Witnesses describe alleged homicide
Several neighbors who watched from their windows as William J. Kemp allegedly shot and killed Thomas A. Schmitt offered testimony at Kemp’s trial Tuesday. While all agreed they’d seen nothing to indicate Kemp was acting in self-defense, each admitted it was difficult to see on the night of the slaying.
“You couldn’t see well enough to see if (Schmitt) had anything in his hands, could you?” defense counsel William J. Miele asked juvenile eyewitness Lindsey Halstead.
“He had his hands down so I couldn’t really see,” Halstead replied.
“Was (Schmitt) acting in any way that made you think he had a weapon?” District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt asked the witness.
“No,” Halstead said.
While no eyewitnesses reported having seen a knife in Schmitt’s hand, a knife was found in “close proximity” to Schmitt’s body, according to testimony given by Cpl. Dustin Reeder.
Kemp is charged with criminal homicide, but the jury could return a verdict of voluntary manslaughter if the killing is determined to have been done without malice, according to Judge Marc F. Lovecchio.
The slaying took place around 10:30 p.m. Feb. 13, 2012, after Schmitt and friend Michael Updegraff left Fifth Street Tavern following an argument with Updegraff’s girlfriend, Kirsten Radcliffe. Kemp gave Radcliffe a ride home to 1017 Franklin St., the residence where the shooting took place.
The defense alleges that Kemp refused to leave until he was satisfied that Radcliffe was Ok. Updegraff alleges that Kemp simply refused to leave.
“I grabbed ahold of (Kemp) and pushed him out the door. He didn’t fall down or nothing,” Updegraff testified.
At this point, eyewitnesses offer somewhat contradicting testimony. While next-door neighbor Malcolm Erb Jr. didn’t see Updegraff or Schmitt make physical contact with Kemp, a neighbor from across the street, Brenda Dunkleberger, recollected the evening differently.
“They have him by the arms and they’re escorting him off the property, telling him to leave. He’s not struggling, just walking with them up the driveway,” Dunkleberger said.
According to testimony, Kemp was released and walked at a fast pace toward his Dodge Durango, the altercation seemingly over.
“Schmitt was following him but were they chasing after him? No,” Erb testified.
But instead, he retrieved a .45-caliber handgun from his vehicle and began shooting.
Miele asked Updegraff if he was concerned that the entire incident could be turned around on him.
“No,” Updegraff replied. “How could I be responsible when Kemp shot and killed my buddy and then tried to kill me, on my property?”
Miele then presented a transcript of a 2012 interview Updegraff had given to a DuBoistown detective.
“I like that law that you’re innocent until proven guilty, but we all know it’s (expletive). You’re guilty until proven innocent … Let me tell you, you’re not twisting this (expletive) around on me,” Updegraff told the detective, according to Miele.
Updegraff explained that he had never had anything like this happen before and wanted to be sure that “the truth came out.”
“I believe someone gave (Kemp)] a permit to carry a weapon and he thought he was invincible. Anyone in their right mind would’ve left the property,” Updegraff said.
Updegraff will continue his testimony today.