Former UK student on trial for death of four-year-old, found not guilty


Hannah Stanley

On Thursday, former UK student Jacob Heil was found not guilty of reckless homicide after a fatal crash on Sept. 15, 2018, that killed four-year-old Marco Shemwell.                        

Jurors convicted Heil, 21, of driving under the influence, with a DUI conviction carrying a fine of $100 and $500 or community service. Heil was facing a possible one to five years in prison if convicted of reckless homicide.

Heil did not deny drinking beers at his fraternity tailgate earlier on the day of the crash. His level of intoxication was 0.038 after his blood sample was drawn. The legal limit for anyone under 21 is 0.02.        

Following the crash, Heil’s fraternity Alpha Tau Omega closed its chapter at UK after being accused of underage drinking and hazing.

The crash occurred when father Ben Shemwell and his sons Maximo and Marco Shemwell were walking on Cooper Drive after a football game. Marco was in the street when Heil hit him, according to an article by the Lexington Herald-Leader. 

Marco died two days after the accident from head and neck trauma. 

Lexington police officer Greg Marlin said a “cleansing mark” was found just inside the headlight on the passenger side where an object removes the “road grit” and dirt after direct contact. This indicates Heil hit Marco on the right side of the car alongside the white line nearing the gravel.

On Monday, the first day of Heil’s trial, the prosecution said Heil’s vehicle was going at least 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

Witnesses’ testimonies were conflicting in regard to whether or not Heil’s car swerved off the road, using photographed tire marks from the scene. A Lexington police investigation found Heil’s car veered over the white line at the edge of the road.

Heil’s car was reported to be about six inches off the pavement outside the white line and about four inches from the white line, indicating he did go off to the gravel but not into the grass.

Marlin’s investigation found if Heil would have been driving in the center of the lane as normal, “clearance” space would have been available to avoid hitting Marco.

Witnesses shared that Heil seemed fine to drive that day and showed no signs of impairment or extreme levels of intoxication to prevent him from driving. Multiple witnesses who were not police officers said no slurring of speech or stumbling came from Heil after he was checked for a DUI after the crash, according to the Herald-Leader. 

The Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn said that Heil received a tremendous gift from the jury after the verdict was made.