By Monica Velez
The preliminary hearing in the case of Jeffrey Lemus resumed on the afternoon of January 21, 2016. Lemus is currently being charged with murder for the death of Kelly Mason Choate.
Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson argued that Lemus should be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes argued the exact opposite, saying that Lemus should be charged with premeditated murder, or first-degree murder.
Hasapes argued that, because the knife Lemus used to stab Choate was 18 inches long, it was not considered practical for him to randomly have it on his person at a bar. The DDA argued that he has witnesses who said it seemed like Lemus was waiting for Choate.
Since the defendant has a history of disputes with Choate, with Lemus saying he had already beaten Choate up five times and that he hated Choate, Hasapes argued that the evidence proved there was planning behind the incident.
According to Hasapes, the fact that Lemus got up to use the restroom after Choate arrived, passing him and then coming out of the restroom with a covered knife in his hand showed evidence of premeditated thought.
Hasapes said that Lemus instigated a fight with Choate after exiting the restroom, “clubbing” being the term used to describe how Lemus was hitting Choate.
The fight only lasted seconds before Lemus stabbed Choate with the 18-inch knife he was carrying, and then walked out of the bar right afterward. A witness said Lemus walked out like nothing happened.
Hasapes argued that the evidence points to premeditated murder, murder in the first degree, because he pierced him right in the heart, knowing it would kill him.
Woodland Police Officer Tamera Pelle was called as a witness and said that she went to the autopsy on Choate’s body, and the person performing the autopsy told her that the cause of death was a stab wound to the chest.
The sharp object pierced through the left lung, going all the way through, tearing into the heart sac, and then going through the left ventricle. There were traces of methamphetamine found in the bloodstream, but that was not the cause of Choate’s death.
Hasapes argued that it was not a crime of passion, with multiple stab wounds inflicted randomly throughout the body; it was a murder that was planned out with one single stab through the chest.
Judge David W. Reed said that there could be evidence of manslaughter that could be proved at trial, but that there was not enough to charge him with premeditated first-degree murder and ruled that the charge of murder stay the same.
The trial will commence February 5, 2016, at 9:00 a.m.