Someone Knows Who Killed This Man

He was, at the time of his death, a young man with a turbulent life and a place in the gun culture. We started to write about it at the time, almost three years ago, and then set this report aside, to finish when the case broke.

The case never broke. It’s still an open case today. But no one’s ever been fingered, charged, indicted, arrested. The authorities have said little. They certainly know more than they’re saying. But it seems unlikely that they know much more than they’re saying.

keith_ratliff_marker

We first saw a blog report — we didn’t write down which blog, unfortunately — that said:

Keith Ratliff, the manager of FPS Russia, the 3rd most popular youtube channel was found dead yesterday, tied up to a chair and shot in the back of the head.

In retrospect, that seems to be asserting information that was not accurate. Subsequent stories have indicated that Ratliff was not tied up, and the police seem to have said only that he was shot in the head — not from which direction. They have never, as far as we know, publicly identified the firearm used to kill Ratliff. They have only said that it was not at the scene of the crime — even though other firearms were.

At the time, we were aware of FPS Russia. Ratliff, the dead man, was not the main actor you see in the videos, Kyle Myers, but was a business partner. From the first time we heard the guy open his mouth it was pretty clear that he was an American southerner ineptly faking a Russian accent. We never much liked their videos, which struck us as juvenile clowning with guns, but they have been extremely popular.

The FPS stands for First Person Shooter, and Myers started off playing violent video games, particularly the Call of Duty franchise. From there he developed interest in actual firearms, which he’d often deploy in the videos with more brio than skill.

Ratliff did appear onscreen in some videos, but was generally a behind-the-scenes player in the FPSRussia business.

Ratliff was found shot dead in the company offices in Carnesville, Georgia. The case is under investigation by the local Sheriff and the GBI. As far as we know the ATF has not actively assisted in the investigation; they have also investigated FPSRussia, but that was in a stretching attempt to find a way to charge the popular video channel’s personnel with Destructive Device violations for using Tannerite in videos.

Who killed Keith? Speculation runs the gamut. There have been conspiracy theories suggesting that this is some program of black-bag violence against pro-gun voices. You hear questions like: “why was he murdered mob style?” People blame his women,soured business counterparties, some creep who just hates FPSRussia. (We don’t care for the videos, but there’s no capital offense in ’em. They’re certainly popular, with millions of subscribers).

Why was he murdered “mob style”? Well, let’s wait and see if he was. An alternative theory or two suggests itself. First, it could have been suicide. The police are investigating a homicide, but they’ve never ruled suicide out. No gun on the scene? Someone tampered with the site, perhaps. Or it could have been an accident. We realize that suggesting that guys who have built a business around clowning around with guns might have had an accident is going to be seen as “out there” by all those people who grew up watching TV and expect every mystery to be resolved in time for the commercial break, ideally by pinning the murders on a CIA conspiracy. Again, the absence of the gun and the absence of any evidence of intrusion suggests to us not that it was done by the Silent Ninja Platoon of General Gaylord’s Homosexual Brigade (“Death from Behind!”), but more probably that someone authorized and expected to be there removed the firearm — and, possibly, used it to kill poor Ratliff.

Did the CIA do it? It’s pretty doubtful that anyone at CIA knew who these characters are, or in the case of Ratliff, were. Same goes for any other Federal agency.

This is a radio news report on the ID of what was originally a John Doe body. The information here from Franklin County, GA, Sheriff Stevie Thomas, seems credible. And Thomas is being very cautious.

That caution has continued. Almost no information has been released in the case. FPSRussia is back in production, but its soaring trajectory seems to have been adjusted downwards by the murder and the interruption in service that followed.

Here’s a video documentary — a short one — using the whole bag of 60 Minutes ambush interview tricks; most of the footage they got was edited out, and the whole thing, as presented,  is as inconclusive as the actual investigation has been.

We did get an impression of who the video producers think might be responsible. We weren’t impressed with their investigational skills, or their journalistic ethics. They will go far in the network environment.

The most interesting performance on the video comes when one of the other behind the scenes personnel from FPS Russia unloads on her interviewer. Yes, the press can make a bad situation worse for crime victims, and seldom fails to do do. “You’re doing this for entertainment,” she says, and it’s the most true and clear statement on the video.

Whoever killed Keith Ratliff seems to have understood the basics of How to Get Away With Murder:

  1. Give time for the grievance that motivates you to be forgotten by others.
  2. Whack somebody who has a bunch of potential whackers, so the cops fix on them and not you.
  3. Do it someplace remote, and don’t touch anything.
  4. Remove the murder weapon from the scene and dispose of it permanently.
  5. Don’t tell anybody. Not that you’re going to do it, or that you did it. If you come to take Vienna, take Vienna. And then shut up about it. Don’t tell anybody. Ever.

Murderers get caught because they strike in hot blood, leave a mountain of evidence, and, most of all, run their mouths. One thing we know about this murderer is hat he was smart enough not to do that, and so he’s free.

For now. But sometimes at nights, he hears the beating of wings. The wings are the angels of justice, and as long as that Georgia sheriff does not quit, they are coming for the killer, some day.

22 thoughts on “Someone Knows Who Killed This Man

  1. LSWCHP

    “Death from Behind”!! Oh Lawdy Lawdy….I just sprayed a mouthful of Twinings English Breakfast Tea over my phone….:-)

  2. Trone Abeetin

    Watched FPS Russia a few times for shits and giggles. It got old real quick. A couple of times he nearly killed himself with the Tannerite causing inbound projectiles.
    I prefer Vickers or Miculek, especially Miculek. He always seems to be having a great time, despite the length of time he’s been shooting.

  3. Red

    Yeah, he sure catered to the video games and “I can name every gun ever so I’m an expert” crowd.

    The guy could get his hands on some serious firepower, and a lot of weaponry average joe isn’t ever going to hold, much less put rounds through.

    1. morokko

      Honestly, I find the FPS videos annoying and boring. Mainly because of missed opportunity to show disassembly, basic manual of arms and some quirks of really interesting weapons. Instead we get clownade and big personality show off. This also often, but not always, goes for Vickers and Hickok45 – few words of valid commentary, with ponderous music and superfluous slow motion shots or borefest of shooting frying pans and soda bottles. Its like some of their clips are more about them than about their guns. Thats why Ian McCollum is such a treasure – the man never allows himself to overshadow his subject is concise and has descriptive vocabulary way richer than “cool”, “awesome” or “fun to shoot”.

      1. morokko

        And Tim Harmsen deserves the same praise as Ian McCollum when it comes to modern small arms.

        1. Hognose Post author

          I had to google him — I know him as “the Military Arms Channel guy,” it’s good to know his names, and yeah, his videos have content.

          I don’t really want to bash Kyle Myers or poor dead Ratliff. Their videos entertain some people (and probably terrify the living Jesus out of anti-gunners, but then, the fact that guys like me are not simply “demilled” when we retire seems to terrify the living Jesus out of anti-gunners.”

          I just read an aircraft accident report from a foreign country, where the writers described private ownership of former military aircraft as a menace to national security. This in a state which has managed to restrain its political police, so far… but a police state is always an idea with a certain appeal to policemen. Until they get it, and then it’s too late.

      2. Hognose Post author

        There are definitely tiers of value in guntube. I generally agree with you, although I’ll always listen to Larry Vickers, even knowing his major interest is in sales of further units of Larry Vickers. The one that sets my teeth on edge is Nutnfancy. The guy takes forty minutes to deliver four minutes’ information. And that’s when he’s correct.

        I think Jerry Miculek has mastered the art of covering one subject in a video and covering it accurately, directly and snappily. And Ian is, as you note, simply the Cadillac of explanatory video guys.

        1. Trone Abeetin

          The guy I really can’t watch is Yankee Marshall. I think he appeals to the pinhead demographic.

  4. obsidian

    I think we have all ticked off a crazy while simply commenting in some obscure forum, what we consider just banter or intelligent discussion becomes some clown threatening to “come over and btch slap you” ( a fairly recent event on an outdoor forum discussing a shooting, counter shooting mugging and the legal ramifications of self defense ) or even the “I’ll kill you for that a$$whole” remarks which has happened once or twice. I either ignore them or report them as the case may be.
    Who do you consider a real threat and not just some keyboard maniac with a poor impulse control?
    Who is the clown and who is the real murder minded idiot who will “hunt you down” and “change your point of view pyhsically” ?
    Ya can’t tell.
    As for Mr. Ratliff he either had an accident that was covered up really good or someone he ticked of actually came by and killed him for what to most of us is a forgotten debate on some forgotten topic.
    There are crazies out there.
    I am made more aware of strangers showing up in my driveway now for sure.

  5. Buckaroo

    Accident? That’s a pretty absurd idea considering he was sitting at his desk, and was shot in the side of his head. If you were playing stupid games with someone, you’d be standing, and you’d get shot in the front, not the side. Suicide? It was apparently a small-caliber bullet in the side of his head (ear, or temple presumably?) that according to the person who found him (Kyle) initially went unnoticed due to lack of blood and (presumably) lack of exit wound. This was a guy who knew guns, if he was serious about committing suicide, he would certainly know to go with a larger-caliber choice from his substantial gun collection. And of course the suicide story requires someone to have discovered the body and spirited the gun away, all without leaving evidence behind, taking us further away from the friendly confines of Occam’s Razor.

    On the other hand, if you wanted to murder someone at close range, a .22 with a suppressor would be a pretty good way to go. It’s a .22 so there’s a chance that you don’t finish the job on the first shot; but if you’re confident the target is isolated and alone, you’ll have plenty of time for a second or third one. Hitting someone in the temple or ear with the first shot means you either got super lucky, or you knew what you are doing, and had the marksmanship skills to get it done.

    Ratliff had an, ahem, “colorful” personality, allegedly having disgruntled some former (and possibly current) partners, of both the romantic and business varieties. The circumstances point to sophistication and skill with firearms, combined with cold-blooded premeditation, which tends to rule out the romantic partners. That leaves business partners on the list of “obvious” suspects.

    If you want to break out your tinfoil hats, it is curious that John Noveske, Keith Ratliff, and Chris Kyle were all killed within a few weeks of each other, right after Sandy Hook. “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action”? /tinfoilhat

    1. Hognose Post author

      I’ve never seen a police statement about where he was shot, other than in his head.

      And yes, people can get shot accidentally in any aspect of the head — if someone else is holding the gun.

      It is not outside the realm of possibility (which is not the same thing as saying it’s the strongest probability) that someone else accidentally shot Ratliff and then, for whatever reason, opted to run rather than call 911.

      Hitting someone in the temple or ear with the first shot means you either got super lucky, or you knew what you are doing, and had the marksmanship skills to get it done.

      Or were at contact range. Another fact we do not know, but that the police and ME certainly do.

      Noveske crashed his car and wasn’t wearing a safety belt. Kyle was murdered by a nut job who is in custody. Of the three, Ratliff had the lowest by far personal profile. Nobody knew who he was; they only knew Myers.

      Ratliff may have had a lot of people who didn’t like him, but it doesn’t seem like anyone didn’t like him enough to be the obvious guy who wanted to whack him. Business dispute? Outside of prime time detective shows, business disputes that lead to homicide are, at least in non-criminal businesses, vanishingly rare. A business “F You Charlie” is usually delivered as a subpoena to civil court, not a shot to the head (or a punch in the nose, either). Unless your business is organized crime or Multi-Level Marketing, Recreation Pharma Dep’t.

      After kicking it around here, we think investigators have a good idea who did it but haven’t got the evidence for a search warrant, let alone a charge. They don’t seem to have done anything they do when it’s a stone whodunit: appeal for tips, offer a reward, re-canvass everyone who might have evidence, pull the records from nearby cell phone towers. Then again, we don’t know what they have done because they have opened the kimono very, very little. That makes me suspect they know who did it but have no plan to get him beyond waiting until he runs his mouth, which most humans will do sooner or later.

      1. Buckaroo

        This story–curiously, at military.com– provides more details, including the assertion that he was shot in the side of his head. Is the reporting accurate? Who knows.

        “Ratliff, a 32-year-old, was found at his desk Jan. 3, 2013 with a small bullet hole in the side of his head, surrounded by some of the formidable cache of weapons he owned….Kelli Ratliff said her ex-husband had been dead 12 to 15 hours when he was found by Myers early in the evening of Jan. 3. She said Myers, who took her through the murder scene months later, didn’t see much blood and thought Ratliff had been struck with an object, not shot.”

        http://www.military.com/off-duty/off-beat/2014/01/06/no-answers-a-year-after-fpsrussia-death.html

        Here’s someone who scoured local media comment threads for info on Ratliff are the murder. If commenters are to be believed, Ratliff was kind of a d-bag. Or they were just piling on someone who couldn’t defend himself. Or they were just making stuff up. Who knows.

        http://www.journalofthebizarre.com/2013/01/the-real-keith-ratliff-exposed.html

        I thought the Noveske death was a little suspicious as it was a single-car accident on a remote stretch of mountain road. Someone could have deliberately run him off the road, I guess. Or most likely, not. Makes for fun conspiracy theories I suppose.

  6. Tam

    At the pre-shoot meeting for the Lucky Gunner Blogger Shoot, Oleg walked up to wandered over to Kyle and attempted to strike up a conversation. In Russian. He returned shortly, shaking his head.

    True fact. :D

  7. Cap'n Mike

    Knowing nothing more about the case, I would guess that the cops know who did it, they just cant prove it.

    1. Hognose Post author

      We also had one of those in Seabrook, NH. Victim was a cop who had to leave his PD (might have been Hampton NH) because of chronic and progressive disease (maybe Parkinson’s) and was working as a bare-bones rent-a-cop guarding IIRC a closed factory, when a local low life capped him. The assclown and his whole family have been in and out of jail ever since, but nobody has ever had the evidence to charge the asshole. It wasn’t because he was a criminal mastermind, either: he’s an idiot. But through blind luck he committed a “perfect” murder. It’s still an open case decades later. Some day assclown will run his mouth and justice will be done.

  8. archy

    ***Murderers get caught because they strike in hot blood, leave a mountain of evidence, and, most of all, run their mouths. One thing we know about this murderer is hat he was smart enough not to do that, and so he’s free.

    For now. But sometimes at nights, he hears the beating of wings. The wings are the angels of justice, and as long as that Georgia sheriff does not quit, they are coming for the killer, some day.
    ***

    Older story. It took 13 years, but the wheels are still turning:

    http://sierranewsonline.com/sheriff-announces-break-in-13-year-old-murder-case/

    Original murder report from back then: http://www.sierrastar.us/past/05-02-01/050201murder.html

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