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Bodybuilding Dumbells Face Life

NJ- A former Lambertville woman was immobilized with a stun gun, drugged and suffocated before her body was found in the trunk of a burning Jaguar near Las Vegas, and now the husband-and-wife bodybuilders accused of her murder could both face the death penalty since charges against them have been upgraded, according to Las Vegas authorities.

The couple, Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan, [pictured] and their alleged accomplice appeared in a Las Vegas court Feb. 1 when the original charges were amended.

No motive was given by the prosecution nor were the defendants required to enter a plea at the hearing last week. Mr. Titus, 41, initially was charged with murder, accessory to murder and third-degree arson in the death of Melissa James, 28. The prosecution added the charge of kidnapping. Ms. Ryan, 33, initially had faced charges of accessory to murder and arson. The prosecution last week added the charges of murder and kidnapping. The use of a deadly weapon could result in a doubling of whatever sentence is ultimately handed down, Clark County Public Information Officer Michael Sommermeyer said Feb. 2. If the suspects are found guilty and sentenced to life, they would face two life terms. Prosecutor Robert Daskas has not determined yet whether to seek the death penalty, according to Mr. Sommermeyer. The criminal complaint alleges the pair of professional bodybuilders killed Miss James, their live-in personal aide, “by applying an ‘Air Taser’ gun and/or asphyxiating and/or suffocating and/or administering morphine and/or a related drug.” The accused were being held in the Clark County Detention Center in downtown Las Vegas. A bail hearing is scheduled for tomorrow (Feb. 10). A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 29. The FBI arrested Mr. Titus and Ms. Ryan near Boston Dec. 23 on fugitive warrants. Authorities said they fled to Massachusetts on their way to Greece to escape prosecution. The couple have said they were not fleeing and did not know they were wanted after police conducted an initial interview with them after Miss James’ body was discovered Dec. 14. Mr. Titus told investigators he and Miss James had had an affair. Ms. Ryan claimed Miss James embezzled funds and also took her red 2003 Jaguar without permission although no complaints were filed with police. Miss James had been scheduled to return to New Jersey Dec. 14 to visit her mother, Maura James of West Amwell, for Christmas. She never arrived. Instead, police found her body that morning stuffed in the trunk of Ms. Ryan’s Jaguar on the side of a remote highway. A cloth bound her neck, and duct tape was wrapped around her face. Police allege the couple set the Jaguar on fire with the help of an accomplice, Anthony Gross, 23, of Las Vegas. Mr. Gross is charged with accessory to murder and arson. Miss James moved to Las Vegas last year to work for the couple. The couple’s status among the elite of the bodybuilding world has drawn much media attention. Following the case are the Associated Press, Court TV, Fox News, “CBS 48 Hours” and “Dateline NBC.” The victim’s mother appeared on Court TV’s “Catherine Crier Live” last week.

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