to attempted robbery and wanton endangerment.
Herald-Leader staff writer Greg Kocher contributed to this report.
©2018 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)