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Archive for Thursday, July 11, 2002

Second trial begins in Baldwin shooting case

July 11, 2002

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Someone was "out of control" the night of Oct. 14, 2001, in the Baldwin neighborhood that surrounded a cul-de-sac in the 1200 block of Bison Court.

It will be up to a Douglas County jury to decide whether it was a gun-wielding, nude Stephen Meeker standing outside his front door or if it was his neighbor, Kerry Chalmers, who had just entered Meeker's house as he was getting out of the shower.

For the second time since April, Meeker is on trial before Judge Jack Murphy on charges of aggravated battery, attempted aggravated battery and aggravated assault. The trial began Wednesday. The first trial ended in a hung jury.

Meeker, 34, is accused of shooting Chalmers' boyfriend, Steven Swafford, 31, Lawrence, and attempting to shoot Swafford's friend, Chris O'Neil, also of Lawrence. Meeker also is accused of threatening Chalmers.

The shooting was the culmination of a monthslong dispute between Chalmers and the Meeker family, Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Dunbar and defense attorney Jim Rumsey told the seven-man, five-woman jury during opening statements.

The dispute stemmed from problems between the children of Stephen and Erin Meeker and Chalmers, the attorneys said.

Dunbar told jurors that on the day of the shooting, Chalmers became angry because her teenage daughter was called a derogatory name by Erin Meeker. Chalmers went over to confront Erin Meeker but did not go inside the Meekers' house; nor did she threaten the Meekers.

Swafford, Dunbar said, was an innocent bystander watching from the edge of the Meekers' property.

"Here comes this guy with no clothes on, a gun in his hand a foot from his girlfriend's head," Dunbar said. "He did what he had to do."

Swafford and O'Neil ran toward Stephen Meeker, who was standing outside the front door and tried to distract him from Chalmers, Dunbar said. Stephen Meeker then shot Swafford three times, according to the state, once in the right hand, the front of the left hip, and the left arm just above the elbow.

Rumsey disputed this version of events, telling the jury Chalmers was noted for a hot temper and was even described to the Meekers as a "psycho" by her ex-husband. Rumsey indicated that Chalmers' temper may have been worse the night of the shooting because she had a nagging toothache.

Rumsey said that Chalmers had barged into the Meeker house and began threatening Erin Meeker as Stephen Meeker was getting out of the shower.

"She was out of control," Rumsey said. "She was enraged."

Moreover, Rumsey told the jury that information from Douglas County Sheriff's officers' investigative reports described blood drops in the Meekers' yard that showed Swafford ran to within 5 feet of Meeker before he was shot.

"Man defends home and family," Rumsey said. "That's what this case is all about."

The trial continues today.

Meeker is free on bond.

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