The case against a man charged in the Jan. 9 shooting death of Caleb Hallett was sent to a Fayette County grand jury Thursday.
After a preliminary hearing, Fayette District Judge Megan Lake Thornton found probable cause for a grand jury to consider the case against Marquess L. “Hector” Smith, 19. He is accused of shooting Hallett on University Avenue.
Hallett, 18, was shot multiple times after a robbery and died a short time later at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. His friend Josh Baker was shot in the right arm. In addition to murder, Smith is charged with two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of assault.
During the hearing, Lexington police detective Bill Brislin said Smith, Marique Q. Sturgis, 18, Kenyon Hipps, 21, and two juveniles had planned to rob the house in the 200 block of University Avenue because they thought narcotics were there. Hipps died in Dayton, Ohio, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound 10 days after the shooting.
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Police identified the two juvenile suspects after one contacted police, Brislin said.
At the time of the robbery, Smith, Hipps and Sturgis put on masks and walked behind the house while the two juveniles stayed in a car, the juveniles told police.
The three came running back to the car after the juveniles heard shots. They told the juveniles that Hallett and Baker came out of the house and got into Hallett’s car. Smith approached the driver’s side, and Sturgis approached the passenger side.
Juveniles overheard a conversation between Smith and Sturgis, Brislin testified.
According to what the juveniles heard, “Mr. Smith stated there was a verbal altercation between he and Mr. Caleb Hallett,” Brislin testified. “Mr. Smith stated that at that time he shot into the vehicle to strike Mr. Hallett. It was also at that time that Mr. Sturgis said that he then shot into the vehicle as well, striking Mr. Baker.”
The five suspects then fled separately. The only item taken in the robbery was Baker’s cellphone, which Sturgis took, Brislin said.
Sandra Downs, directing attorney of the Capital Trial Branch-East of the state Department of Public Advocacy, which is defending Smith, indicated after the hearing that prosecutors might seek the death penalty against him, given that the case involves murder during a robbery.
“Right now we have not been served with a notice of death penalty,” Downs said. “If in fact it does occur, we’re ready for it.”
Meanwhile, Sturgis also appeared Thursday before Thornton and waived an unrelated charge of trafficking in cocaine to a grand jury. Sturgis is accused of murder, assault, wanton endangerment, criminal mischief and two counts of robbery in the Hallett and Baker case.