Bond set at $500,000 for suspect in local AT&T lineman’s death

Zachery Lamone McKee. (Jail photo)
Zachery Lamone McKee. (Jail photo)(KWTX)
Published: Jan. 23, 2018 at 12:10 PM CST
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Bond is set at $500,000 for a Waco man charged in connection with the April 2016 death of an AT&T lineman found lying behind a home in Waco with his clothes on fire

Zachery Lamone McKee, 28, of Waco, was served with an arrest warrant Tuesday at the Falls County Jail and then was transferred to the McLennan County Jail.

His criminal history dates back to 2008 and includes arrests for assault, drug possession, burglary of a vehicle, resisting arrest and indecent exposure, according to online records.

Kenneth Cleveland, 61, who had worked for AT&T for nearly 44 years, was found dead on April 22, 2016, behind the home at 525 Novelty St. where he’d been dispatched to repair a problem with a phone line.

First responders initially thought he’d been electrocuted and had fallen from a ladder, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.

An autopsy revealed that he was the victim of a violent murder in which he was beaten, stabbed and cut, suffering at least 20 stab wounds.

His clothes were set on fire in an attempt to cover up the killing.

Police have not revealed a motive for the crime.

Swanton said Special Crimes Unit detectives considered McKee to be a suspect very early on in their investigation but said: “Murder cases such as this are extremely complex and complicated investigations. Waco Police Department’s Special Crimes Detectives and our Crime Scene Unit worked tirelessly to obtain probable cause to get a warrant issued for the suspect's arrest.”

When detectives finally were ready to name McKee in a warrant, he wasn’t hard to find because he was in custody in Falls County where he was being held on unrelated charges.

Falls County had sent McKee to the Austin State Hospital for a mental evaluation connected to the Falls County charges and when he was returned to Marlin, the Waco police arrest warrant was waiting on him.

McKee, according to Waco detectives, confessed to the murder and provided investigators with details of the crime they had not turned up, but later they were able to corroborate those facts, as well, Swanton said.

Cleveland's daughter Amber said the slain man's family was elated to learn of the arrest.

We're all gathered together still processing the news of the arrest," she said.

"(It's) by no means closure but a step in the right direction to start the healing process," she said.

Cleveland’s family sued AT&T for gross negligence in July 2017.

The suit alleges Cleveland had called AT&T at around 9 a.m. on the morning of his death to report some type of trouble at his worksite, but claims supervisors didn’t check on Cleveland for hours.

Residents found his body at about 11:30 a.m.

Cleveland was working that day in an area of Waco that AT&T officials had identified as a “red zone neighborhood”, or a dangerous area within the city, which officials compile from crime reports.

The company offered a $60,000 reward for information that led to an arrest and conviction.

The company was thankful to learn of the arrest Tuesday, an AT&T spokesman said in a statement.

"Ken was a dedicated employee for over four decades, and was widely admired by his co-workers. His senseless, tragic death was deeply felt here at AT&T, and we continue to offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and co-workers," the spokesman said.

"The safety and welfare of our employees is of paramount concern to us. We have been committed to this investigation and we offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible."