UPDATE, May 2: Kenneth Stewart on Friday received a 26-year prison sentence for shooting another man who was in his backyard with his daughters last summer. (See below for the details of the case).
At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued that, although Stewart may have been aiming at the adult victim, his actions created a substantial risk to the safety of the children. Therefore, a longer prison sentence was appropriate.
Stewart’s attorney argued Stewart had a troubled childhood and suffered from drug addiction from a young age, and said Stewart may have even been under the influence of drugs while he committed the shooting. He further argued that Stewart would like the chance to be a father to his young son, and a long prison sentence would deprive him of the opportunity to do so.
Prosecutors replied that someone who committed a shooting that put the lives of children in danger should not be permitted to be around children and that Stewart is a danger to the community.
After considering the arguments and hearing from the adult victim and the defendant, Greene County Circuit Judge Calvin Holden gave Stewart a 14-year prison sentence for first-degree assault, six years for each count of child endangerment, and three years for each conviction of armed criminal action. Holden ordered the first-degree assault sentence to run consecutively to the child endangerment sentences, but those will run concurrently to the armed criminal action sentences, for a total of 26 years.
Previous report from April 9, 2014:
A Greene County jury convicted a man from Springfield on Tuesday for shooting a man several times as he played with his young daughters in his backyard last summer. The jury deliberated just more than two hours before convicting Kenneth Stewart, 19, of first-degree assault, two counts of child endangerment, and three counts of armed criminal action.
Around noon last July 25, Stewart shot a 33-year-old man while he was playing with his daughters – who were then ages 4 and 5 -- in the 600 block of West Mt. Vernon Street. Prosecutors say Stewart climbed a privacy fence on the south side of the victim’s property and approached the father with a handgun. The victim immediately picked up his daughters and ran toward his house to get his children inside.
Stewart pursued the victim, firing several shots at him as he carried his daughters, striking him twice. The victim was struck once in the back of his shoulder and once in the back of his hip.
The first bullet remained lodged in his arm until it was removed four months after the shooting, while the second bullet passed through the victim’s body, resulting in an exit wound in the front of his hip. He had extensive medical treatment since the shooting, including emergency exploratory surgery.
Although the victim was not well-acquainted with Stewart, he had seen him prior to the shooting and was able to immediately identify him as the shooter. He also provided police with a description of the weapon used in the assault. Police said at the time of the shootings that Stewart and the victim had some kind of ongoing dispute.
Police located Stewart shortly after the shooting at a nearby apartment complex. Following a brief standoff, Stewart exited one of the apartment units. Police then gained consent to search that apartment and located a small-caliber handgun matching the description provided by the victim, along with a large bag of ammunition inside. These items were covered in a liquid chemical substance.
Springfield Police officers discovered three shell casings at the scene of the shooting which matched the make and caliber of those found at the apartment, along with two slugs which passed through the exterior walls of the victim’s home into the interior.
At trial, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Philip Fuhrman introduced into evidence a portion of the exterior siding from the victim’s home, which had been riddled with seven bullet holes. The victim testified that this paneling had been located behind him and his daughters as they fled from Stewart’s gunshots.
Fuhrman also presented a videotaped interview with Stewart in which he admitted going to the victim’s house, climbing the fence to his backyard, and shooting a gun 6-7 times. He also acknowledged children were present at the scene. He further admitted he hid the handgun at the apartment after the shooting.
The defendant exercised his right to jury sentencing in this case. During sentencing, the jury heard from the victim and the mother of the two child victims, who testified to the long-term effects the shooting has had on her daughters. She said her daughters fear for their safety and that of their father.
Prosecutors requested the maximum possible sentence on the assault and child endangerment convictions.
After hearing evidence and argument, the jury recommended a 14-year sentence for assault, a 3-year sentence for each count of armed criminal action, and a 6-year sentence for each count of child endangerment.
Stewart is in the Greene County Jail without bond. Circuit Judge Calvin Holden set a sentencing hearing for May 2.
Det. Scott Hill was the lead investigator for the Springfield Police Department.