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Mr. Muscles Titus Cries at Slay Hearing

Las Vegas- Craig Titus may be an intimidating mass of muscle and a past Mr. Olympia place winner, but in court Friday the bodybuilder sobbed at the sight of his wife, Kelly Ryan.

Titus and Ryan were in the courtroom of Justice of the Peace Joe M. Bonaventure for a bail hearing on charges they murdered their personal assistant, Melissa James.

Shortly before the hearing began, Titus was seen dabbing tears and choking back sobs upon the arrival of Ryan.

During the subsequent hearing, Clark County Prosecutor Robert Daskas described as “overwhelming” the evidence against the fitness couple in the death of James.

“They had motive to kill Melissa James,” Daskas said. “They believed, rightly or wrongly, that Melissa James had stolen from them — assumed their identities and stolen from them.”

Daskas said an autopsy revealed James had morphine in her system, a detail that had not been disclosed before Friday’s hearing.

He said the morphine in her system supports the prosecution’s belief that Titus and Ryan drugged James, used a Taser gun on her, killed her, then torched her body in the trunk of Ryan’s car, which was found in the desert on Dec. 14.

“There were levels of morphine in her system consistent with the way we’ve charged the case,” Daskas said.

He then went on to question Titus’ character.

He pointed out that after James’ body was found, but before the victim’s identification had been officially confirmed by police through DNA analysis, Titus talked to James’ mother, Maura James, on the phone. During the conversation, Titus tried to convince Maura James that the body found in the car was not her daughter’s.

“Titus expressed to Maura James … that that was not Melissa James in the trunk of the car,” Daskas said. “It gave Maura James a glimmer of hope.

“He even said he had a friend who’d spoken to Melissa James on the phone … again giving Maura James a glimmer of hope,” Daskas said.

Daskas said Titus also told Maura James he believed “Melissa staged this whole thing so she could assume a new identity.”

“What does that say about Craig Titus’ characterá” Daskas asked.

Authorities said the charred body of Melissa James, 28, was found in the back of Ryan’s car off state Route 160 on Dec. 14. James was the couple’s live-in assistant. Police said when they questioned Titus and Ryan about the matter, the two repeatedly lied about the circumstances of James’ disappearance.

A friend of the couple, Anthony R. Gross, 23, is charged with arson and being an accessory to murder because, authorities say, he helped Ryan and Titus dispose of the body.

Titus told police he was having an affair with James and that his wife did not know about the affair, according to a police report.

Titus and Ryan later told police they had discovered James was stealing from them and kicked her out of their house in southwest Las Vegas, the report said. They also alleged that James had stolen Ryan’s car, but neither allegation was reported to police until after James’ body was found, the report said.

Police have obtained video surveillance footage showing Ryan buying several large bottles of lighter fluid at a Wal-Mart in northwest Las Vegas about 30 minutes before James’ body was set on fire, according to a court motion.

Daskas said authorities believe Melissa James’ body was in the trunk of Ryan’s car at the time.

But Ryan’s defense attorney, Tom Pitaro, and Titus’ defense attorney, Richard Schonfeld, said the allegations against their clients are merely that, untested allegations.

Pitaro and Schonfeld both said that, in outlining a possible scenario for Melissa James’ murder by Titus and Ryan, authorities are relying on statements from witnesses whose credibility will be brought into question.

“One (witness) said he was grateful Mr. Titus was arrested, because now he can steal his business,” Schonfeld said. “One witness is a chronic marijuana smoker.”

Schonfeld and Pitaro urged Bonaventure to set a reasonable bail for the couple, saying prosecutors really don’t even know how Melissa James was killed, not to mention who did it.

“They’ve got more theories than you can shake a stick at,” Pitaro said.

“For all the sound and fury (from prosecutors), it signifies nothing,” he said.

Bonaventure said he will not issue a bail ruling until the pair’s preliminary hearing, which is set for March 29.

That means Titus and Ryan will remain in custody until at least the date of the hearing.

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