Charles “Chuck” Ray Fleming, a 45-year old Beloit native and resident of Gardner, Kan., made his first appearance in Mitchell County District Court on Tuesday morning to officially face charges of first degree murder in the August 2003 death of his mother, Carol Fleming. She was 51 years old at the time of her death.
Fleming was read the charges leveled against him by the Hon. Judge Debra Wright who presided over the proceedings. Wright described the charge as an off-grid person felony. Therefore, if convicted, Fleming could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.
Fleming, a self-employed flooring contractor, requested a court appointed attorney. Citing living and business expenses as well as child support provided to his young children, ages 5 and 7, as necessitating his need for court appointed council.
After he and Judge Wright discussed his financial position, she reviewed and granted his request. Judge Wright appointed Salina attorney Julie Effenbeck to represent Fleming, and she scheduled a preliminary hearing for Wednesday, July 25.
Fleming was arrested on Monday, July 16 by Johnson County authorities as a suspect in his mother’s murder before being returned to Beloit later in the day. Mrs. Fleming suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head, at close range, in her home in the early morning hours of August 16, 2003. She is reported to have been in bed with her boyfriend, Rick Harris of Burr Oak, at the time.
According to Kansas Missing and Unsolved, on the night of the murder, Carol Fleming and Rick Harris had been at the Eagles club in Beloit. After leaving the club and picking up Harris’ teenage son from Carol’s salon “Joint Effort”, they went to Carol’s home and to bed.
Chuck Fleming was living with his mother at the time and had parked his pickup in the garage. He said he, “was in the process of feeding the dog when the cops showed up.” No one claimed to have heard a gunshot when asked by authorities, and insufficient evidence was recovered at the scene of the crime to warrant any charges being filed against any suspect in the case during the course of the initial investigation nearly 15 years ago. Harris and, at the time, his teenage son were questioned at length about the events of that evening and neither were believed by authorities to be involved in the murder.
What had been a cold case for well over a decade clearly caught a spark and quickly picked-up steam over the past several days. It is unconfirmed what new evidence was discovered or whether someone had come forward with information to reinvigorate case.
A $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case has been offered going back to when it was first approved via executive order by former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Mitchell County Attorney Mark Noah will head-up the prosecution in the case. Mr. Noah was unavailable for comment as he was in court this afternoon tending to other cases.
When asked what had changed over the past several days leading-up to the arrest of Fleming and the First Degree Murder charge being leveled against him, both Beloit Chief of Police Dave Elam and Mitchell County Sheriff Tony Perez declined to comment following the proceedings.
“Not until after the preliminary hearing,” Perez said.
Fleming remains in custody of the Mitchell County Jail with a $1,000,000 bond.