Crime

Former UK student accused in death of 4-year-old boy appears in Lexington court on new charge

How Marco Shemwell was larger than life ‘from the day he was born.’

Marco Shemwell, the 4-year-old killed who died after being struck by a car near Kroger Field during a football game day, was remembered during his September memorial service by Rev. Mike McCormick at Calvary Christian Church.
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Marco Shemwell, the 4-year-old killed who died after being struck by a car near Kroger Field during a football game day, was remembered during his September memorial service by Rev. Mike McCormick at Calvary Christian Church.

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Marco Shemwell’s death, aftermath

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A former University of Kentucky student who is accused of striking and killing 4-year-old Marco Shemwell outside a UK football game appeared in Fayette Circuit Court Friday morning on a new charge.

Jacob Heil, 19, pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide in the death of Marco, who was struck Sept. 15 while he and his family were waiting to cross Cooper Driver near Scoville Drive. Marco died Sept. 17 at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

The new charge was added earlier this month in an indictment. He previously pleaded not guilty to DUI in September. Heil is due back in court March 7 for a pre-trial hearing.

Marco’s family members were in the court room Friday but declined comment.

Jim Gilpin, Marco’s uncle and a family spokesperson for the Shemwells, said in a statement earlier this month Marco’s parents “have faith in our court system and believe that justice will be served for Marco.”

According to Heil’s arrest citation, he “had a strong odor of alcoholic beverages, red bloodshot watery eyes and showed signs of impairment.”

A police report showed 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. He told police he drank two beers and that he was at “game tailgating” before Marco was hit.

Lexington police Sgt. Stephen Yoder said at the time that Heil’s vehicle might have “veered off the road a little bit,” before striking Marco, but Heil’s attorney, Christopher Spedding, said later “all the information we have is that he did not” veer off the road.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said Heil is not enrolled at the university this semester.

The university suspended Heil and the fraternity he was reportedly pledging, Alpha Tau Omega, UK President Eli Capilouto announced in a campuswide email the week after the incident. A day later, the national ATO chapter dissolved its UK chapter and announced it “no longer has a presence on campus.”

The fraternity had collected money to buy alcohol to serve at a tailgate held off campus at 214 Waller Avenue the day of the game. In addition to minors having alcohol, a UK letter to the fraternity said, an investigation noted that pledges also served alcohol to fraternity members, which was a hazing offense.

Mike Stunson covers breaking news and real-time news for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter.
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