Who were charged in Ricky Cowles Jr.'s 1997 shooting? Details explored ahead of NBC Dateline

Ricky Cowles Jr.
Ricky Cowles Jr. [left], Billy Hoffman [middle], Amy Preasmyer [top-right], and Jennifer Kellogg [bottom-right] (Image via Bonnie's Blog of Crime)

The 1997 murder of 21-year-old Ricky Cowles Jr. in his Gadsden Avenue apartment in California that he shared with his 16-year-old pregnant girlfriend is the subject of a two-hour NBC Dateline episode scheduled to air this Friday, May 5, at 9 pm ET.

The synopsis for the upcoming episode titled Killing Time reads:

"A man convicted of the 1997 murder of Ricky Cowles Jr. in Lancaster, California, reveals new details on the case in an exclusive interview."

Official records state that Cowles was found beaten with a claw hammer and shot in the head in his apartment by his girlfriend, Amy Preasmyer, and her friends on the night of August 12, 1997. He was airlifted to a hospital where he died three days later.

One of Preasmyer's friends named Billy Hoffman was later arrested in connection to the killing, which led to a conviction. While serving his sentence, he confessed to his role and implicated others, including Preasmyer (as the mastermind) and her friend Jennifer Kellogg. Preasmyer was found guilty of solicitation of murder and conspiracy to commit murder while Kellogg pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Another man named David Ashbury was handed a two-year term for supplying Hoffman with the gun, who then carried out the crime with the help of Ricky Cowles Jr.'s girlfriend.

Billy Hoffman revealed key information about Ricky Cowles Jr.'s 1997 killing while serving a life sentence

On the night of August 12, 1997, 16-year-old high school student Amy Preasmyer and her friends found her boyfriend, Ricky Cowles Jr., 21, lying in a pool of blood in the couple's apartment. They immediately called 911 and Cowles Jr. was airlifted to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries three days later.

Preasmyer's friend, Billy Hoffman, was arrested the following April after authorities received a tip, but the victim's family believes there was more to it. Hoffman, who beat Cowles Jr. with a claw hammer before shooting the father-to-be in the head with a.32-caliber semi-automatic handgun, was found guilty of his murder in 1999 and handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

While serving his lengthy sentence, Hoffman had a change of heart and sent Ricky Cowles Jr.'s family a letter in which he confessed to his role in his murder and later divulged crucial information about the killing to authorities. This led to further arrests years after the crime had occurred. He told authorities that he acted on the directions of Amy Preasmyer, and also implicated their friend Jennifer Kellogg.

Sources state that Amy Preasmyer was arrested in 2005 and ultimately stood trial in 2007 when she was found guilty of solicitation of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in deceased boyfriend Ricky Cowles Jr.'s murder. Testimony during her trial suggested that he believed Cowles Jr. was to be blamed for her pregnancy which ruined her party lifestyle.

Antelope Valley Press reported that after Amy Preasmyer 2007 trial, then-Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake told them that:

"There's not a crystal-clear motive. It’s obvious that Amy Preasmyer was at the center of the conspiracy to murder Ricky Cowles Jr., and that she blamed him for being pregnant, and that she believed he ruined her life by getting her pregnant."

In August 1997, a third suspect, Jennifer Kellogg, who had spent about a week with the couple at their Lancaster apartment, pleaded guilty to lesser charges, including voluntary manslaughter, and was given a 17-year jail term. In 2006, a man named David Ashbury received a two-year prison term for allegedly supplying Hoffman with the gun that was used to shoot Cowles Jr.

A detailed version of events that occurred in the weeks leading up to and the night of Ricky Cowles Jr.'s murder

The same Antelope Valley Press report stated Billy Hoffman once stated that he killed Cowles Jr. because he had beaten Preasmyer, but he later acknowledged in court it was a false statement he had made up to try to make the killing seem heroic. He stated that Kellogg had asked him whether he was willing to kill someone and that he never was despite believing he would be paid for the crime.

As per Hoffman's statements, he met Preasmyer a week or two before the murder when she told him the target was her boyfriend and even gave him his photograph. Then Preasmyer and Kellogg showed Hoffman around the apartment and even told him that Cowles Jr. might fight back. On the night of the murder, Preasmyer gave him access to the place.

Hoffman said he hid behind a bedroom door and used the hammer to strike Cowles Jr. before shooting him in the head and hitting him twice more again with the same hammer.

NBC Dateline will further delve into the decades-old killing this Friday at 9 pm ET.

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