Testimony: Abandoned SUV sparks manhunt spanning two counties


GREENFIELD — A blood-covered sport-utility vehicle police found parked outside a home in Fortville last spring prompted a manhunt that spanned two counties, as investigators searched for the person responsible for a McCordsville man’s murder.

The third day of the state’s trial against Damian Coleman included testimony from detectives with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, who told jurors their investigation in the hours after 55-year-old Shannon Kitchens’ body was found dumped along the side of a county road took them to Fortville, then into southern Madison County and up to Anderson looking for the man Kitchens’ family told police was likely the last to see their loved one alive — Shawn Hammons, Coleman’s co-defendant.

Prosecutors are working this week to convince a jury of 12 Hancock County residents that Coleman killed Kitchens last spring during a drug deal that Hammons orchestrated.

Investigators said they believe Coleman shot Kitchens while they were sitting in Hammons’ SUV; Coleman was trying to steal $14,000 in disability pay that Kitchens had recently received, court records state.

Police identified Kitchens using an ID card found with his body in the 3300 block of West County Road 500N March 1; when they found his family, detectives received their first clues about who might be responsible for the McCordsville man’s death, officers testified.

Kitchens’ family members said Kitchens was last seen with a man named Shawn — later identified as Coleman’s co-defendant, Shawn Hammons, court documents state.

Officers called to the stand Thursday told jurors their aim that night was to locate Hammons — who they knew was driving a black Ford Explorer — in hopes of learning what happened in the hours leading up to Kitchens’ death.

Area police searched for Coleman’s car and spotted one that matched its description parked outside a home in the 700 block of Alden Drive in Fortville; they immediately noticed blood smeared on the front passenger window — where Hammons testified Kitchens was seated when he died.

Officers from several area police departments, including members of the Hancock County SWAT team, surrounded the Fortville home, police told jurors.

They found three people inside, all friends of Hammons’ who told officers that they returned to the home after running errands and found the SUV parked outside. They later admitted Hammons came to Fortville seeking their help after dumping Kitchens’ body, and they drove Hammons to a home in Anderson, investigators testified.

When police found Hammons in Anderson, he immediately turned himself in, police testified. During an interview that lasted early into the morning on March 2, Hammons admitted that he had dumped Kitchens body; but he told investigators it was Coleman who shot Kitchens.

Public proceedings begin again at 8 a.m. today in Hancock Circuit Court. The trial is expected to carry into next week.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.