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Motive Still Unknown as Covington Murder Suspects' Stories Emerge

The blue older model two-door vehicle cruised slowly down East Thirteenth Street passing a small crowd before turning right on Wheeler Street.

The occupants of the car decided to make one more trip to Thirteenth. They drove down Wheeler to Pleasant Street where they took a right before taking another right on Garrard Street, and then after one more right, they were back.

A tinted window from the passenger side rolled down about six inches. An arm reached from the small opening, pointing a gun at a man on the corner. Five shots rang out and the blue older model two-door vehicle sped off, and this time did not return to Thirteenth Street.

On the corner, Randolph "Noodles" Hughes lay dead.

Covington Police responded to the scene where at least three witnesses relayed details about the blue car that had circled the block before firing the fatal shots. Within forty minutes that car was found and police were questioning Reginald Ealy, 22, and Erik Tucker, 23, after they were located in Florence where they live together.

Both were arrested and charged in Hughes's murder. The pair appeared in court again on Tuesday afternoon for a preliminary hearing where Judge Ann Ruttle ruled that there was probable cause to refer the case to the Kenton County Grand Jury for possible indictment. At the request of Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders, Ruttle raised the bonds for each defendant to $1 million cash from $500,000. Sanders cited Ealy's and Tucker's unclear Kentucky residency status and argued that the crime in which they are accused was targeted.

Detective Bryan Kane said that the motive of the suspects in killing Hughes is still not clear. "If you mess with my people, then I have to mess with you," Kane said, paraphrasing remarks made by Tucker during an interrogation.

Tucker and Ealy sat in the courtroom in pink jump suits from the Kenton County Detention Center, arms crossed, often looking at each other and shaking their heads incredulously as Kane would offer details that placed them at the scene. Both are represented by public defenders.

"Tucker admitted that he picked up Ealy from a location in Florence and brought him to Covington and headed to the 300 block of East Thirteenth looking for "dude"," Kane testified. "When they spotted him, Ealy, in the front passenger seat made a head nod that he should go around the block one more time."

At that point, Kane said, the pair drove around the block and returned, identified the man they repeatedly referred to as "dude" during interrogations, and gunned down Hughes.

Kane asked the defendants during interrogation whether they were supposed to fire shots to scare their target. "When you shoot at someone, you have to kill them," Tucker told Kane, the detective testified. Gasps erupted from the gallery where Hughes's family and friends were sitting, crying as the details continued to flow.

Detectives collected what they believe to be the murder weapon, a 9mm Smith & Wesson. Tucker said that the gun was already in the trunk when he purchased the vehicle from a bootleg car dealer in Newport days before the murder. Each suspect has been tested for gunshot residue. Those results have not been returned. One shell casing was found in the backseat of the suspects' vehicle.

As the case moves on to the Grand Jury, detectives will continue to piece together the events that may have led to these two recent transplants from the Chicago area to a street in Covington where a man was shot to death.

"If you mess with my people then I have to mess with you," Kane repeated as a statement offered to him by Tucker, when questioned by public defender John Delaney. "The core of the problem, I'm not aware of yet."

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Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Ealy (seated) and Tucker enter the courtroom on Tuesday/RCN

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