Charges expected in KFC murder

December 12, 2007 4:47:04 AM PST
Northwest Indiana authorities expect to formally charge a fast food restaurant manager with the murder of a co-worker. The body of 61-year-old Maxine Urbanczyk was found Monday inside the KFC restaurant near Route 30 and Taft Street. Police say surveillance video shows the suspect entering and leaving the building.

Authorities say the suspect is another assistant manager of that restaurant, 26-year-old Ronnie Rice. Police say Rice will be charged with first-degree murder and robbery. Police believe greed was the motive.

Rice had worked at the restaurant for about a year.

Police say their suspect started out as a witness. Rice was at the scene at the KFC claiming he was there to cover a shift. But he wasn't scheduled to be there. And when police took a look at the surveillance video, they figured out he was their man.

"The clothing he was wearing, the sweatshirt was very distinctive, which was a key piece of evidence that linked him to the crime," said Merrillville police Sgt. Jeff Snemis.

Police say their suspect knew the surveillance camera was there and tried to hide his face. But it was his gray sweatshirt that proved to be the key to giving him away. Police say they found the sweatshirt Monday near the KFC where Urbanczyk was bludgeoned to death.

"He was there on the scene when he wasn't scheduled to work. Secondly, was the clothing item that was observed on the video and then eventually traced back to him wearing that that morning at the scene," said Snemis.

Police say Rice entered the KFC through the back door, which had been propped open by Urbanczyk as she was opening up for the day. After allegedly killing her, Rice opened the safe and took about $6,000. Then he went out to the parking lot and waited. When other employees showed up for work and couldn't get in, they used Rice's key and found Urbanczyk dead in a back office.

Police were on the scene almost immediately and took Rice in as a witness at first. But by late Monday afternoon, they say they had figured out he was their suspect.

"They detained what we thought at the time were witnesses to the crime. One of them ended up being Ronnie Rice, who is actually a main suspect, our only suspect," said Snemis.

Police say they have recovered the murder weapon but won't say what it is. They also won't say if Ronnie Rice has confessed to the crime.