A high-profile, emotionally charged murder case is about to enter the sentencing phase, where a young man’s future will be decided for his alleged role in the death of a relative.
After a month-long trial, Bishop resident Edward Keller, Jr. was found guilty of second-degree murder by an Inyo County jury on Friday.
Keller was charged with killing his 29-year-old cousin, James Eugene Williams, at a party on Thanksgiving Day 2009. Attorney Thomas Hardy acted as Keller’s public defender and Joel Samuels prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s Office.
Although Keller was 17 years old at the time of his arrest in December ’09, D.A. Art Maillet opted to try the teenager as an adult.
Following what has been described as a highly emotional trial that included four weeks of testimony and presentation of evidence by the prosecution, the jury deliberated for a day-and-a-half before returning the guilty verdict. Maillet said Monday in a press release that the jury “also found true that Mr. Keller used a deadly weapon in the commission of the murder.”
The incident Thanksgiving night involved alcohol and an alleged altercation between several parties at the scene that resulted in the death of Williams. Morgan Kinney, Jr., who was allegedly “passed out” next to the victim at the scene, was initially taken into custody that night and charged with the crime until follow-up investigation led authorities to Keller, who was arrested Dec. 2.
Keller was one of several subjects initially detained at the scene of the homicide Nov. 26.
Sentencing for Keller is scheduled for April 12. He will begin his sentence April 26.
Following a request for a change of venue, Louis LePlat will stand trial, beginning today, in Ventura County. LePlat is charged with first-degree murder for the fatal stabbing of James Eric Rambeau, Jr., 23, of Bishop. LePlat was arrested on June 19, 2009.
Alcohol was also reportedly involved in the incident that led to Rambeau’s death, which occurred at a house party.
LePlat’s defense counsel will be Neil Quinn, a Ventura County public defender.