Crime

Trial date set for former UK student accused in death of 4-year-old outside football game

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.

A former University of Kentucky student will stand trial in April on a reckless homicide charge following a September 2018 crash that killed a 4-year-old boy outside a UK football game.

Jacob Heil, 19, also faces a DUI charge from the crash that occurred Sept. 15. Marco Shemwell was crossing Cooper Drive near Scoville Drive with his family when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Heil. Shemwell died two days later at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

In a hearing Friday, the trial was scheduled for April 6-9.

“We’re anxious to set forth the facts of the case,” said Christopher Spedding, Heil’s attorney.

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

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

Lexington police Sgt. Stephen Yoder said immediately after the crash 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.

Heil was initially charged with DUI before the reckless homicide charge was added in a February indictment. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The university suspended Heil and the fraternity he was 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.

Heil was not enrolled at UK during the spring semester, according to UK spokesman Jay Blanton.

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