Accused murderer in court, cameras allowed

For family members of accused killer Kai Lefler, 25, of Oneida, Monday’s court appearance left more questions than answers. 

“It’s hard for me to even fathom that he’d do something like that,” said Roger Lefler, his father.

“I’m just doing the best I can,” said Brenda Lefler, his mother. “We’re just taking each day as it comes. A lot of comfort from God is going to get us through this.”

Lefler’s accused of stabbing Robert Kilgore, 23, of Galesburg to death about a week ago, after witnesses say he confronted Lefler over a possible car burglary.

“They lost a loved one, but so did we,” said Nathan Lefler. “Nobody ever thinks about the other family and they think we’re bad people, too and we’re not at all.”

Besides being a significant day for the trial itself, the court appearance was also one for the history books.

It’s the first big case in which cameras were allowed in the courtroom in Knox County.

The most high-profile trial including expanded media coverage was that of Nicholas Sheley in Whiteside County last November.

Knox County is one of 25 in Illinois testing out cameras in the courtroom. The hope is the exposure will better inform people of how the judicial system works.

Trial judges overseeing the process have their reservations, however.

“We have to be sure that we’re fair to the defendant that they have a right to a fair trial and that pretrial publicity does not widely prejudice future jurors who might be sitting in on the case,” said Judge Scott Shiplett, Knox County Circuit Court.

As for Lefler’s family, Nathan says they’re just glad to have a platform to get their message across, also.

“I think the cameras are a good thing that the media is a place for us to get our voice out there, to help clear our names,” he said. “It’s Kai who’s on trial, but our family is kind of on trial, too.”

A preliminary hearing date is scheduled for February 19th at 2 p.m.

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