It’s been 10 years since Robert Yell was convicted of being responsible for the death of his two-year-old son Cameron in a trailer fire in Russellville, and for the severe burns his one-year-old daughter Saralynn Nicole received as a result. Within that decade Yell has fought to reverse the decision made by a jury just nine and a half hours after hearing the entirety of the case. Yell was granted a new trial by Circuit Judge Tyler Gill Gill after two days of hearings this month on a fourth motion made by Yell. Gill is expected to release his findings and reasoning in a motion this week.
In 2006, Yell was found guilty of Arson 1st (for intentionally setting his home on fire); Manslaughter 2nd (for the death of his two-year-old son); Assault 1st (for the severe burns his one-year-old daughter received), and being a Persistent Felony Offender 2nd. He was sentenced to 56 years in prison.
Soon after Yell’s conviction in 2006, his attorneys filed an appeal as a matter or right, however, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 2007. Yell’s council then entered motions in 2011 and 2012, which were denied, and a final one in May 2016, which was granted. These motions claim council deficiency, false testimony by Commonwealth witnesses, and forensic evidence used at the first trial was now known to be unreliable.
Yell had plead not guilty to the crimes he was being charged soon after his arrest on the night of Sept. 11, 2004, when Russellville Police officers responded to a domestic complaint at Yell’s residents. Upon arrival authorities discovered the location of the reported disturbance was on fire.
During testimony in the first trial it was heard Yell and the mother of his children April Carpenter had been drinking alcohol and smoked marijuana the day of the fire. They had gotten into a fight in which Carpenter fled, leaving her two children behind in the trailer. Yell had claimed he blacked out and couldn’t remember what had happen. Witnesses for the Commonwealth claimed there were six separate spots where the fires occurred within the trailer, with some sort of slow burning accelerate used to start the fires.
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.