While I was in Las Vegas for the 2007 Olympia working for Bodybuilding.com I went to visit my longtime fitness friend, IFBB Fitness Pro Kelly Ryan at the Clark County Detention Center where both she and her IFBB Pro husband, Craig Titus have been incarcerated.
They are awaiting their trial date for the tragic alleged murder of their live-in assistant Melissa James. This story is clearly of the most horrible and perhaps the worst of ends for anyone to imagine. Involving one of the 7 deadliest sins and is truly horrific to all involved.
God Bless All Involved. Amen."
Kelly and Craig have been in residence at the Jail/Detention facility since December 2005. This case has been highly profiled in the media and full of bizarre gossip and speculation as to what may have happened, both in the bodybuilding world and of great interest in the general population. Some have even created books on the subject since the sad story broke.
It would be my third visit to Kelly and my third article on how I would find her and what she had to say about how she was doing. I write this for Kelly and Craig's friends, fans and family that are interested in exactly how they are coping.
I must add that my story is an insiders' view on this circumstance from a perspective of someone who with others on the inside saw and knew of sketchy situations in their lives for quite sometime.
I realize that friends, fans and even family members may not really be on the inside track as far as the people who have known Craig and Kelly more intimately for years and years until they hooked up and married each other. Believe me, the party and addictive personality traits were seen far in advance from those who could not help but see. It was blatantly clear to some of us.
How I Met Kelly
When I first moved to LA in 2001, I was booked with fitness photo shoots right away with Ralph DeHaan, Scott Riley, David Nienow, Bill Dobbins, Jerry Fredrick and of course Michael Neveux for Ironman Magazine. I was under contract as the first female supplement sponsor for 'Muscle-link' which is owned by Ironman. I am just saying this because almost everywhere I went and almost everyone I met told me to "Stay Away From Craig Titus." I didn't ask why and thought it had something to do with his hitting on me sexually.
I had some prior insights to the guys in the bodybuilding industry hitting on me through everything from e-mails, phone calls and "lunch" dates, and... Seriously the list goes on and on. I know by talking to many of my female fitness/figure/model girlfriends that this was a very common occurrence to receive "invitations" from the male bodybuilding population players.
The truth is they didn't even know me and didn't care to. I was a "new" hot fitness chick who had a following on ESPN2 as well as International Fitness pro and Cover Model. The fact was, I was older than most of those guys and most definitely NOT interested in this scene as a party girl. I must add however, that I have made some of the best friends of my life while in this industry. During these years I have gotten to know the industry from the inside-out very well.
I tell you this because perhaps you will see how the years of friendship between Kelly and I was built. Kelly, like myself, was also in the Fitness America Pageant organization at first. This is where I met her, as a champion.
We both moved towards the NPC/IFBB right around the same time. Kelly was so talented and such a veteran, she was an IFBB Pro right away and I became an International Pro in the Fitness Universe (America) Pageant during this time. We ended up working together for top supplement companies like Pinnacle and Bodybuilding.com as well as working for top promoters and shows like The Fit Expo, Jon Lindsay Productions, The Emerald Cup and The Body Rock as appearing celebrities.
Everywhere we went the other was usually there and we remained close friends and hung out during our breaks and even at airports having dinner or lunch together.
Kelly had always been the example and bar my coach set to be a fitness champion. He would sit all of his fitness athletes down and make us watch Kelly's routines. We were in awe. She was clearly the best. When Kelly and I met, we were friends immediately. I know now this frequently happened to almost everyone Kelly met and talked to.
She is an amazingly thoughtful person as well as talented and has been from day one. Kelly remembers details about each person she connects with and spends her time getting to know new athletes and shares her knowledge freely. I was always impressed by Kelly's work ethic.
I went to visit Kelly on the Thursday before the Olympia 2007 event and had a list of some difficult questions for this interview. Kelly gladly answered them honestly and with calm insight as we had already had conversations, letters and shared many tears together as she sat waiting for her future to be defined and decided.
To visit Kelly in the Clark County Detention Center is not such an easy thing. First of all, there are only 3 days a week she can receive visitors. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. Second, she can only have 2 visitations a week not counting religious leader visits. Thirdly, she may only have one visitation on each day she is allowed so if there are two people there to see her on the same day, the first one who registers will get to talk to her and the others will have to come back to try again.
In the waiting room there is an incredible list of posted protocol instructions listed on a plaque on the wall. One of the steps of protocol requires visitors to check in one hour before the visit. Procedure is extremely strict as you will read.
When a visitor arrives the first thing that happens is you get screened and scanned of your body and all of your belongings - sort of like the airport - only more intense since they need a driver's license or other picture ID to do a thorough search to check to see if you may be a criminal or have a warrant out with your name on it.
By the way, if you have ever been convicted of a crime and spent time in prison, you may not visit another inmate. I never knew this. This rule, although it does not apply to me, makes me nervous every time just to imagine being detained to pay all of my parking tickets from living in LA. Seriously scary as only someone living in LA can relate to.
After you wait to be let into the facility... you wait in the line to register. After registration... you wait in line for your appointment time. And then you wait in the line for the chance to stand in another line to wait for the officer to appoint you to the proper numbered cubicle to have your monitored visit.
I arrived with two of my friends, Bob Bonham and Lauren Powers. I was grateful to for their emotional support. They are both friends with Kelly also and wanted to see her too. The plan was while I would be interviewing her, one of them would take some digital PICS during our visit for this article. I knew Kelly would love to see them as well.
There is a strict dress code policy and Lauren had on a sports bra type top. Apparently this was unacceptable attire and we all left to go to the next block down to "Old Town" and buy her a quick T-shirt so she could come in for the visit. All of this was to no avail since (unbeknownst to us) there were already 2 people in line before we even got there to see Kelly.
We showed up with the T-shirt and checked back in to stand in line only to be told Kelly could only have one visitor and 2 people (who would see her together) had already been in line ahead of us. We had spent over 4 hours driving and waiting and buying a T-shirt we didn't need. However, I was happy Kelly was going to get to see some of her friends and glad she had other visitors. I had the other couple tell her I would be back on Saturday to see her and I could tell that they were special friends of Kelly's. They also informed me that they were coming back to visit Craig the next day as his visiting days are different than Kelly's.
These rules are set in stone for all inmates and I was told by one of the very polite registration officers that there were frequent eruptions of arguments and even fights in the waiting room between family members, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends and friends who all want to see the same person on the same day.
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Visitations are for 30 minutes and between the waiting time to get to the appointed monitor and signing on, it is really about a 20-minute talk time. We would have to come back on Saturday.
When I returned on Saturday, Bob came back with me to take the pictures of Kelly on the monitor while I interviewed her. The inmates are not told who has arrived to see them so it is always a total surprise to them when they see who is on the other end of the monitor.
Kelly knows I will write about her and how she is doing along with anything she wants to get out to her friends and fans who are interested or worried or both about her so she is always emotional and happy to see me. It is mutual. Kelly loves having a voice out in the media with her own words - not just the stuff of speculation on her and Craig that some of the bodybuilding message boards can create with gossip.
There is a digital counter on the monitor screen during the visit that both of us can see with telephones on both ends to talk to each other on. Kelly is not "there" behind the screen, she is in another part of the center and it is a live telecast. The picture is pretty good quality; in color and from the waist up as both sit at a desk for the visit.
The rules are strict and we didn't realize cameras were not allowed in the monitor stations so during the visit an officer came up to us, took my camera away from Bob who was taking PICS and made me delete the images right in front of her. She severely reprimanded us saying we very well could be kicked out then and there and not ever allowed to visit Kelly again! I was glad I got to stay to finish speaking with Kelly and I thanked the officer and we continued our interview after this brief pause.
I can tell you Kelly looked really healthy. Here is what Kelly looked like; her hair is long and beautiful, she wears glasses since she is not allowed contact lenses and although a little smaller in her muscularity as I am used to seeing her, she was in great shape physically and mentally. I was so happy and relieved to see her like this as I think of her often and pray for her state of mind to remain in the light.
[ Brenda Kelly ] What do you do in your free time?
[ Kelly Ryan ] We only have 1 hour to be out of our cells in my block. In that 1-hour we get to choose to do any one of the following:
- Watch TV
- Workout/exercise outside on the Monkey bar type of equipment
I often choose to have a superset workout along with other women who are there and lead them in sets adding spiritual affirmations that we all say together out loud after each completed set.
[ BK ] Do you have a window in your cell to see the outside?
[ KR ] Yes, I am blessed to have a window. It looks out at a brick wall but I can see upwards to the sky and I am thankful. Some inmates do not see the light of day or the night since they do not have a window. I am blessed.
[ BK ] Plans to return to Fitness?
[ KR ] I would never return to fitness. I will never compete in fitness again. This is the last thing either Craig or I want in our lives. We had been in the middle of doing many other things to transition our careers from competition income to build our lives together.
[ BK ] What would be your ideal career change title?
[ KR ] Even though this does not sound like a career to some and I know it may sound funny, I want to be a Mom. This is my
goal and is dear to my heart. I want it more than anything.
[ BK ] How many friends/family write or visit?
[ KR ] Thanks to these types of articles from you on Bodybuilding.com, I have been getting wonderful letters of support and gifts regularly as well as visits and books people send. While we are in here we have financial accounts to draw upon for writing paper, pens, books and such and people even have put money into my account so I can afford these things. Thank you!
I am so grateful. Both my family and Craig's family visit and write to us both all of the time and our families are supportive of each other and us together. We have all gotten much closer.
[ BK ] How is your relationship with Craig holding up?
[ KR ] Craig and I are more in tune and in touch emotionally than we have ever been. Since we only get to speak on the phone to each other once a week, we write to each other all of the time - maybe 3 or 4 times a week! We have learned interesting things about each other that we may never have known. For instance details about both of our childhoods and what truly lies in both of our hearts desires.
I don't think we would have ever been so close had we not been forced to do this in this way. The Lord works in a wonderful way. I believe Craig and I would have never had this close of a relationship in our other life. We are completely committed to each other and in love.
[ BK ] Are you and Craig happy with your representation?
[ KR ] Yes! We have finally had our cases combined with each other. We have been working on this together with our families for some time and now it is done just like we want.
[ BK ] Most grateful for?
[ KR ] I am so grateful for my friends and family. Family is my foundation and everything to me. I have my Mother as an angel and my Grandfather. God is teaching me how to live. I have trust, peace, joy and the glory of God in my life now and I am blessed.
[ BK ] What do you do most of the time?
[ KR ] I spend most of my time reading and meditating. I write letters to my friends and pray for them. I pray for my friends in the Bodybuilding and Fitness industry every day.
[ BK ] Do you wish you and Craig never married?
[ KR ] Well, we can all say we all can want something else for ourselves at any time when things do not go accordingly. The truth is God is directing me to a place I needed to be and I am grateful for this. I wouldn't say anything negative that brought me to this time in my life since it has brought me to my truths in God.
[ BK ] Do you think the move from LA to Vegas added to this terrible consequence in yours and Craig's lives?
[ KR ] I have always missed Venice, CA and the life I lived with Craig there by the Mecca of Bodybuilding. We both wanted to do more things and create a better lifestyle for our marriage and finances and at the time we both made the decision to move to Vegas. I do not regret it. I thank God for this opportunity to be more in touch with my husband, our families and the Lord.
[ BK ] What can you receive in the mail at this time?
[ KR ] I can receive books from sources like
Amazon.com and other secure websites. They cannot be hard-back or have any metal bindings. I can receive money for my account that I use for my daily needs and I have even used some of this account money for some of our legal bills. Of course letters are always welcome and I love to hear from friends who can figure out how to get in touch with me and visits a Godsend.
Clark County Detention Center
C/o Kelly Ryan #01992276 (Craig Titus #01895641)
330 S. Casino Center Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
I love you Brenda. Thank you for being my friend and voice.
The screen went blank. I went to the Olympia and Kelly went back to her cell to pray for all of us.
Bear in mind I do not agree with some of Kelly and Craig's views, actions or strategies. I am merely there to support my friends and be of whatever use I can be to just be there in their time of the greatest need. That is all.
Kelly's days and nights are unimaginable to me yet her spirit remains positive and upbeat. Who of us can say this would be the case for any of our own reactions in such a tragic state? Kelly and Craig are truly torn to their very souls and coping the best they can.
I am always very emotional before, during and after seeing Kelly.
I do get letters in between my visits to Kelly decorated in coloring pens with her own drawings of artwork containing angels and bible passages for me to review for my own life's issues. I have even received one from Craig thanking me for visiting her, which was very sweet. Talking with Kelly "in person" makes it much more real for me than reading a letter as you can imagine.
Before I see Kelly it is easy to imagine the worst I suppose in such a tragic situation yet I was left with a wonderful feeling of relief for her ability to remain the motivational Kelly I always knew her as.
I left being thankful for my own life and almost embarrassed by my little complications. I left knowing Kelly is working on herself from the inside out with no illusion of the other way around which I believe suits her most at this point in her life.
If you are reading this, you must in some way be interested in how Craig and Kelly are doing. There is a saying that says:
Not Someone Else's Reality."
This is certainly true with these two who have had their realities drastically changed and challenged their very lives - Forever. Yet they remain in hope and in love with each other. Is this real life? It is for them.
Take care of yourself. You deserve it.
Kelly Ryan E-mails From Brenda
I receive many e-mails from people about Kelly and Craig. Some are from people I know and some are from total strangers. Here are some samples of the real e-mails that I get all of the time.
Positive Response 1:
I have just read your two interviews of your friend Kelly Ryan in Jail. May I say that you did a tremendous job. I was somewhat saddened by the your accounts of the extremely negative criticisms that you received from some readers. My opinion of the matter is this: Whether they are guilty of crimes or not, I cannot say, but... it is wonderful to me that she has such a positive attitude in spite of her circumstance.
I am now over 50 years of age, and the one thing that I have learned is this: we ARE ALL SINNERS and none of us have the right to harshly point the finger of judgment at anyone. Whatever we have to go through or to endure to find peace with God, it is worth it. Not that any of us want to go to jail to do so, but regardless... to have peace with Him and to know HIS forgiveness is the greatest gift of all.
All of us are miserable failures in many ways and NONE of us measure up to God's standard. But His mercy and grace reaches out to all of us. I am thankful for that.
It is so good that you have reached out to your friend. I hope that you will continue to be a source of hope for her for however long she remains incarcerated. We all need the hope that comes from a loved one sharing in our trials and sorrows in some way. Keep up the great work." - D.
Positive Response 2:
"Brenda first I just want to tell you that I think highly of you and thanks for your input in the fitness industry. You are beautiful and set a standard for fitness. Second, the reason I am writing you is my dear friends Craig and Kelly. I know you are getting hit hard with a lot of neg. comments for what you wrote.
I met them in '99 and never once did I have a problem with them. I went with them to many shows and helped Craig with his diet and helped coach Kelly. They were family to me as well as I was to them. When you have friends or family you stick with them 'till the end. I miss them very much.
I was with Craig right before all this occurred and I knew they were partying a bit. I did not like what I saw and tried to tell him to stop before something bad happens. You don't see to many people on here defending them so I keep my positive comments to myself. Anyways thank you for all you wrote. I am going to finally write them cause I know they can use I letter from me. Your a sweet person and thanks for helping my friends." - J.
Positive Response 3:
"Thank you so much for your article on Kelly Ryan. It was very informative and emotional. I am glad that you got the opportunity to speak with your friend and allowed us to be a part of something so personal between you and Kelly. Ms. Kelly it goes without saying how beautiful you are on the outside and to give your fans a glimpse of the beauty that is a part of your spirit... I just wanted to say thank you very much. God bless you and the Ryan's throughout this ordeal." - R.
Positive Response 4:
"The criticism of you for not abandoning your good friend in her greatest time of need reminds me a little of some of the criticism that Johnny Cash received for playing concerts at maximum security penitentiaries in front of murderers and rapists. Johnny was very direct in answering his detractors in maintaining that anybody who castigated him for trying to uplift the spirits of the convicts was not a Christian.
Most of Johnny's fans were Christians, but he was not afraid to give them the finger if they were so shallow and callous as to believe that murderers and rapists had no right to be uplifted.
Guilty or innocent all I can say is that you stuck by your friend and the world would be better off if we all stuck by our friends.
So, here's to you, Brenda Kelly, for having the strength of character to do what God knows is the right thing to do!" - D.
Negative Response 1:
"Diva?? Yeah.... anyway, you are no writer. I had to reread sentences several times to understand what you were trying to say. You toot your own horn. You make ridiculous amounts of comments referring to "my good friend Kelly." You know you are nothing... a nobody, and your are trying to gain some fame while riding on the apron strings of Kelly. You poor pathetic person.
Had you not posed for so many shots (thought the article was about you), I would not have noticed how your face looks like it had so much work done. You look like a phoney and a phoney friend you are. Too bad Kelly can't see you for what you are. I guess it's not the first time Kelly used bad judgement. And so much for the Kelly update. It's all about you... you... you... Get yourself a life LOSER!!" - N.
Negative Response 2:
"I read your article on the Ryan's - do you really think it's appropriate? They killed someone. They stole someone's life. You make it sound as if they were wronged by being put in a detention center. Trust me, they deserve much worse than that, even if they are your friends - it doesn't change what they did." - J.
Negative Response 3:
"I have seen you around for years and you are truely the most pathetic fitness model I have ever seen; fake tits, fake face, fake teeth... Is there anything real about you, oh and Kelly's comment about your skin, what, another face lift or just some extra strength Botox. People like you give fitness a really bad name; skin, bones, and silicone that's what you are made of, and now trying to come off as some saint when the truth is your trying to make a buck. PATHETIC. You should be ashamed!" - K.
On The Fence:
On The Fence Response 1:
"Brenda, I worked with Kelly some years back when she switched over to the IFBB. I was one of the number one trainers in the nation back in the 90's. I have been following Kelly's case since before she was arrested. I want you to know that I think Kelly is making a big mistake staying with Craig if she is innocent.
I went through a similar situation with my ex husband when he had gotten arrested. I took my spousal privilege and did not want to incriminate him any further. He made promises to me that he would make sure the FBI would not harass me or try to pull me into the case. He did this because, while he was going through this, I was going to leave him.
I felt he was not who I thought he was because he had committed this crime. He talked me into staying and supporting him. Well, needless to say, he did not keep me out of the case and I was brought right into it. He thought he could out smart them and all he did was created issues for others.
If Kelly has not done anything wrong here, she needs to completely separate from Craig. Love is not enough and it will not protect her. God would not want her to support Craig if he has committed this crime. God would tell her to forgive him but not support him.
Kelly needs to think about Kelly from here out. She needs to think about how to get free and clear her name if that is her goal. If she has done the crime, she should still separate from Craig because they are not good together. Again, love is not enough. She needs to ask God to forgive her, ask for the mercy of the court and victims family.
She needs to find peace wherever they send her and move on from Craig. Kelly has always been obsessive compulsive and I know she was using a lot of drugs and always struggled with her eating disorder, this is why I felt she never should have hooked up with Craig. Craig has the same issues and the two together were destined for this if not worse. I am sad to see Kelly in the position she is in. I hope she can get past her love for Craig when making decisions that will impact her future from here forward." - L.
On The Fence Response 2:
"I have been a fan of Kelly and Craig's for years; seeing them in magazines and on ESPN etc. It is ironic how fast time passes by; I am not into fitness as much as I was years ago. I now go to the gym about 3-4 times a week as before when I worked at Gold's; being there everyday 10 hours a day - then I lived and breathed fitness & bodybuilding.
Craig was a huge inspiration to me and I remember Kelly winning her first contest. She was single and new to the sport, all she talked about was her coach and the title he had. Now, 10 years or so later... it is a shame; the down-fall they have taken. I wish them all the best luck. If they're found guilty then they have to realize everything happens for a reason, but let's not forget the victim, her family and friends.
All who knew her are victims as well, as they lost a sibling or friend... I look at this as a no-win situation; everyone loses here. Kelly & Craig are fighting for their lives and may never see the outside of freedom again. They have touched or inspired so many people they will never meet or know - I am one of them and I wish them all the luck and happiness one can receive under these circumstances." - K.
We often project on to others, the very faults and foibles that we ourselves unwittingly possess. Instead of recognizing them in our own psychological make-up, we see them reflected back to us in the behavior of our companions and we criticize them bitterly for this. The only remedy is a compassionate, non-judgmental attitude. Although this may sound easy, it certainly is not. We can though, at least give it a good go.