A 29-year-old man charged with fatally shooting Jon William Keener on Feb. 6 in East Moline will be evaluated to determine whether he is fit to stand trial, a Rock Island County judge has ordered.
Willie Frank Minor was scheduled to appear Tuesday morning at the Rock Island County Justice Center for a preliminary hearing, where a judge hears evidence to determine whether there is enough probable cause to bind the case over for trial.
His attorney, Andrew Larson, told Judge Norma Kauzlarich that he had multiple conversations with his client about waiving the preliminary hearing, citing the presence of media reporters in the courtroom and his belief that testimony at the hearing could make the case more difficult to defend and could taint the jury pool.
When questioned by Kauzlarich, Minor appeared to be confused about the preliminary hearing process and said that “I don’t get it.”
After speaking to his client in private, Larson said that he had a bona fide doubt as to his fitness “based on the fact that I’ve literally spent hours discussing this one issue with him and he continues today to say in court that he doesn’t understand what’s going on.”
A defendant can be found unfit to stand trial if, because of a mental or physical condition, he or she is unable to understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings and cannot assist in his or her own defense.
Kauzlarich ordered that Minor be evaluated by Moline clinical psychologist Kirk Witherspoon, who will submit his findings to the court in a sealed report. A status hearing is scheduled for April 3.
If Minor is found fit for trial, the case could proceed to a preliminary hearing. If he is found unfit for trial, Minor will be transferred to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services for fitness restoration training.
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee said after Tuesday’s hearing that prosecutors are concerned that Minor is “malingering" or pretending to be confused, but agreed to the evaluation to “err on the side of caution.”
Minor is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Keener, 52, of Muscatine. He remained in the Rock Island County Jail on a $5 million bond.
About 11:20 a.m. Feb. 6, East Moline police responded to reports of a shooting near the intersection of 3rd Street and 15th Avenue and discovered Keener lying on the south side of the roadway edge with a gunshot wound to the head, according to police.
He was transported to Genesis Medical Center, Silvis, where he was pronounced dead.
According to police, eyewitnesses said that someone fled the scene after the shooting and went into a home south of 15th Avenue at Kennedy Drive.
The Crisis Containment Unit arrived at the home and negotiated with occupants to leave the residence; the incident ended peacefully at 4:08 p.m. Minor was among several people from the residence who were detained while the investigation continued overnight. The other people from the home were released.
During the investigation, police recovered a firearm.
Police and prosecutors have declined to comment on a motive behind the shooting.