McNeely to be tried as adult in girlfriend's death

Auston McNeely (Shawnee Co. Sheriff's Office)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Shawnee County District Court judge on Thursday ordered a 17-year-old boy to be tried in adult court in the shooting death of the teen's girlfriend on August 17.

Auston Michael Shane McNeely will face a murder charge in adult court in the killing of Ashley Usher, 18. Following a two-hour hearing, District Court Judge Darian Dernovish ruled to waive McNeely to adult status.

In juvenile court, McNeely is charged with reckless second-degree murder in Usher's death, interference with a law enforcement officer, theft of a firearm and criminal use of a firearm.

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

During the hearing, Dernovish, who handles juvenile criminal cases, reminded McNeely he had seen him in juvenile court several times before the hearing on Thursday.

"The last time I saw you, I said I didn't want to see you in here again," the judge said. If McNeely had stayed home and away from guns, "this wouldn't have happened."

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

Hiding the gun and shell casing show criminal sophistication for a teen and is "frightening" to the judge, he said.

"You will be tried as an adult," Dernovish said.

As a juvenile, McNeely had an offense history of criminal use of a weapon and two counts of theft, the judge said.

Before the hearing started Thursday, the judge ruled the hearing would be open to the public.

Defense Attorney Gary Conwell had asked the judge to close the hearing to the public due to McNeely being a juvenile.

A Kansas statute says court hearings open to the public unless the judge decides opening the hearing to the public in't in the best interest of the victim or of any juvenile who at the time of the alleged offense was less than 16 years old.

In opposing the closing the courtroom, Assistant District Attorney Keith Henderson noted McNeely was 17.

McNeely testified Thursday, saying that he and Usher had dated off and on for a year.

The relationship had become more serious in the past six months and he had lived in Usher's home with the young woman's mother and siblings.

McNeely and Usher slept in the living room, and the two did housework, cared for a sibling of Usher and cooked meals, McNeely testified. In return Usher's mother paid them $5 or $10 a day.

McNeely stole the pistol three weeks before Usher was shot and he test-fired one of the two bullets in the firearm, he testified. He carried the pistol, which had one bullet, for protection.

On Aug. 17, McNeely took the pistol from his waistband and handed it to Usher, he retrieved it from her to show her how to operate it, and the pistol discharged as he was handling it, striking her, according to his testimony.

Conwell urged the judge to keep McNeely in juvenile court, saying the victim told police the shooting was an accident. Nothing indicated the two were fighting or didn't like each other, Conwell said.

Henderson, the prosecutor, said McNeely's case needed to be in adult court.

"This is something he did and something he is responsible for," Henderson said. "Justice requires waiver."