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Youth coach’s murder case gets one step closer to trial

December 24, 2018

HUNTINGTON - Attorneys in a 2017 case involving the shooting of a Huntington youth football coach met in court this week to argue if evidence of a past shooting should be allowed to be introduced at trial.

Antwon Starkey, 30, was charged with murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the death of Kafrederick “Bae Bae” McEachin, 25. Starkey shot McEachin on Dec. 12, 2017, at Huntington Mart on Hal Greer Boulevard in broad daylight.

In an interview with police after the shooting, he said he had shot McEachin after he heard the victim was connected with the shooting of his 14-year-old stepdaughter two weeks prior. Starkey’s attorneys added the defendant also believed McEachin had also targeted both Starkey and his wife.

While Starkey’s trial is not slated to begin until Feb. 26, 2019, assistant prosecutor Sharon Frazier and defense attorneys Abe Saad and Jack Dolance met Tuesday to sort through several pre-trial motions.

On Tuesday, Cabell Circuit Judge Gregory Howard said a statement Starkey gave to police after the shooting, seemingly confessing to shooting McEachin, would be allowed to be entered as evidence in the trial.

After listening to two motions by prosecution, Howard also set a Jan. 23 hearing in which the defense expert, psychologist Dr. Timothy Saar, will testify about an expert report in which he discusses what a “reasonable person” would have done in Starkey’s situation, pointing to the shootings and alleged attempted shootings leading up to McEachin’s death.

Frazier said allowing too much information about the past shootings would confuse the jury, and asked Howard to limit the amount of information defense attorneys will be allowed to present on those cases at trial.

“If we start getting into other search warrants, other witness statements, other surveillance footage, we run the risk of confusing the jury who (will now be) trying two cases at once,” she said.

“It could be highly prejudicial to the case because it will be confusing to the jury and offers no probative value.”

Frazier also questioned Saar’s finding, stating he had shown no expertise or reasoning for how he determined what a “reasonable person” would do in Starkey’s situation, other than statements given by the defendant.

Saad said without including the information about the previous shootings, a jury would not have the context they need to reach a verdict in the case. Dolance said the case would not make sense without those details and mislead the jury.

“Mr. Starkey’s mental state does not exist in a vacuum,” he said. “The state is trying to say this all just happened at one moment and that his mental state existed in that one moment. They don’t want to hear anything about why he had that mental state at that moment.”

Howard said he was not prepare to make a ruling on the motions, but agreed Starkey’s state of mind at the time of the shooting was relevant. He said as the attorneys decide what information they want to introduce at trial, Howard will rule on a case-by-case basis on what will be allowed. The hearing in which Saar will testify should also help make those determinations, he said.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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