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Jury reaches verdict for Jacob Heil

21-year-old Jacob Heil was charged with reckless homicide in 2018 following a crash that killed...
21-year-old Jacob Heil was charged with reckless homicide in 2018 following a crash that killed 4-year-old Marco Shemwell.(WBKO)
Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 8:37 AM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After hours of deliberations Thursday, a Fayette County jury found Jacob Heil guilty of DUI and not guilty of reckless homicide in connection to the 2018 death of 4-year-old Marco Shemwell.

Heil will have to pay a $500 dollar fine for the DUI misdemeanor charge.

Jury deliberations went on for more than eight hours in the trial of former UK student Jacob Heil.

This week, jurors heard testimony on the crash that killed 4-year-old Marco Shemwell back in 2018.

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Police said Heil was behind the wheel.

Closing arguments lasted for over two hours Thursday morning as prosecutors and the defense made one final case before the jury went to decide.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors seem to agree that Heil was under the influence while driving. But, did alcohol cause the crash that killed 4-year-old Marco Shemwell? Ultimately, that was the question for jurors.

Defense attorneys say alcohol did not cause the collision. They believe it was an accident. They say Marco stepped into the road. They noted the reconstruction officer said the little boy was in the line of travel at the time of impact. The defense brought up the fact that Marco’s dad, Ben Shemwell, said he and his sons were standing a few feet from the road but Crystal Johnson, one of the key witnesses said they were standing where the grass meets the road.

The defense mentioned that several key witnesses stated that Heil did not seem impaired. They showed the report from Heil’s field sobriety tests, noting that the officer did not circle various signs of being drunk.

“If he was impaired, one of them would have said, ‘you know, he looked pretty unsteady. He was kind of staggering. He looked like he might have been impaired. I smelled alcohol. He wasn’t right,’” said Steve Schroering, defense attorney.

Prosecutors are saying the crash was not an accident and that Marco did not step into the road. They said Heil chose to drink before getting behind the wheel. They explained the alcohol impaired Heil’s judgment.

“Why do we want people in full control of themselves when they’re operating a motor vehicle? Because you need to be able to react to things that happened. When you drink, your ability to react to situations is reduced,” said Brad Bryant, assistant commonwealth’s attorney.

The jury began deliberating around 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

After the verdict, Heil’s defense team gave a brief statement saying, “This is not something where there are any winners in this case.,” said Christopher Spedding. “We’re very glad that the jury saw it for what it was, an accident. That’s all the comments that we’ll have.”

“We respect the jury’s decision,” said Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Lou Anna Red Corn. “It was four days, they deliberated a long time. I have to say we respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict. Jacob Heil today got a tremendous gift from this jury. I pray that he uses it wisely.”

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