A Minnesota man charged with fatally stabbing a fellow angler along the St. Croix River last spring appeared in court Monday in preparation for his December trial.
Levi Acre-Kendall, of Cambridge, who turned 20 on Nov. 3, is accused of killing Peter S. Kelly, 34, on April 14 after the two men's fishing parties argued across the river in Interstate Park.
Acre-Kendall had a motion hearing Monday in Polk County Circuit Court in Balsam Lake, Wis. He faces one count of first-degree reckless homicide for Kelly's death, and in a related case, two counts of bail jumping for allegedly violating the terms of his bond.
Acre-Kendall plans to testify at his trial, attorneys said Monday.
Polk County District Attorney Dan Steffen filed a motion in October to bar evidence comparing Acre-Kendall's physicality to Kelly's, character evidence about Kelly "other than … for truthfulness," and "any evidence relating to the victim's history with wrestling or mixed martial arts as this was unknown to the defendant at the time of the stabbing."
Acre-Kendall's attorney, Eric Nelson, has noted that Kelly was taller than his client, and argues that Acre-Kendall acted in self-defense.
The stabbing occurred after Kelly, a married father of five from St. Croix Falls, Wis., and his friend Ross Lechman got into an argument with Acre-Kendall and other teenagers.
The two groups were fishing on opposite banks of the St. Croix River when Kelly and Lechman, on the Minnesota side, became upset with the younger men's loud, profane language and alleged marijuana use (Steffen has confirmed that Kelly was drinking that night but that his blood alcohol level was under the legal limit to drive).
Kelly and Lechman told the younger men to "show more respect," according to courtroom testimony. Someone in Acre-Kendall's group then challenged them to come over.
According to courtroom testimony and court documents, Kelly and Lechman drove over late that night, turned off their vehicle's lights and watched the younger men in the dark. Lechman then pushed Acre-Kendall to the ground.
Nelson wrote in previously-filed court documents that Acre-Kendall was sitting in his friend's car, trying to retreat from the scene, when Kelly reached into the car and placed him in a "shoulder lock."
That's when Acre-Kendall stabbed Kelly once in the chest, about 9:30 p.m. Kelly died about 10:45 p.m. at an area hospital.
Nelson filed a motion this summer to dismiss the reckless homicide charge, citing Wisconsin's "castle doctrine," which gives defendants additional legal protection for using deadly force against someone they believe unlawfully enters their house, business or vehicle and is perceived as a threat.
Steffen argued that there was not enough information to weigh the merits of the motion, and also disputed the assertion that Kelly was in the car when he was stabbed.
Judge Molly GaleWyrick said at a July hearing that she wouldn't make an immediate decision on Nelson's motion, noting that it was premature. But it's likely that GaleWyrick will address Nelson's motion Monday.
Court filings in the case indicate that preparations for trial are well underway. A proposed jury questionnaire has been discussed, and GaleWyrick sent Steffen and Nelson a letter outlining issues for the upcoming trial, for which jurors will be chosen from outside Polk County due to media publicity about the case. They will be housed in the county during the trial.
"I realize that December may seem far away but it will be here before we know it and we want to be fully prepared for this upcoming trial," GaleWyrick wrote in a September letter to the attorneys.
Acre-Kendall is scheduled to stand trial Dec. 7 to 18, with jury selection beginning on Dec. 3.