Kelly Ann Ryan
(born July 10, 1972 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a former
International Federation of BodyBuilders professional fitness
Personal and professional background
Kelly Ryan got an early start in her fitness
career when, at age eight, she began to train in gymnastics. This
would later serve as a foundation for other athletic activities
she would become involved with in high school, such as
cheerleading and basketball. After high school Kelly decided to
pursue journalism at the University of South Carolina. While
studying for her degree in journalism she also worked as a
choreographer, which would prove very useful in her decision to
become a top fitness athlete. Her first fitness competition was
the NPC South Carolina State in 1995, where she placed first.
She would eventually end up winning eight
fitness competitions. Her background and presence in fitness
contests have made her a familiar face at fitness expositions as
well as in fitness magazines. Her "Flyin' Ryan" Routine at the
Arnold Classic was mixed by David "KrusH" Wilmore, who also
provided the voice over for the announcer in her "Flyin' Ryan"
Previously married to body builder Craig Titus,
Ryan filed for divorce while in prison in connection with the
murder of Melissa James. The divorce became final in December
Death of assistant
On December 14, 2005 the burnt corpse of Ryan
and Titus' personal assistant Melissa James was discovered inside
a Jaguar car belonging to Kelly Ryan. The couple went into hiding
together and were arrested along with suspected accomplice,
Anthony Gross, after a nine day investigation.
The couple awaited trial in Nevada on charges
in the murder of their live-in assistant, Melissa James who had
had an affair with Titus. A prosecutor alleged in open court that
Titus was part of a plot to murder three witnesses due to testify
in the case. No charges were filed and Titus’ defense lawyer said
he didn't think that there was enough evidence for charges in the
allegation. While awaiting trial, Ryan's mother died of a heart
attack said to have been precipitated by stress).
The trial of co-defendant Anthony Gross on
arson and accessory to murder charges was separated from the
murder trial for Titus and Ryan.
On May 31, 2008, rather than going through a
trial, Ryan along with Titus pleaded guilty to reduced charges,
with Ryan entering an Alford plea to arson and battery with a
deadly weapon resulting in significant bodily harm. She was then
sentenced to two consecutive terms of 3–13 years in prison. She
will not be eligible to walk out of prison until 2015 when her
next parole hearing will be granted, since she was denied parole
in December of 2011 for undisclosed reasons. She remains in
custody at the Florence McClure Women's Correctional Facility in
Bodybuilders Plead Guilty In
February 11, 2009
Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan were stars in the
world of professional bodybuilding. The married couple posed for
magazines and competed at events while trying to turn their
chiseled muscles and crafted images into fame and fortune.
It all went to ashes in Dec. 14, 2005, when the
charred corpse of their live-in personal assistant, Melissa James,
was found in Ryan's burned-out red Jaguar sedan off a remote
desert road outside Las Vegas.
"It's a situation where two very successful
people flamed out in America's Sin City," said Glenn Puit, a
former newspaper reporter who wrote a book about the case.
"That's not sensationalizing it," Puit said.
"You've got two beautiful, popular people charged with murdering a
woman in the most horrific manner possible."
Titus and Ryan were arrested in a Boston suburb
after a nine-day nationwide manhunt. Ryan was getting her nails
done at a Stoughton, Mass., salon while Titus waited outside.
Titus, 43, pleaded guilty late Friday to
second-degree murder. Ryan, 35, pleaded guilty to arson and
entered an Alford plea to battery with a deadly weapon resulting
in significant bodily harm. The Alford plea means Ryan didn't
admit guilt but acknowledged that enough evidence exists to
convict her. Both Titus and Ryan were originally charged with
murder with a deadly weapon in the case. James had moved from
Lambertville, N.J., in 2005 to live with the couple.
"We've always believed that Craig Titus was
responsible for Melissa's death and Kelly was primarily involved
in covering up the death," said Deputy District Attorney Robert
Daskas. "Whether we obtained those results by a jury verdict or
guilty plea was unimportant to us."
Titus also had a drug history. He served almost
two years in federal prison after being convicted of selling
Ecstasy in October 1995. He got probation, but it was revoked when
he tested positive for steroids. He was released in April 1999.
Friends told police that Titus and Ryan used
the prescription painkiller OxyContin, and witnesses testified
that Titus once bought $500 worth of morphine. Both Titus and Ryan
told police they injected the synthetic opiate Nalbuphine, and
that Ryan tried methamphetamine.
"Defendants admit to steroid use and there are
steroids within their house," prosecutors say in pretrial court
documents, which also raise the issue of steroid-induced
aggression sometimes called "'roid rage."
Titus is a 1996 bodybuilding champion and Mr.
Olympia competitor, and Ryan a past Fitness America and Fitness
They initially claimed that James died of an
overdose. They told police they panicked, burned her body in the
car and then left town because they were worried publicity about
her death would hurt their careers. They were arrested Dec. 23,
2005, in Stoughton, Mass.
Prosecutors accused them of using a stun gun,
administering morphine or a related drug, and asphyxiating or
suffocating James with a fabric or wire around her neck. However,
the cause of her death was ruled "undetermined" by the coroner.
The couple told police that they took James
into their home to manage a fitness clothing business they wanted
to start, but evicted her after they said they discovered she was
looting their bank accounts.
Titus also told police he'd had an affair with
James that Ryan didn't know about.
The couple acknowledged use of steroids and
claimed James also had a history of drug use.
Sentencing was set for July 18. Titus faces 15
to 55 years in prison. Each of Ryan's charges carry sentences of
two to 15 years in prison, or the judge can give her probation.
Bodybuilders Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan
Sentenced for Murder
August 23, 2008
Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan took a plea bargain
regarding the death of their former personal assistant Melissa
James, 29, of Lambertville, N.J.
In February 2008, Anthony Gross, Craig Titus
and Kelly Ryan's accomplice also pleaded guilty in the Melissa
James murder case.
Craig Titus, 44, pleaded guilty on May 30, 2008
to second-degree murder, kidnapping and arson. The plea allowed
Craig Titus to avoid trial and avoid the death penalty.
Craig Titus received a sentence of 21 to 51
years. Craig Titus will not be eligible for parole until
Kelly Ryan Sentencing
Kelly Ryan pleaded guilty to arson and Nevada’s
equivalent of no contest to battery with a deadly weapon and was
sentenced to 6 to 26 years. The plea allowed Kelly Ryan to avoid
trial and avoid the murder charge.
Kelly Ryan is serving her sentence at Florence
McLure Women's Correctional Center in Nevada. Kelly Ryan will be
eligible for parole as early as 2011.
Prosecutor Robert Daskas said Melissa James was
beaten, drugged, stunned with a Taser, injected with morphine and
strangled before she was “burned beyond anybody’s recognition” in
the trunk of Ryan’s Jaguar. James’ head was encased in duct tape,
and showed the court graphic photos of a “death mask” formed by
her face when it peeled away with the heavy tape during her
Daskas said investigators could never say for
sure whether James was still alive in the back of the red Jaguar
caught on videotape outside a Wal-Mart – where Ryan bought
charcoal starter fluid and a backyard barbecue set at 3:30 a.m. –
or at a gas station where Titus, Ryan and a friend, Anthony Gross,
allegedly bought another $2.66 worth of gasoline. The barbecue set
was later found burned in Ryan’s car. Gross met Craig Titus and
Kelly Ryan at the gas station and drove them back to Las Vegas
after they set Kelly Ryan’s Jaguar ablaze in the desert outside
Ryan stated the following in court, “I am
truly, truly sorry,” Ryan said. “I know I did not kill. But I did
aid in the events. I know I was not in a state of mind emotionally
or physically to make the right decisions or to, oh God, to take
appropriate control of what was happening.”
Craig Titus said, “I am ashamed and sickened of
my actions after Melissa (James) passed away. I let drug use get
way out of control in my home,” he said. “I failed my wife. I
failed my family. And most regretfully, I failed Melissa (James),
who was my friend.”
Craig Titus Appeal
In December 2008 Craig Titus made a request for
a sentence reduction which
District Judge Jackie Glass denied. Craig Titus is currently
serving his sentence at Ely State Prison, Nevada's only maximum
Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan's Accomplice Pleads Guilty
In February 2008, Anthony Gross, Craig Titus
and Kelly Ryan's accomplice pleaded guilty in the Melissa James
murder case. Gross plead guilty to accessory to arson and
accessory to commit first degree arson. The two are both felony
If Gross successfully completes his probation,
Gross will be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea to the two
felony offenses, plead guilty to the gross misdemeanor charge of
Conspiracy to Commit 3rd Degree Arson and receive credit for time
served. If Gross doesn’t complete the probation the two felony
charges will remain.
Bodybuilders Take Plea Deal in Assistant's
By Amanda Hernandez - 8newsnow.com
May 31, 2008
The celebrity bodybuilder couple accused of
murdering their assistant will save the county the trouble of a
trial. Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan finalized a plea deal with
prosecutors late Friday afternoon, avoiding a trial set to begin
Over two years ago, police found the remains of
Melissa James in a burned- out car in the desert. Titus and Ryan
fled the state and changed their appearances, but were captured in
Massachusetts after a national manhunt.
The district attorney's office says it's a fair
deal. It's one both the victim's family and detectives in the case
agree with, because it makes Craig Titus admit to murder and his
wife to helping destroy evidence.
"I think both defendants recognize that a train
was coming down the tracks and either they resolved it today or we
were going to go to a jury trail and leave it up to a jury," said
prosecutor Robert Daskas.
With the couple both facing possible life
sentences for murder, Titus moved to save his wife.
"As we approached trial, Craig Titus became
more and more worried about the exposure his wife was going to
have to first degree murder," said Titus' attorney Marc Saggese.
Titus agreed to plead guilty to second degree
murder in the death of his live-in assistant Melissa James, along
with kidnapping and arson.
"He did accept responsibility and that is
evidenced by his entering into a guilty plea," said Saggese.
By admitting to the murder, Ryan was cleared of
the charge and given a plea deal of battery with a deadly weapon
and first degree arson.
"She was faced with more serious charges --
significantly more serious charges. We feel that this is a fair
resolution for her," said Ryan's attorney Michael Cristalli.
She now faces no criminal liability in James'
death. But with overwhelming evidence, both had to admit to arson.
"We had strong evidence that they purchased
lighter fluid that was used to ultimately light the car with
Melissa James in the trunk," said Daskas.
The prosecutor says, while there are unanswered
questions about James' murder, details are finally coming out.
"We've always believed, and I think the guilty
pleas reflects that there was a confrontation between Kelly and
Melissa and that Craig intervened, and ultimately it was Craig
Titus that killed Melissa James," said Daskas.
Titus has asked to speak at his sentencing so
he can apologize to James' mother, who was once a close friend.
"He has never had an opportunity to talk to her
or say he was sorry or to discuss how this unfolded," said
Titus faces 15 to 55 years in prison. He has
already served two and a half years. Kelly Ryan's attorney says he
has asked to argue for probation for her charges.
Indictment unsealed: Autopsy: Drugs in body
Fitness champs charged in assistant's death
March 25, 2006
An autopsy showed that the personal assistant
of Kelly Ryan and Craig Titus had morphine and heroin byproducts
in her system at the time of her death. It also indicated that she
had previously used methamphetamine.
Both the cause and manner of death for Melissa
James, 28, was officially listed as undetermined, giving defense
attorneys for Ryan and her husband, Titus, the opportunity to
maintain what the pair once told police -- that James died of a
drug overdose, they panicked and disposed of her body.
"The defense can make hay out of it," former
Prosecutor Charles Kelly, now a local defense attorney, said of
the autopsy results.
Titus and Ryan and a co-defendant, Anthony
Gross, were in District Court on Friday to face charges stemming
from James' death in December.
The indictment, unsealed in the courtroom of
District Judge David Wall, charges Titus and Ryan with murder with
use of a deadly weapon, first-degree kidnapping and third-degree
The indictment charges Gross with accessory to
murder and arson in connection with allegations he helped the
fitness champions dispose of James' body.
Titus, 40, is a past place-winner of
international Mr. Olympia competitions. Ryan, 33, is a past Ms.
Fitness America and Ms. Olympia runner-up.
James was found dead Dec. 14 in the back of
Ryan's torched Jaguar in the desert off state Route 160. Titus and
Ryan first told police they didn't know how James ended up dead in
Authorities said the couple then fled Las Vegas
and were arrested Dec. 23 outside Boston, where they told police
James died of a drug overdose in Ryan's car in their garage before
they disposed of her body, burning it in the process.
In a third scenario regarding the death,
authorities said, Titus later agreed with an FBI agent's premise
that perhaps he was having rough sex with James and she died.
The autopsy report notes that "opiate
intoxicants" were in James' system. The Review-Journal was unable
to access documents detailing the exact levels of the metabolites
of the drugs in her system.
However, other documents show there are a
number of other clues garnered from the autopsy and crime scene
that would seem to contradict the premise that she somehow died of
a drug overdose.
Namely, a coroner's report details that a
ligature was found around James' neck.
"Head was wrapped in an apparent blanket," the
report said. "Beneath the burned blanket, there was apparent duct
tape around her head and face, and a cloth strip and wires around
James' body was badly burned with an
accelerant. Ryan was captured on a Wal-Mart surveillance video
buying accelerant shortly before the body was found.
In his statement to police claiming James died
of an accidental drug overdose, Titus told authorities he had, in
fact, duct-taped James' face while her body was on the floor of
"Put a blanket on the ground, grabbed another
blanket and I taped up her head," Titus said. "I didn't want to
see her face. I didn't want to see her face.
"I took the tie off one of my robes, and I put
it on the back of her neck and pushed her knees up and tied her
knees to her chest," Titus said. "Then we wrapped her up in a
blanket and taped it up and put her in the trunk.
"Then I put her in the trunk and dropped her a
couple times," Titus said. "Kelly was crying hysterically.
"She's my (expletive) friend man," Titus said.
"So (expletived) up. Now it's worse."
When asked by police to explain the wires
around James' neck, which Titus originally didn't mention, Titus
said: "You know, honestly, this is the honest to God truth, when
I, when I was tying her up in the cocoon-like position ... I used
duct tape and I used the robe ties ... but there was something
else I used that broke. I can't remember what it was. A phone cord
Titus also addressed James' drug use in his
statement to police, which reads:
"Crystal methamphetamines ... Oxycontins,
crystal methamphetamine, Nubane, cocaine, morphine, which I didn't
know till the end."
Kelly said the autopsy results will be somewhat
helpful to defense attorneys in the case, but prosecutors will try
to argue that burning someone in the trunk of a car isn't
consistent with a reaction to a drug overdose.
Kelly said perhaps the biggest challenge
defense attorneys face is explaining the defendants' multiple
versions of James' death.
"Which one do you want us to believe?" Kelly
Body in burned
car: Conflicting statements
Pair accused of
killing personal assistant told different stories about sex, drugs
By Glenn Puitt - ReviewJournal.com
February 15, 2006
In their first statements to police, slaying
suspects Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan said they didn't know how the
charred body of their personal assistant, Melissa James, ended up
in the trunk of Ryan's car.
But in two subsequent statements to
authorities, the fitness champions changed their story, saying
James died of a drug overdose at their house, and that they burned
James' body to avoid negative publicity from the accidental death.
"Found her (James) in the (expletive) car dead,
stinking up my (expletive) car," Titus told detectives in a Dec.
24 taped interview in Boston.
"I panicked. That gets in the newspaper, we're
ruined. Dead girl, car, OD'd, Craig Titus, Kelly Ryan. We're
(expletive) ruined," Titus said.
"Plus, not to mention that my car's ruined ...
so I think OK, let's put her in the trunk and burn it and play
stupid. That's what we did. Period. Finito. End of story."
In a third statement, to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, however, Titus agreed with an FBI agent's
suggestion that perhaps he was having rough sex with James and she
"Yeah, we were having sex and she OD'd," the
FBI agent quoted Titus as saying. "Let's go with that. That's a
The conflicting statements about James' death
are contained in nearly 500 pages of voluntary statements given by
Titus and Ryan to Las Vegas homicide detectives. Titus and Ryan
are charged with murder in the December death of James, and copies
of the couple's statements were obtained by the Review-Journal
Titus' attorney, Richard Schonfeld, wouldn't
discuss specifics of his client's statements. But he said the
statements Titus and Ryan gave to police in Massachusetts will be
suppressed because police never notified Titus or Ryan they were
recording them, as required by law in that state.
"No doubt in my mind it will be suppressed,"
Schonfeld said. "It was illegal what they did."
Ryan's attorney, Thomas Pitaro, could not be
reached for comment.
Louis Palazzo, a defense attorney for a third
defendant charged in the case, Anthony Gross, wouldn't comment.
Clark County prosecutor Robert Daskas also
wouldn't comment on this story.
Titus is a past place-winner of the
international Mr. Olympia competitions, and Ryan is a past Ms.
Fitness America and Ms. Olympia runner-up.
Hours after James' body was found burning in
the desert in Ryan's car on Dec. 14, Titus and Ryan each gave
police lengthy taped statements. In their first statements, the
couple said they suspected James might be stealing from them and
perhaps was planning to steal their identities.
"OK, one example, she went online and changed
my pass codes," Ryan said. "OK. She requested new security
information be sent to her and new banking cards sent to her."
Ryan said she confronted James about her
suspicions that James was stealing, and James decided she was
going to leave and head home to New Jersey for Christmas. The day
before James was found murdered, Ryan said, she gave James a ride
to a convenience store and dropped her off.
Ryan and Titus then speculated to police that
James somehow returned to their house, snuck into their garage and
stole Ryan's car.
Titus and Ryan said they didn't know what
happened to James after that. But Titus suggested James was using
methamphetamine and that a drug dealer named Eddie could be
responsible for her death.
"He's real cool, drug dealer, you know, 'Pay
me, I'll kill ya' type, (expletive) idiot," Titus told police.
Titus told police that if he found out who
killed James before the detectives did, he would hunt the person
down and harm them.
"I'll tell ya something right now," Titus said.
"If I find this (expletive) guy before you guys do, I'm gonna
(expletive) him up. I'll call you when I do."
After their statements were given, authorities
said, Titus and Ryan fled across country.
They were arrested outside Boston and, on Dec.
24, gave more statements to the FBI and Las Vegas police.
This time, Titus and Ryan said they had found
James dead of an overdose in Ryan's car, a needle sticking out of
her arm, and, instead of simply calling police, they panicked.
"Craig and I started thinking, ah, she's got
drugs in the house, ah, he (Titus is) a felon," Ryan said. "Well,
Ryan and Titus said they dragged James' body
into their house, wrapped James' face with duct tape and put her
body in blankets, and then put her in the trunk of Ryan's Jaguar.
"She wasn't stiff," Ryan said. "She was very
heavy. Very heavy. Very, very. And I remember that she, she was
(a) mess, and so heavy I think I probably ended up dropping her."
"So, ah, it's real simple, guys," Titus told
detectives. "We took her out of the car and put her in the fetal
positionand put her in the trunk of my car and we burned it.
"Drug her in the house," Titus said. "This is
(expletive) gross, man. Put her in a fetal position, wrapped her
up, put her in the trunk."
Titus said they decided to dispose of James'
body to avoid negative publicity that could ruin their fitness
"She (Ryan) is the number one fitness athlete
in the world," Titus said. "Highly respected in the sport, and if
you think of fitness, Kelly Ryan. Period. ... And here we walk in
our garage and our friend's OD'd in our (expletive) car. So if
that gets out to the public, we're ruined."
Ryan said she bought lighter fluid at a
Wal-Mart, and her husband called Gross. The trio then went to the
desert off state Route 160, where Ryan said Titus set Ryan's car
on fire with James' body in the trunk.
"We just basically got rid of a body, and how
we gonna explain it," Ryan said. "Um, you know, obviously if we
thought that, you know, by burning the car it would get rid of ah,
of the person completely. Um, I don't know, I don't know why."
At one point during the interview, Titus said
he and Ryan couldn't have murdered James because if they had, they
wouldn't be dumb enough to burn the body in a car registered to
"If I really wanted to ... burn her and it was
a murder, I would of dug a hole out in the desert and dumped her
in the hole, and burned my car myself," Titus said. "You know what
"It's that simple," Titus said. "Nobody ever
found her. My car would be burned and stolen. End of story.
"So I mean ... it doesn't take a (expletive)
genius to know, well, you know, if you're gonna murder somebody,
you don't put her in your car and burn her," Titus said.
"Unless somebody panics," a detective tells
"Yeah, well, unless they're really stupid,"
At another point in the interview, Titus asks
police if they found steroids in his house.
"Did you guys find my steroids?" Titus asks the
"Yeah," a detective responds.
"You did find it?" Titus said. "(Expletive,)
man. That's pretty good investigation."
Ryan acknowledges to police that she once used
methamphetamine with James. And Titus tells police he, his wife
and James also used a painkiller called Nubane, which is commonly
used by fitness athletes.
Titus denied he was having an affair with
James, although he acknowledged having sex with her years ago.
But in yet another statement to authorities, an
FBI agent said Titus told him that, he, James and Ryan had all had
sex together in the past.
The FBI agent then poses a possible scenario of
Titus having rough sex with James and her dying.
"You admitted to placing a ligature around
(James') neck and placing duct tape around her face," the FBI
agent said he told Titus. "You'd previously admitted that the
three of you had sex together. Also, you did drugs together. Could
this have been a sex act gone bad?
"You were having kinky sex together and
something went wrong," the agent said he told Titus. "You were
having sex. You had her tied up. You were using drugs and maybe
The FBI agent then summarized in a report
Titus's response to the scenario.
"Titus responded words to the effect, 'Yeah, we
were having sex and she OD'd. Let's go with that. That's a good
"After making this statement, Titus paused for
a moment and then stated 'No more questions.'"