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Teen takes witness stand Wednesday in girlfriend’s shooting death

Auston McNeely (Shawnee Co. Sheriff's Office)
Auston McNeely (Shawnee Co. Sheriff's Office)(WIBW)
Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 2:50 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - An 18-year-old man charged with killing his girlfriend sat in the witness chair Wednesday to testify he took Xanax and smoked marijuana on the day she was fatally shot.

Auston Michael Shane McNeely, 18, testified he doesn’t remember things when he takes Xanax, that he “blacks out” when he takes Xanax, a medication to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

McNeely said he likes to blackout.

McNeely, who was 17 when Ashley Tristan  Usher, 18, was shot, said he doesn’t remember when a Topeka police detective read McNeely his Miranda Rights on the day of the shooting.

Xanax makes McNeely feel depressed, McNeely testified Wednesday.

Taking the drug doesn’t block McNeely from giving some truthful information, McNeely testified. McNeely had first told Topeka police that Usher was shot during a drive-by shooting.

On September 13, 2019, McNeely formally was charged as an adult with reckless second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend in August, interference with a law enforcement officer, theft of a firearm, and criminal use of a firearm.

The district attorney’s office is to amend the interference charge on Wednesday afternoon.

From the witness stand, McNeely testified he told Topeka police Detective Ryan Hayden “quite a few times” he had consumed Xanax on the day Usher was shot.

When he woke up on August 17, 2019, McNeely testified he took “a bar or bar-and-a-half” of Xanax.

McNeely testified he told Hayden more than once he felt he was under the influence of drugs.

Defense attorney Gary Conwell challenged whether McNeely knew his rights and understood what rights he was waiving.

Deputy District Attorney Brett Watson said McNeely was making a knowing and voluntary statement to police and that McNeely wasn’t impaired on drugs when he made the statement.

Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham questioned whether McNeely was under the influence of drugs and whether he was tracking what was going on.

There is nothing to show that McNeely wasn’t tracking, the judge said. The judge ruled McNeely’s statement to police was voluntary.

The case will return to court on October 15 for a status conference. A jury trial hasn’t been scheduled for McNeely because the Kansas Supreme Court hasn’t issued a decision to resume jury trials.

The shutdown of jury trials is the result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

On September 12, 2019, after a hearing, Shawnee County District Court Judge Darian Dernovish waived McNeely, then 17, from juvenile court to adult court to stand trial.

The shooting of Usher occurred outside 2229 S.E. Ohio, the home where Usher’s mother and siblings lived. McNeely and Usher were in a serious relationship, Usher’s mother testified during an earlier hearing.

During an earlier hearing, a judge heard testimony that McNeely was carrying a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol in his waistband shortly before Usher was shot.

After Usher was shot, McNeely twice tossed the pistol outside and threw away the shell casing ejected from the pistol when she suffered the fatal wound.

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