Ex-of­fi­cer’s fourth mur­der trial be­gins

The Oklahoman - - NEWS - BY SA­MAN­THA VI­CENT Tulsa World sa­man­tha.vi­cent@tul­saworld.com

District At­tor­ney Steve Kun­zweiler told a jury that Shan­non Ke­pler had “no right” to seek out his es­tranged daugh­ter’s new boyfriend and kill the man out­side his fam­ily’s home in 2014, but the for­mer Tulsa po­lice of­fi­cer’s at­tor­ney said he was only try­ing to pro­tect his daugh­ter from a “vi­o­lent per­son.”

Open­ing state­ments were made Thurs­day morn­ing in the fourth first-de­gree mur­der trial that Ke­pler has faced in just less than a year over the shoot­ing death of 19-year-old Jere­mey Lake on Aug. 5, 2014. Tri­als in Novem­ber, Fe­bru­ary and July ended with District Judge Sharon Holmes — who is han­dling this month’s pro­ceed­ings — declar­ing a mis­trial due to hung ju­ries.

Kun­zweiler on Thurs­day also called three wit­nesses to the stand — Dr. Mary Goolsby, Sgt. Mar­cus Harper and Sgt. Mark Oh­ne­sorge — who tes­ti­fied about top­ics such as the cause and man­ner of Lake’s death and the col­lec­tion of ev­i­dence found at the crime scene in the 200 block of North May­belle Av­enue, where Lake lived.

Lake met Ke­pler’s daugh­ter, Lisa Ke­pler, at a home­less shel­ter near his aunt’s home about a week be­fore he was killed and be­gan a re­la­tion­ship with her. He later had her move into the res­i­dence with him and other fam­ily mem­bers. She did not have per­ma­nent hous­ing at the time be­cause her fam­ily took her to the shel­ter amid is­sues at home.

Kun­zweiler, in his open­ing state­ment, painted Shan­non Ke­pler, 57, as a frus­trated fa­ther who “dumped” his then18-year-old daugh­ter on the street with­out both­er­ing to check on her where­abouts un­til posts ref­er­enc­ing Lake, who fre­quented the shel­ter to give peo­ple water and help out, ap­peared on her Face­book pro­file.

How­ever, lead de­fense at­tor­ney Richard O’Car­roll started off his re­marks by telling the jury Ke­pler was sim­ply “at­tempt­ing to res­cue his daugh­ter from a sex­ual preda­tor” and shot Lake in self-de­fense.

Pros­e­cu­tors ob­jected to the “sex­ual preda­tor” com­ment, which halted the trial for at least 20 min­utes as Holmes con­ferred both in and out of the court­room with at­tor­neys for both sides. When the trial re­sumed, O’Car­roll amended his state­ment to call Lake a “vi­o­lent per­son” and said Lake is not the nice, kind­hearted per­son Kun­zweiler de­scribed.

O’Car­roll has al­luded in the past to Lake hav­ing per­pe­trated a sex of­fense when he was a mi­nor, which has drawn out­rage from Lake’s fam­ily and pros­e­cu­tors who said it amounted to wrong­ful char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion. No records have been pre­sented in trial that show Lake was an ad­ju­di­cated delin­quent for such a crime.

Kun­zweiler con­tended Ke­pler, a 24-year vet­eran of the Tulsa Po­lice Depart­ment, vi­o­lated agency poli­cies when he used law en­force­ment re­sources to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion about Lake, who was not un­der crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion at that time.

The district at­tor­ney told ju­rors that once Ke­pler learned where Lake — and by ex­ten­sion his daugh­ter — lived, he went home that day, changed into dark cloth­ing, se­lected an old ser­vice re­volver that would not de­posit shell cas­ings and drove to Lake’s home at night in a black Sub­ur­ban. Michael Hamilton, Lake’s brother, has tes­ti­fied pre­vi­ously that he heard Lake tell an oc­cu­pant of that ve­hi­cle some­thing along the lines of, “Hi, I’m Jere­mey” just be­fore shots were fired.

Hamilton, who was 13 at the time, told po­lice the shooter had a mus­tache, was wear­ing a stock­ing cap and used a sil­ver gun with a black han­dle. Ke­pler had a mus­tache at the time he turned him­self in to po­lice af­ter the homi­cide, and his at­tor­ney later gave of­fi­cers a pre­vi­ous Tulsa po­lice ser­vice re­volver that matched Hamilton’s de­scrip­tion.

Hamilton was on the porch with Josh Mills, an­other wit­ness, at the time he first saw the al­ter­ca­tion.

Mills, who has been de­scribed as tran­sient, is ex­pected to tes­tify in the case for the first time, as court records show the Tulsa County sher­iff’s of­fice served him with a sub­poena from pros­e­cu­tors. Hamilton and Lisa Ke­pler are set to take the stand for the fourth time.

Lisa Ke­pler, ac­cord­ing to Kun­zweiler, told a 911 dis­patcher af­ter the shoot­ing that her fa­ther shot her boyfriend and left. But O’Car­roll said his client drove away to pro­tect him­self be­cause he be­lieved he ran out of bul­lets in the re­volver and, based on his opin­ion he was in a high-crime area, did not want to be around peo­ple un­der the bridge near the res­i­dence as they be­gan to gather at the scene.

Shan­non Ke­pler has tes­ti­fied in each of his pre­vi­ous tri­als that he saw Lake car­ry­ing a gun. O’Car­roll said Thurs­day that Lake tried to reach for the firearm and put him­self between Ke­pler and his daugh­ter be­fore Ke­pler shot him in self­de­fense. De­spite this, no gun was found at the crime scene.

“Shan­non Ke­pler had no right to shoot Jere­mey Lake,” Kun­zweiler said.

O’Car­roll coun­tered that “the crux of the mat­ter” is whether Lake pulled a gun and said nei­ther Kun­zweiler nor As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Kevin Gray, who has cross-ex­am­ined Ke­pler in the pre­vi­ous tri­als, will ask where Lake’s gun went.

Gray ad­dressed the is­sue in Ke­pler’s Fe­bru­ary trial, and Ke­pler at that time told Gray the state had a photo of the gun when it ap­peared in a Tulsa po­lice in­ter­view room trash can one day later. Holmes has made mul­ti­ple pre­trial de­ci­sions not to al­low any tes­ti­mony about that gun in the trial be­cause she said no ev­i­dence, fin­ger­prints or oth­er­wise, ties it to Ke­pler’s case.

How­ever, Ke­pler’s de­fense has im­plied a wit­ness to the shoot­ing took it from Lake be­fore au­thor­i­ties ar­rived and dis­posed of it in the trash can when they were in­ter­viewed at the de­tec­tive di­vi­sion.

Gray and Kun­zweiler have re­peat­edly em­pha­sized that Ke­pler — who is fac­ing life im­pris­on­ment if con­victed — is the only per­son out of ev­ery wit­ness in­volved who made any claim about Lake hav­ing a gun. But O’Car­roll, dur­ing cros­sex­am­i­na­tion of Goolsby, noted the Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner’s Of­fice did not test Lake’s hands for gun­shot residue.

Goolsby said the agency de­cided not to do so be­cause they re­ceived no in­for­ma­tion to sug­gest Lake had fired a gun the night he died.

Tes­ti­mony will re­sume Fri­day morn­ing.

Shan­non Ke­pler

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