James Branham

James Branham (Source: Louisville Metro Corrections)

WARNING:  This story contains disturbing information that may unsettle some readers. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A third suspect has been charged months after police say a Louisville man was kidnapped, beaten and tortured to death.

According to court documents, 39-year-old James Branham was presented with several felony charges by Louisville Metro Police just before 1 a.m. Saturday. He was charged at the Jail, according to his arrest report.

Branham is charged in connection with the September 27 torture and killing of 35-year-old Jeremy Lind. Authorities say Lind died by asphyxiation after his tongue was removed, wrapped in tin foil and shoved down his throat. 

Lind's body was found in a rear alley in the 3600 block of Lentz Avenue, near Carlisle Avenue, in Louisville's Jacobs neighborhood.

Two other people have already been arrested in connection with the crime. In January, police arrested 31-year-old Samantha Johnson and 40-year-old Robert Lee Smothers.

Police say the crime began on Sept. 27, when Johnson and a man kidnapped Lind and a female victim. Police say at 1 a.m., they woke the two victims up and forced them, at gunpoint, to a home on Clara Avenue, near Taylor Boulevard. That's where Johnson met them, according to police.

At that point, police say Lind and the female victim were forced at gunpoint to strip out of their clothing. According to an arrest warrant, they were beaten and "deprived of their basic human rights."

"The victims were forced to eat dog food while naked," an arrest warrant states.

Robert Smothers and Samantha Johnson

Robert Smothers and Samantha Johnson (Source: Louisville Metro Corrections)

Police say rope was used to tie Lind's hands and feet behind his back, and a ligature cord was placed around his neck. At one point, his tongue was removed.

According to the arrest warrant, the female victim was forced to watch Lind being tortured. At one point during the imprisonment, police say Lind was unconscious, and the female victim was forced to clean up his blood. She was also pistol-whipped, according to police.

Police say Lind died when the suspects placed a foil ball in his mouth that contained his own tongue, and he choked to death.

Johnson and Smothers planned to keep the female victim alive for the purposes of human trafficking, but she eventually escaped, according to court documents.

Police say the pair kept Lind's body in a shed for two or three days after he died, then eventually dumped it in a rear alley in the 3600 block of Lentz Avenue, near Carlisle Avenue in Louisville's Jacobs neighborhood.

"The beating sustained to the male victim was so extreme that it rearranged his mouth structure," court documents state. "His mouth was shattered, eyes closed shut and unrecognizable."

A motive is unclear. "I don't believe there is a motive that would be good enough to say, 'hey, I can see why they did this.' This was a heinous crime," said Dwight Mitchell, spokesperson for LMPD, shortly after the arrests.

Police did say later in a Feb. 5 hearing that the victims and the suspects all knew each other -- and that it may have been related to the burglary of a vehicle that took place a few days earlier.

It's not clear from Branham's arrest report how he was involved in the crime. It does say that he admitted to being paid to help in the kidnapping and torture of the two victims. It also says he knew Lind's body was hidden for several days before it was discarded in the alley.

Branham is charged with complicity to murder, complicity to kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, complicity to kidnapping of an adult, complicity to first-degree unlawful imprisonment, complicity to second-degree assault, complicity to abuse of a corpse, complicity to tampering with physical evidence, and complicity to possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.

He is currently being held in Louisville Metro Corrections.

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