17-year-old suspect in girlfriend's killing previously arrested for firearms

Auston McNeely (Shawnee Co. Sheriff's Office)
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A 17-year-old entering criminal court to face a murder charge had a 2017 case of juvenile weapons possession in his criminal history, a Shawnee County District Court judge heard during the defendant's first-appearance hearing on Tuesday.

Auston Michael Shane McNeely next will be in court on Sept. 26. District Court Judge David Debenham has been assigned to hear the McNeely case.

McNeely is charged with reckless second-degree murder in the shooting death of his 18-year-old girlfriend, interference with a law enforcement officer, and theft of a firearm, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of criminal use of a firearm. Ashley Usher was fatally wounded on August 17.

McNeely on Tuesday asked District Court Judge Jason Geier to assign the defense attorney who handled McNeely's case when he was in juvenile court. The judge assigned the public defender's office to represent McNeely.

McNeely's bond remains at $1 million with professional surety or cash, Geier said.

Charged as an adult

On Thursday, District Court Judge Darian Dernovish waived McNeely to adult court where he will be treated as an adult.

The charges McNeely faces are the same as those he faced in juvenile court, but the penalties for convictions as an adult carry much longer terms of incarceration than juvenile convictions.

If a juvenile is convicted of felonies and juvenile jurisdiction of the youth is extended, that jurisdiction generally expires and the sentence ends when the defendant turns 22 years and 6 months old, Kagay said. That includes a murder conviction.

However, if a juvenile is convicted as an adult, he faces the sentencing grid any other adult defendant faces.

For example, a reckless second-degree murder conviction carries a prison sentence ranging from nine years and one month to 41 years and one month, depending on the defendant's earlier criminal convictions.

Court testimony

Following a two-hour hearing on Thursday, Dernovish ordered McNeely to be tried in adult court in Usher's shooting death. 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 McNeely testified.

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

MORE: Court documents detail suspect and victim's claims about deadly shooting

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, Dernovish said.

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

McNeely stole the pistol three weeks before Usher was shot, he testified. McNeely 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.

McNeely's defense attorney Gary Conwell, had 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.

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