A convicted serial killer and rapist who left his mark in LaRue and surrounding counties 23 years ago, died Dec. 3 in prison.
James Ray Cable, 65, was serving a 300-year sentence at La Grange Penitentiary for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl, according to the Department of Corrections.
A serial killer is defined as a person who has murdered three or more people over a period of more than a month. Cable already was in prison when DNA evidence linked him to the murders of three women in the 1980s. He served time for the rape of a 7-year-old girl and killing another inmate.
Cable never confessed to any of the charges and may never have been caught if not for the actions of his last victim – a girl known in court records as “K.L.T.”
The spring of 1990 brought a series of bizarre occurrences and unusual crimes in Nelson County — very near the LaRue County line. In March, a severed arm was found in Pottinger Creek near Gethsemane; a 14-year-old girl was raped; and a 39-year-old woman was found near her home dead of multiple stab wounds.
It’s unclear whether Cable had anything to do with the rape and murder, but the diary of a dead man connected him to the severed arm.
On April 26, a 15-year-old girl walked out of the woods near Howardstown, claiming she had shot and killed a man who had abducted, tortured and raped her. She said Phillip Clopton kept her chained for three weeks at a campsite off Wayne Ennis Road. One day he grew careless and fell asleep without chaining her, she said.
She picked up his shotgun and shot him in the head.
The girl was taken to a hospital where bloody welts were found on her back. She said Clopton struck her with a bullwhip.
Officers converged on Clopton’s campsite, shooting a dog that attacked them, and collecting evidence. A small, lipstick-sized, loaded, single-shot gun was found in his pocket.
They found a diary in which he detailed the murder and butchery of two teenage girls. His words implicated Cable.
“According to his writings, his downfall was when he met Cable,” said Rob Harris, a retired Kentucky State trooper who investigated the case in 1990. “They were psychopaths.”
The girl also told police Cable was Clopton’s accomplice. Her testimony at trial was so convincing, the jury found Cable guilty after a short deliberation.
Clopton and Cable
Officers who investigated the case cannot recall exactly how Cable and Clopton met – but it is likely they met in Louisville, where both lived.
Clopton apparently befriended three girls from his neighborhood: Bridgett Allen, Sherry Wilson and K.L.T, the girl who survived. According to his diary, the men killed Bridgett and Sherry and scattered their remains in LaRue, Nelson and Hardin counties.
Despite a massive search, the arm – later identified as Allen’s – was the only part found.
According to a map found at Clopton’s campsite, some of the body parts were thrown into the Rolling Fork River.
A diver searched the river but “didn’t come up with anything,” said Bruce Slack, a retired KSP detective who worked the case with Harris.
“We did find a plastic bag along I-65 the lab later said contained decomposed human remains,” Slack said.
“We spent days walking I-65,” said LaRue County Sheriff Merle Edlin, who assisted with the case. “They supposedly drove from Louisville, throwing out body parts.”
Although Clopton did not live in LaRue County, he was familiar with remote Wayne Ennis Road, said Harris. He visited his grandparents’ farm there as a child.
“He used to play in those hollers,” he said. “He was from a good family.”
The 15-year-old girl said she had known Clopton for a number of years. She willingly accompanied Clopton and Cable from her Louisville home to LaRue County on the pretext of helping with a yard sale. Clopton, who drove, was hauling something in the back of the pickup. She assumed it was items for the yard sale.
Instead, it was a tent and equipment for a campsite.
When they reached Wayne Ennis Road, the men restrained her and held a straight razor to her neck. Cable sodomized her while Clopton made camp.
Cable said two things on that day that sealed his fate.
He told Clopton he needed to go back to Louisville to meet with his probation officer. Despite everything that happened to her over the next three weeks, K.L.T. remembered the statement.
“That was one of the key things that nailed him to the cross,” Harris said. “If he hadn’t told that – how would anybody have known?
K.L.T. testified during the trial that “as Cable was preparing to leave the captivity site, he told Clopton, ‘Phil, you’re going to have to do her in like we did Bridgett and Sherry.’”
At that moment, K.L.T. realized her friends had been murdered, according to court records.
Clopton’s body was brought to LaRue County for burial. Cable’s case was moved to Hart County because of pretrial publicity.
He refused to speak to officers and maintained his innocence on the stand.
“He was a hardened criminal,” Slack said. “He showed no remorse at all.”
Edlin said Cable was cold.
“He didn’t appear to have a conscience at all,” Edlin said.
Cable wasn’t new to the court system. His first conviction was in 1971, when a Daviess County jury found him guilty of raping a 7-year-old girl. In 1972 he was charged with escape; and in 1977 he was charged with manslaughter after he killed another inmate.
While in prison, Cable was divorced, remarried, and had a child, Slack said.
As years went by, great strides were made in DNA evidence analysis. Connections between other victims were found during a routine check of crime lab data. Cable’s DNA showed up in three cold cases.
In 2004, he was charged with the 1982 death of Sandra Gail Kellems, who was killed on her 18th birthday in Daviess County. She had been beaten and sexually assaulted.
DNA evidence also connected Cable to the 1986 killing of Oma Marie Bird and 1989 killing of Helen V. Booth, both in Louisville.
Cable was on parole at the time of the women’s deaths.
If it hadn’t been for the incident in LaRue County, Cable likely would have continued his crimes, Slack said.
“He was a predator and he didn’t leave any live victims,” he said. “There won’t be too many people losing any tears over his demise.”
Slack described Cable’s last victim – the girl who survived – as “just a kid.”
“I often wondered what happened to her,” he said.
Harris said he was contacted by a movie producer some years ago who wanted to make a movie or documentary about the case. The producer asked him to contact K.L.T.
“I called her – she said she had just got married and wanted to let it lie,” he said.
He no longer is in contact with her.
“She was a sweet girl,” he said.