Home / Civilian Murderer Turned Prison Murderer: Troy Kell

Civilian Murderer Turned Prison Murderer: Troy Kell

Troy Kell was serving life in jail for killing James Kelly, but once he murders a fellow inmate, he’s slapped with the death penalty. Here’s how he ended up on Utah’s death row, but with a documentary.Troy Michael Kell was born on June 13, 1968. Troy Kell is an inmate who is sitting on Utah’s death row currently. 

Kell was officially sentenced to life in prison in the state of Nevada for the murder of James “Cotton” Kelly back in 1986. However, shortly after he was formerly convicted, Kell would be transferred out to the Utah State Prison since he was a part of what was known as the prisoner exchange program. 

Then on July 6, 1994, Kell not only attacked, but also murdered a fellow inmate named Lonnie Blackmon who was in the Gunnison facility that was in the Utah Department of Corrections. Kell stabbed Blackmon at least 67 times while Kell’s sidekick, Eric Daniels, was holding Blackmon down. 

Ultimately, for this crime, Kell would be given the death penalty via the firing squad for his role in the murder of Lonnie Blackmon. 


Due to many of the security reasons, the state of Utah won the option to hold Kell’s trial for the murder of Lonnie Blackmon in a courtroom that was located just inside the Utah State Prison facility. 

Kell was ultimately formerly convicted with aggravated murder. The state of Utah was pushing to secure the death penalty as the consequence of Kell’s latest crime. The jury was able to secure the death penalty overall. 

However, in the year of 2003, Kell came within a month of his execution date. He was going to be executed by firing squad, but then suddenly Kell decided it was time to appeal his conviction. 

As of early 2016, Kell is still sitting on Utah’s death row and his appeals are still going through the processes.  

First Murder Conviction

We have talked about in-depth the murder conviction that landed Troy Kell on Utah’s death row, but let’s get into detail about the first murder conviction that brought him to a Utah state prison to carry out his second murder. 

Originally Kell was in prison for murdering James “Cotton” Kelly, 21 while he was in the state of Nevada. 

However, Kell was gunning for “Kelly” the victim’s actual birth name was James Thiede, who was a Canadian citizen who was in an active investigation regarding drug smuggling with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

Years later, Thiede’s father, mother, along with his uncle were also indicted federally in Toronto and Las Vegas regarding drug smuggling. These three also used the alias “Kelly” as well. 

When Kell was 18 in 1986, Kell was asked by Sandy Shaw, 15 to beat up Cotton Kelly for stalking Shaw and wanting to have sex with her. 

Shaw’s mother went to the police earlier, but since there was no such thing as stalking laws at that time, the local police could not do anything to help with their situation. This is what caused Shaw to talk to Kell about her problem and Kell was also her childhood protector as well. 

Shaw, Kell, Cotton Kelly, and William Merritt all drove together into the desert. This is where Kell ultimately would end up shooting Kelly in the face six times, murdering him. The Las Vegas media would call this killing the “Show and Tell Murder” because Shaw and David Fletcher would end up returning to the crime scene to see the dead corpse. 

Eventually one of the teens would end up reporting this crime to the local police, which then would ultimately lead to the convictions and arrests of Merritt, Shaw, and Kell. 

However, you should note that in an affidavit, which ended up free Shaw many years later, Fletcher would go on to state that Shaw never once went back to the crime scene or even brought any friends to see the dead corpse. Fletcher would go on to say that he went to the scene of the crime without Shaw having any sort of knowledge. 

Fletcher would also admit to Dan Seaton, District Attorney that he changed his testimony and committed perjury during Shaw’s trial since Seaton was threatening him with being prosecuted for grand theft after he took the victim’s ring and watch. Fletcher did state that he knew his testimony would ultimately convict Shaw and he deeply regretted it. 

The Las Vegas Sun reported that Sandy Shaw stated, and I quote: “I made a horrible, immature decision to ask a friend to rough this man up so he would leave me alone. Cotton Kelly had been harassing me and pestering me to go out with him and to pose for nude pictures. He would call our house at all hours of the day and was so persistent that my mom phoned the police to request that they keep him away from me. But they didn’t have stalking laws in place then like we have today.”

For Sandy’s part in the crime at hand, she was ultimately sentenced to life in prison with no chance of getting parole. However, in the year of 2004, the Nevada State Board of Pardons and Parole changed her sentence to allow her to gain parole. 

Sandy Shaw would go on to serve at least 21 years of her sentence and was ultimately paroled back in December of 2007.

The other guy, William Merritt, who would testify against Kell received an 8-to-12-year sentence, but he would get out of prison after only serving 4 years, as this was a part of his plea bargain. 

However, soon after Merritt was released, he would go straight back to jail for similar crimes and currently has a life sentence without the possibility of parole slapped on him. 

All while Troy Kell was serving a life in prison sentence with no parole. 

Documentary Production

In 2002, HBO along with Blowback Productions filmed and published a documentary known as Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder. 

This documentary is all about Eric Daniels and Troy Kell’s killing of Lonnie Blackmon. It even goes in-depth and shows some raw footage of the trial from 1986. The documentary will even include statements from Daniels, Kell, the state attorney, guards, Sandy Shaw, Blackmon’s brother. The documentary is also equipped with some footage of the murder that was captured thanks to the CCTV that was installed within the Utah State Prison.