Subscribe for $3 for three months

ST. LOUIS COUNTY • A man charged Saturday with murdering an executive chef for Andre’s catering two days earlier had been out of prison for less than a year, serving time for setting fire to a Maplewood business in 2015.

Jesse Michael Kelley, 38, of Green Park, was charged with second-degree murder following the fatal shooting of Alexander Marley, 29, on the parking lot of a Walmart in south St. Louis County.

Kelley also is suspected of kidnapping a 17-year-old boy at gunpoint in the Central West End early Thursday, demanding that he drive to get cash, police said Saturday. Fifteen hours after the teen handed over money from an ATM, Marley was fatally shot.

Police say Marley may have been approached by Kelley at a nearby gas station before he was killed. Kelley was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, cash only.

Marley was found with a gunshot wound to his head in the driver’s seat of a car outside Walmart, 3270 Telegraph Road, about 10:15 p.m. Thursday. He died at a hospital. Witnesses told police they saw a man jump from the front passenger side of the vehicle as it was rolling backward.

Marley lived in the 200 block of East Felton Avenue in the Lemay area of St. Louis County. He was executive chef at Andre’s Banquets & Catering on Telegraph Road, where he worked for six years.

The murder charge comes about nine months after Kelley was released from prison, based on court records and his Facebook page.

“Just got outta the Fed joint and at the halfway house in the Lou’... Ctrl, Alt, Del... Back in the groove asap...,” Kelley wrote on Jan. 26.

When a friend asked him why he had been sent to prison, he replied: “Cause I committed a federal crime... I guess you were out of the arc when I got popped... I shouldn’t say the details on a public forum but I’ll give ya a hint... It goes tick tick boom...”

In May 2016, the Post-Dispatch reported that Kelley pleaded guilty to setting a fire to a building, at 7955 Manchester Road in Mapelwood, and stealing an explosive material, Sarnacol 2170, a solvent-based adhesive used for roof repairs.

Kelley admitted in federal court that on Jan. 31, 2015 he poured the material onto a warehouse floor before setting it on fire. Security spotted the blaze and called firefighters. Surveillance video showed Kelley and a friend walking toward the business, then walking away after the fire, an assistant U.S. attorney said in court. The adhesive roofing material was found on Kelley’s pants, prosecutors said.

According to case documents, Kelley was sentenced to 18 months and ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution for the theft of the explosive material and damage to the warehouse. His sentence also included three years of supervised release, with a list of conditions including “the defendant shall not possess a firearm, ammunition, destructive device, or any other dangerous weapon.”

Court filings from the summer of 2016 indicate that Kelley was attending substance abuse and mental health counseling and “taking directions well.”

On April 26, Kelley boasted about his sobriety.

“Yesterday the 25th marked 18 months alcohol free. Longest period since I was a teenager,” Kelley wrote on Facebook.

In the murder case, St. Louis County police believe Kelley targeted Marley, said spokesman Benjamin Granda. He would not elaborate.

Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to call the St. Louis County Police Department at 636-529-8210 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-8477 if the tipster wants to remain anonymous.

Kim Bell of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Doug Moore is a former reporter for the P-D. Currently, policy director for St. Louis County Council.