UPDATE: Jacob Heil found not guilty of reckless homicide, guilty of DUI
The former University of Kentucky student hit and killed four-year old Marco Shemwell in Lexington three years ago.
Story update from 10:50 p.m. October 14, 2021: After more than 7 hours of deliberation…former UK student Jacob Heil walks away a free man.
A jury has found him not guilty of reckless homicide in the 2018 death of 4-year-old Marco Shemwell, but guilty of driving a car with an alcohol level of or above .02 while under the age of 21. He was 18 at the time.
He didn’t show any reaction to the verdict, his defense team…pleased.
“This is not something where there are any winners in this case, we’re very glad that the jury saw it for what it was, an accident and that’s all the comments that we’ll have” said Defense Attorney, Christopher Spedding.
But the prosecution disagrees with the outcome.
“We respect the jury’s verdict in this case, it was four days, they deliberated a long time, but we respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict. Jacob Heil today got a tremendous gift from this jury and I pray he uses it wisely” said Commonwealth Attorney, Lou Anna Red Corn.
During closing arguments, Heil’s attorney told the jury what happened was catastrophic and heartbreaking, but that Heil’s blood alcohol level was well below the legal limit, and that witnesses say Heil did not seem impaired.
The defense also argued Marco Shemwell ran out in front of Heil’s car.
“They would have to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt, failing to perceive a pedestrian might suddenly and split secondly run into the lane or travel into the lane of travel” said Defense Attorney, Steve Schroering.
The prosecution argued that wasn’t true and that it wasn’t an accident.
“He had no reaction that his vehicle headed in Marco’s direction. He would have jerked the wheel and steered away. It’s because he was impaired” said Prosecutor, Brad Bryant.
The judge accepted the verdict and imposed the maximum penalty for the misdemeanor d-u-i conviction with a fine of $500.
If he was convicted of reckless homicide, Heil could have gone to prison for 1 to 5 years.
Story update from 8:05 p.m., October 14, 2021:
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A Fayette Circuit Court jury deliberated more than seven hours on Thursday before finding former University of Kentucky student Jacob Heil not guilty of reckless homicide, but guilty of misdemeanor DUI in connection to the death of four-year old Marco Shemwell three years ago.
The judge imposed the maximum $500 fine on the DUI charge.
Heil hit and killed Shemwell as the little boy was waiting with his father and older brother to cross Cooper Drive after leaving at halftime of a UK football game.
The two main questions at the center of the four-day trial were whether Heil was impaired behind the wheel and did the little boy run out into the street into the path of Heil’s car?
Original story below from October 13, 2021:
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Jacob Heil’s trial continues.
Wednesday, the jury, attorneys, and Heil visited the scene of the September 2018 collision on Cooper Drive.
Earlier in the day, the jury heard from witness Crystal Johnson, who says she was standing behind the Shemwells right before the collision happened. She testified that she didn’t recall Heil’s car going off the road, telling 911 dispatchers when she called for help that “somebody hit a little kid.”
Lexington Police Officer Brandon Muravchick, who works with the Collision Reconstruction Unit, also testified. Muravchick responded to the scene, and arrested Heil with a DUI charge after conducting a standard field sobriety test.
“He was visibly upset, you could see that he was sitting down, he was, he was shaking, just as anybody would be involved in a collision of this magnitude,” said Officer Muravchick.
The jury heard testimony from a medical examiner who did Marco Shemwell’s autopsy. The examiner presented photos and diagrams illustrating Marco’s injuries from the crash.
Tate’s Creek Presbyterian youth pastor McClellan Holt, who says he is close to Heil, also testified. Holt says Heil called him prior to the crash and did not sound “intoxicated or impaired.”
The court also saw body camera footage from Officer Muravchick immediately after the collision. In the footage, Heil admits to drinking two beers:
“I’m going to tell you right now I came from the tailgate of a football game and I’ve had two beers,” said Heil.
Closing arguments and deliberations are set for Thursday. It will be up to a jury to decide if the collision was an accident or a crime.