Archive for Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Meeker heads to prison for Baldwin shooting

August 28, 2002

A former Baldwin resident will spend time in prison for his role in last year's shooting on the west side of town.

Douglas County District Court Judge Jack Murphy sentenced Stephen Meeker, 35, to serve about six years in prison for convictions in the Oct. 14 shooting in the 1200 block of Bison Court.

Meeker was sentenced to 41 months in prison for aggravated battery, followed by three years of post-release supervision, for shooting Steven Swafford, 33, Lawrence, three times.

Meeker was also sentenced to 18 months in prison for attempted aggravated battery for shooting at Swafford's friend, Chris O'Neil, Lawrence, and 12 months in prison for aggravated assault for threatening Swafford's girlfriend, Kerry Chalmers.

The sentences are to be served consecutively.

"I was thrilled," Chalmers said of Meeker's sentence. "I believe it was justified.

"I'm so glad it's over," she said. "A huge weight has been lifted."

Meeker was convicted by a jury at a second trial in July on all charges. A jury was unable to reach a verdict at his first trial in April.

According to court testimony, an argument between children escalated into a dispute that included the adults.

Testimony revealed Chalmers, who was upset about comments that had been made to her children, went next door and confronted Meeker's wife, Erin.

After talking to Erin Meeker, Chalmers said she had turned to leave when Stephen Meeker, who was naked, came out of the front door of his house and pointed a 9 mm pistol at her.

Swafford and O'Neil, who were standing outside Chalmers' house, said they yelled and ran toward Meeker when they saw the gun. They said that's when they said Meeker shot at them.

The Meekers testified they were afraid and felt threatened when Chalmers came to their house because of previous problems. Stephen Meeker, who had just gotten out of the shower, said he heard Chalmers threatening his wife inside their house and grabbed his gun.

Meeker contended he shot at Swafford and O'Neil in self defense because they were running at him and threatening him.

Meeker's attorney, Jim Rumsey, wanted Murphy to depart from state sentencing guidelines.

Murphy rejected the request and sentenced Meeker in accordance with the guidelines.

Martha Wright, who lives on Bison Court, said she wasn't expecting Meeker to be sentenced for that many months, but she was pleased.

"I'm surprised, but yes I'm happy," Wright said. "I'm glad it's over."

Chalmers said she is also happy the events have concluded.

"It's amazing having it over," she said. "I didn't realize how much it occupied my mind until it was over."

She said her neighbors and the Baldwin community made the nearly year-long ordeal bearable.

"My neighbors were just wonderful," she said. "I don't think I could have gotten through it without them. The support the community gave me was just wonderful.

"I'm also thankful for Steven (Swafford), every day, that he was there and he saved my life," she said.

Even though she said the shooting changed her life, Chalmers said she and her family are looking toward the future.

"We're going to try to get past this," she said. "We plan on trying to make the best of it and go on."

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