DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The third day of proceedings in a preliminary hearing for Alec McKinney, 16, one of two suspects in the May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, began Wednesday. Kendrick Castillo, 18, a senior at the school, was killed, and eight others were injured.
A Douglas County District Court judge has already ruled there is sufficient evidence for the case to move forward to trial, but now McKinney’s defense is calling witnesses to explain why McKinney should be tried as a juvenile.
Wednesday, the defense called McKinney’s mother, Morgan McKinney, to paint a detailed picture about McKinney’s troubled childhood.
Morgan McKinney testified about McKinney’s father, Jose Louis Quintana, of Mexico. Morgan testified Quintana was physically and emotionally abusive towards her in front of McKinney. In fact, when McKinney was only 3 years old, Morgan said Quintana would beat her “weekly,” sometimes “five days a week.”
Morgan testified Quintana would call her foul names, telling her she was a “piece of s*** mother,” who was a “dumb b****.” She said Quintana would say those things to her in front of McKinney often.
Morgan said she never left Quintana, because she didn’t want to break up her family.
As Morgan continued her testimony, she revealed Quintana may have spanked McKinney with a belt when McKinney was still a young child.
Then, she said Quintana was deported in 2010, following a conviction and 17-month sentence for domestic abuse and menacing, where Quintana threatened her with a knife.
Despite his patterns of abuse, Morgan said she would take her children to visit Quintana in Mexico following his deportation. Morgan testified that McKinney recently told her he believed Quintana sexually abused him during one of those trips to Mexico.
Morgan went on to testify that McKinney began cutting himself on his arms in 2015, and she didn’t take McKinney to see a counselor until 2017. During those years, Morgan admitted she went out a lot with a new boyfriend, and she left Alec at home to babysit his two younger siblings on weeknights two to three times a week.
In 2017, Morgan said her boyfriend broke up with her unexpectedly, and she later discovered her twin sister was pregnant with his child. She said that news was “hard on Alec,” because that boyfriend had become a positive father figure to him.
Morgan said she and her children then moved in with her parents, where 12 people total were living in one house.
Morgan also said Alec was hospitalized six times in seven months in 2018, the year before the shooting attack took place.
McKinney’s defense team entered several photos of McKinney’s arms and legs as evidence, depicting dozens of self-inflicted cuts on the inside of his forearms, the outside of his upper arm, and on his thigh.
Both Morgan and McKinney were crying periodically throughout the testimony.
The prosecution worked to show that even though McKinney witnessed some tough situations as a child, he still had a loving, supportive mother and family.
For example, the prosecution asked Morgan about how she threw a “coming out party” for McKinney when he turned 15, to celebrate the fact he was transitioning into his true gender identity.
“It was really cool, it was really nice,” Morgan testified about the party.
The prosecution also asked Morgan about her awareness of his high school friends, including McKinney’s friendship with Devon Erickson, the other suspect in the STEM School shooting attack.
Morgan said she “didn’t want to judge” McKinney’s friends, so she didn’t ask many questions about them.
The prosecution also worked to discredit McKinney’s explanations about his mental health, pinpointing that Morgan once said her son didn’t take therapy seriously, that sometimes he would just “bull**** his way through.”
The prosecution also pointed out that Morgan “never saw the shooting coming.”
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.
Proceedings are expected to continue this week in Douglas County District Court.