Published Friday, April 19, 2019 | 9:15 a.m.
Updated Friday, April 19, 2019 | 3:01 p.m.
A 27-year-old ex-convict was charged Friday with murder and conspiracy in the killing of a California doctor whose bludgeoned corpse was found last month in the trunk of an abandoned car in the desert outside Las Vegas.
Jon Logan Kennison stood in shackles and acknowledged the charges against him in connection with the slaying of 71-year-old psychiatrist Thomas Kirk Burchard.
Kennison was admonished by guards after flashing a "Love U" note in the courtroom, where his mother was in the gallery. Communication is prohibited between detainees and spectators.
The judge scheduled Kennison to appear June 3 with two other defendants — girlfriend Kelsey Nichole Turner and their roommate, Diana Nicole Pena — for a preliminary hearing of evidence in the case.
Turner, 25, a former model for Playboy Italia and Maxim magazine, was arrested March 21 in Stockton, California. Pena, 30, a bartender at a Las Vegas Strip resort, surrendered to police last weekend. Both are being held without bail at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas.
Kennison was paroled from Nevada state prison in January 2018 after serving about six months for violating probation following his guilty plea in 2016 to felony conspiracy to distribute cocaine, according to state court and prison records.
Kennison's court-appointed lawyer, Ryan Bashor, said outside court Friday he had seen "nothing ... in the evidence that connects (Kennison) to this crime."
Turner, Kennison and Pena are accused of killing Burchard and leaving his body in the trunk of Turner's blue Mercedes Benz coupe found March 7 abandoned on a dirt road between Las Vegas and the vast Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The Clark County coroner determined Burchard was beaten to death with an unspecified object that left what police called a unique pattern. Police think he was killed March 3.
Burchard, who was from Salinas, California, paid the rent on a Las Vegas home where Turner, Kennison and Pena lived. Investigators think they abruptly moved out after Burchard was killed, according to police reports.
Police said they found a door broken in half, blood, cleaning supplies and items bearing Kennison's name in a bedroom in the house, and apparent blood, footprints and more cleaning supplies in the garage. Blue and white bath towels found at the house matched a towel found with Burchard's body.
Turner had "an intimate relationship" with Burchard, according to police who put Kennison with Turner and Pena at the time Burchard was reported missing by his longtime girlfriend Judy Earp.
Pena's and Kennison's fingerprints were found on the car in which Burchard's body was found, police said.