DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – In the second day of revealing preliminary hearing proceedings, more is being about the mind of Alec McKinney, 16, one of two suspects in the May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. Student Kendrick Castillo, 18, was killed while trying to stop one gunman and eight others were injured.
While a judge has determined there is sufficient evidence for McKinney’s case to go to trial, deliberations are still underway regarding whether McKinney should be tried as an adult, in what’s called a reverse transfer hearing.
In Tuesday’s proceedings, the hearing began by the judge ruling that statements McKinney made shortly after the shooting, while still in custody at the STEM school, will be suppressed in the reverse transfer hearing. However, statements McKinney made to investigators at the sheriff’s office the same day will be used as evidence in the hearing.
Following that decision, McKinney’s defense team began calling witnesses from the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center, the detention center where McKinney has been housed since the shooting took place.
One of those witnesses was April Kim, a contracted counselor at the center, who met with McKinney the day after the shooting and several times throughout the summer.
Kim said McKinney told her he “always has some passive suicidal thoughts with varied intent of following through.”
Kim also testified that McKinney has “command hallucinations,” and McKinney told her those hallucinations “tell me to do bad things to myself and others.”
Throughout the summer months following the shooting, Kim said those hallucinations would decrease sometimes and increase at other times.
Another witness called by McKinney’s defense, Marty Kelley, a social studies teacher at the detention center, said McKinney has been well-behaved in class, and has been very engaged in classroom assignments. She testified she has not witnessed any strange behaviors from McKinney in her daily interactions with him.
On Monday, a detective testified that Devon Erickson, the second suspect in the school shooting, wrote “the voices win” in red nail polish on a closet wall in Erickson’s house when Erickson and McKinney were there just hours before the shooting.
One of McKinney’s counselors, who treated McKinney in the months leading up to the shooting, testified Tuesday that McKinney was prescribed several medications for those voices and for his depression, including Zoloft and Abilify, but sometimes McKinney would not take those medications as prescribed. Sometimes, the counselor testified, he would take less than what was prescribed, but never took more.
The counselor also testified McKinney said he would cut and burn his arms to “relieve stress.”
The counselor said he saw McKinney several days before the shooting at the STEM School took place, and McKinney told him he wasn’t doing well in school, that he was failing classes, and that he felt like some people used the wrong pronouns when referring to him, and he felt “disrespected by that.”
Tuesday afternoon, the defense for McKinney also called a family witness, Courtney Lloyd, to testify about McKinney’s upbringing. Lloyd is McKinney’s aunt, who was previously married to McKinney’s father’s brother, Andres.
Lloyd explained McKinney’s father, Jose, was abusive to his mother, Morgan, in front of McKinney “several times.”
She offered one example when Jose pushed Morgan so hard that she fell and “split her head open,” the injury so bad, Lloyd took Morgan to the hospital.
The prosecution worked to poke holes in the relevance of that testimony, pointing out the abuse happened more than nine years ago, before 2010, when Jose was deported.
Lloyd testified she has kept in contact with Morgan and McKinney over the years, and was completely surprised by McKinney’s alleged involvement in a school shooting attack.
The defense for McKinney also called several witnesses Tuesday to explain a juvenile drug offense he faced in February 2018, when he was a student at Douglas County High School. A dean at Douglas County High School, Casey Turnbaugh, testified McKinney had allegedly given prescription pills to a girl at Castleview High School, and she had to be taken to the hospital.
Turnbaugh testified that when McKinney and his mother were in the school’s office, McKinney said, “oh my god, mom, I’ve killed my best friend.”
Turnbaugh said the girl did not die from taking the drugs, but McKinney was concerned about her well being. Turnbaugh testified McKinney was suspended for five days after the incident and was invited back to school. He said McKinney’s attendance was “poor” following the incident and emailed McKinney and his mother to check in on him.
McKinney wrote to Turnbaugh that “Douglas County High School is a very bad environment and people don’t pay attention until it’s too late.”
However, the prosecution pointed out that McKinney did not ask for help about school bullying prior to the drug incident in 2018.
Testimony revealed that after the school year was over in the Spring of 2018, McKinney enrolled at the STEM School for the 2018-2019 school year.
Angela Lange, a former pretrial release counselor in Douglas County, said she supervised McKinney, as a result of that drug incident, in the summer months of 2018, and she did not see anything that caused concern for community safety.
Lange also testified McKinney’s mom was supportive of him being transgender, and that is not common with parents and children her office usually supervises.
Proceedings are expected to go on for the next few days in Douglas County District Court.