During his preliminary hearing Tuesday in front of Racine County Felony Court Judge Michael Piontek, Keller McQuay stared straight ahead most of the time.
McQuay, 14, is charged as an adult with first degree reckless homicide, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a sawed off shotgun in the shooting death of his girlfriend, Vista Jackson, also 14. If convicted of all charges, McQuay faces up to 76-years in prison, and/or fines up to $35,000.
Piontek found probable cause to bind over the case for trial. The attorneys representing McQuay have filed a request to have the case transferred to juvenile court, and that hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 11, 2016.
“In terms of reasonableness of probable cause, it is evidence of wrongdoing, of knowing that you did something wrong and it wasn’t an accident. They weren’t just exchanging love notes or wedding vows and something horrific happened,” Piontek said.
Earlier in the day, a witness told police she saw Keller with a rifle when he had an altercation with several neighborhood boys, but she didn’t see him with the rifle prior to the shooting. During questioning from defense Attorney Katie Lynn Gutowski, Klinkhammer said the witness didn’t hear any yelling or arguing prior to hearing the shot fired.
Gutkowski also argued that the only witness referenced in McQuay’s criminal complaint says she heard Jackson and McQuay say they loved each other, Jackson told the witness she loved them and then the witness heard a “pop.” The witness said she didn’t see the shooting happen.
Prosecutors say McQuay was holding the rifle when it went off, hitting Jackson in the chin. During his testimony about the details of Jackson’s autopsy, McQuay looked down.
“He had to have fired standing over her in a downward angle,” Klinkhammer said.
Klinkhammer told the court that Jackson died from wounds she suffered from a single .22 caliber bullet. At the time of the shooting, she had her head turned away, was in a seated position and was shot from a close range.
Racine County Medical Examiner Michael Payne’s report indicates McQuay was standing between six and 30 inches away from Jackson based on the amount of unburned gun powder that caused marks on her neck.
Piontek found probable cause in the case because the testimony given met the criteria of reckless disregard for human life, an element that is the basis for McQuay’s homicide charge. While Piontek pointed out that the probable cause hearing was not a trial, he pointed to the evidence in Klinkhammer’s testimony that McQuay shot and killed Jackson.
McQuay weeks before the homicide also made a video of himself with a sawed-off .22 caliber rifle and a handgun to establish himself as a member of a gang. Klinkhammer said the video was discovered in McQuay’s cell phone.
“Keller McQuay was in possession of a weapon, a sawed off .22 caliber rifle. Keller was in possession of the weapon in the video and in the events earlier that day,” Piontek said. “It was seen in Keller’s possession by his mother on the day the murder happened and it was found adjacent – one yard away – from the scene of the homicide.”
Piontek pointed to how Keller fled the scene of the shooting, but there is also possible evidence that Keller’s mother told him to run.
McQuay was also charged by the Racine County District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday with resisting an officer, throwing or discharging bodily fluids at a public safety worker, and disorderly conduct. If convicted of those charges, he faces up to five years in prison and/or fines up to $21,000.
The initial appearance on those charges have been rescheduled to Nov. 9.