Fayette County

Attorney: UK student Jacob Heil ‘despondent’ over death of 4-year-old

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Marco Shemwell’s death, aftermath

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Jacob Heil, the University of Kentucky student who allegedly struck a 4-year-old boy Saturday with his car, is “despondent” over the child’s death, said Heil’s attorney, Christopher Spedding.

“Mr. Heil’s family is absolutely crushed over this whole situation,” Spedding said Wednesday after entering a not guilty plea to a charge of driving under the influence on Heil’s behalf in court. “Their hearts go out to the victim’s family. There’s really nothing that they can say at this point to comfort the victim’s family other than they are certainly praying for them and feel terrible about this accident. They would like the family to know that.”

Marco Lee Shemwell, 4, and his family were waiting to cross Cooper Drive near Scoville Drive around 2 p.m. Saturday, during the University of Kentucky football game, when the boy was struck by a car allegedly driven by Heil. Shemwell died at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital Monday afternoon.

Heil, 18, was arrested at the scene and charged with DUI.

Spedding agreed to speak with the Herald-Leader because he said there is “misinformation” about what happened.

“There is a lot of speculation that is occurring,” Spedding said. “We would ask they wait until all the information is in before they make judgment as to what happened.”

Marco Shemwell.jpg
Provided by Shannon Andreas

For example, Spedding noted that a police officer reportedly said the car might have “veered off the road a little bit” to strike the boy.

“All the information we have is that he did not” veer off the road, Spedding said.

Lexington police spokeswoman Brenna Angel would not specifically address Spedding’s point, but she said “our investigation is ongoing.” She said collision reconstruction investigators were on the Cooper Drive scene Tuesday and “are looking at all possible factors involved.”

A police report filed in court Tuesday also said Heil had a blood-alcohol level of 0.051. The legal limit for those over age 21 is 0.08. For those under 21, the limit is 0.02.

Heil took a portable breath test at the scene, but Spedding said that evidence is not admissible in court.

Portable breath tests “are inherently unreliable,” Spedding said. “They’re strictly used as an investigative tool by the police. The results are not admissible in court.”

No urine test was taken, but Spedding said blood was drawn from Heil at the jail, and the results of that may not be known for months. Heil, a first-year student at UK, told police that he had two beers at about 9:30 a.m. A citation said Heil “had a strong odor of alcoholic beverages, red blood shot watery eyes and showed signs of impairment on field sobriety tests.”

Spedding said he could not say whether other charges are coming.

“That would depend on what the county attorney or the commonwealth’s attorney decides,” Spedding said. “I don’t know if more are coming or not.”


UK suspended Heil as well as the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity he pledged, UK President Eli Capilouto announced Tuesday.

Asked if Heil was a designated driver for the fraternity, Spedding said, “I don’t know that.”

The attorney said he has not been contacted by the University of Kentucky, which is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances. Spedding said he did not have any other information about who purchased the beer Heil consumed.

Spedding said he has not yet spoken with a passenger who was riding with Heil, but he intends to do so.

“I intend to interview every witness that I can interview as part of our investigation,” Spedding said.