LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A trial for a former UK student charged in a crash that killed a 4-year-old is now into day two of testimony.
21-year-old Jacob Heil is charged with reckless homicide and DUI. His trial began Monday in Fayette County Circuit Court. He's accused of killing 4-year-old Marco Shemwell, who was crossing a street outside a Kentucky football game in Lexington in 2018 when he was struck and killed.
The reckless homicide trial for 21-year-old Jacob Heil began Monday in Fayette County Circuit Court.
During Tuesday's testimony, Marco's father, Ben Shemwell detailing game day morning for the jury. He says the family left the game early due to excessive sun and heat on their side of stadium. Marco was a fair-skinned child.
Mr. Shemwell says the car struck him on the side. Marco unable to get out of harms way. Looked for Marco. Couldn’t see him. Eventually spotted him. “I was the most helpless I’ve ever been”. @LEX18News— Michael Berk (@LEX18_Michael) October 12, 2021
Mr. Shemwell says the driver, presumably Jacob Heil, got out of the vehicle. Shemwell couldn't determine if the car was going at a high rate of speed at the time.
Mr. Shemwell says Marco was excited for the game that day. Attorney line of questioning to tap into emotions. No objection from defense. Defense will now cross. @LEX18News— Michael Berk (@LEX18_Michael) October 12, 2021
During cross-examination, the defense team for Jacob Heil asks Mr. Shemwell about the incident and scene as well as about Mr. Shemwell being struck too.
The jury heard video testimony from a witness who was driving behind Heil. Paul Misback is a UK fan who left the game during halftime on the day of the crash. Hisback says Heil made an abrupt move, veered off the road, and made a quick maneuver to correct.
Misback turned onto Cooper behind Heil’s car and said during deposition that he saw the silver car, the one police say was driven by Heil, make a “sudden out of control right into the grass” before pulling immediately back onto the road.— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
The witness says he was three car lengths behind the driver but "had a clear view of what was going on" and saw someone running towards the injured child.
Misback testifies that Cooper Drive is heavily traveled on UK Football game days and that anyone leaving that side is the stadium has to take Cooper to Tate’s Creek. That is the route that both Heil and Misback were taking at the time of the crash.
The witness corroborated Mr. Shemwell's testimony that Heil did get out of the vehicle after the incident.
Misback said that Heil did not appear intoxicated and that he was too far from Heil to say if he smelled of alcohol or not.
Witness says Mr. Shemwell was not hit by car, which is conflicting testimony. @LEX18News— Michael Berk (@LEX18_Michael) October 12, 2021
The Commonwealth's next witness is Lexington Police Department’s current Sergeant over the department's homicide investigators. Before that, he was a detective. On the day of the crash, he was working at the football game. He interviewed Marco's dad, Ben. Then he assisted in interviewing Heil.
The police interview of Heil on the day of the crash lasted about 5 minutes. That interview is being played for jurors now.— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
In the recorded police interview, Heil tells investigators that he helped set up a tailgate that morning. He had gotten about two hours of sleep after staying up late to study.
Heil was at a tailgate all morning until it got shutdown by cops at around noon and said he had a couple of beers. Around kickoff, Heil was driven to a house because he was impaired, he tells investigators. He said he didn't feel impaired but knew he probably shouldn't drive at that time.
Heil told investigators that at the time of the crash he saw a kid “right by the road” and he hit him. He said “Everything stopped.” Heil told police he doesn’t remember leaving the road, but said it’s possible he did. @LEX18News— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
The Lexington police sergeant who was at the interview of Heil after the crash says he was visibly upset during the interview.
Commonwealth’s next witness is Lexington police officer Greg Marlin. He’s the unit coordinator for the collision reconstruction unit, which investigates crashes with life-threatening injuries or deaths. The unit investigates whether crashes involved criminal actions or criminal negligence.
Marlin described the different kinds of marks that can be left by tires, and the techniques investigators use to identify them. Marlin said all those techniques were used the day of the crash and no tire marks were found at that time — but photographs reviewed later showed some.
Marlin says a steer mark could be seen in a photograph of the scene that investigators didn’t see with the naked eye. The mark shows an arc that indicates a vehicle getting back on the road toward the center line before fading out, Marlin testifies.— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
During the investigation of the vehicle Heil was driving, Marlin said a “cleansing mark” was found just inside the headlight on the passenger side. A cleansing mark is where direct contact with an object removes the dirt and “road grit” that accumulates on the front of cars.
Marlin testifies that “cleansing marks” are relatively common in cases involving vehicles that have struck a pedestrian.
Marlin is currently using a tape measure to show jurors the distance between a yellow line and white line on Cooper Drive. This is to show the width of the “travel portion” of a lane. Cooper Dr doesn’t have a shoulder, but there’s about 6 inches on the outside of the white line— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
Officer Marlin testifies that the “cleansing mark”, a dent on the hood and a broken mirror on the passenger side were the documented evidence on the car driven by Heil. Marlin said an area of pain Ben Shemwell had on his side matched height of the mirror.
Marlin is currently using a tape measure to show jurors the distance between a yellow line and white line on Cooper Drive. This is to show the width of the “travel portion” of a lane. Cooper Dr doesn’t have a shoulder, but there are about 6 inches on the outside of the white line.
Marlin took measurements and found that Marco’s injuries were consistent with damage and features on the vehicle driven by Heil. Marlin is describing the measurements in detail to jurors, and describing how some of the injuries might have occurred. @LEX18News— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
Marlin tells jurors that an injury to Marco indicated was taking a step when he was struck. Marlin also tells jurors that Marco was likely 10 to 13 inches into the lane of travel when he was struck.
Marlin told jurors that the vehicle driven by Heil was outside the white line when the collision happened and that if it’d been in the center of the lane there’d have been “clearance” between the car and Marco. Commonwealth concludes their questioning of this witness
A juror asked if Marlin could indicate the location of the tire mark on the diagram that he’s put on the ground using duct tape. The Commonwealth and defense agreed and Marlin placed the marker on the diagram. Several of the jurors stood so that they could see him more clearly.— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
Heil’s defense is questioning Officer Marlin. Marlin says he would’ve expected evidence in the grass if Heil’s vehicle had left the pavement. There was none. Marlin previously said there’s about 6 inches of pavement outside the white line, about 4 inches of the white line itself.
Heil’s defense attorney is asking about how Heil’s speed (estimated between 33 and 36 mph) was calculated. He notes that the point of impact was used as part of the calculation and that the point of impact had to be estimated due to a lack of tire marks showing impact.
Defense is asking Marlin about the steering tire mark that was found in photos of the scene. Defense is arguing there’s no physical evidence linking the photographed tire mark to Heil’s vehicle, saying hundreds of vehicles had traveled that stretch that day— Morgan Eads (@MorganEads1) October 12, 2021
A little more about that tire mark — it was an arc that appeared to show a vehicle going out of the lane of travel, over the white line, then correcting back toward the center of the road, Marlin said.
Assuming that tire mark belonged to Heil’s car, the location where Marco ended up would indicate the point of impact would’ve been as the car was leaving the road or at the “apex” of the curve, not when the car was headed back to the center of the road, Marlin testified.
UK employee Chris Clifford now testifying in Jacob heil trial. Jury has heard a lot of testimony today, including Marco Shemwell’s father, an eyewitness and LPD accident reconstruction expert. @LEX18News— Michael Berk (@LEX18_Michael) October 12, 2021
A man who was two vehicles behind Heil at when the collision happened said Marco’s father told those present not to let Heil “get away” after the collision. Heil then said “I’m not going anywhere,” according to the witness.
During opening statements on Monday, the prosecution said Heil was driving at least 10 mph over the speed limit when he struck Shemwell.
According to the autopsy done, prosecutors say Shemwell suffered multiple blunt force injuries to his body, most serious to his head and neck. They say "these injuries were not survivable".— Christiana Ford (@christianaford_) October 11, 2021
Heil's attorney, Christopher Spedding, says they agree that this is an "unspeakable tragedy" and that "everyone's heart is broken." However, Spedding argues Heil's car never went into the grass and that he was never an impaired driver.
Heil, who was 18 at the time of the crash, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.051, according to court records. The legal limit for those under 21 is .02.