ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The murder trial of a suspect accused of shooting and killing an Abilene mother with a gun she had just bought for protection began with opening statements and prosecution testimony Monday.
Charles Newman, 38, is charged with Murder, Fraudulent Use of Identifying Information, and Tampering with Evidence in connection to the death of Kendra Keppler, 27.
Keppler was found dead inside her home on Whittier Street in May of 2016.
Opening statements from Prosecutors reveal her body was so decomposed, officers initially didn’t know what happened to her, but an autopsy later confirmed she was killed by a gunshot wound to the head that was consistent with a homicide.
The witness who found Keppler, a former boyfriend and good friend, said he went to her house after he and her mother* had not heard from her for days, which was highly unusual, as she always responded to calls and texts within a matter of minutes.
He immediately noticed a powerful foul smell upon unlocking and opening the door, but initially thought it was from rainwater and dog feces until he went into her bedroom and found her deceased.
He said he then ran outside, called her mother, then called police.
This witness and Keppler’s mother testified, saying Keppler had been in an altercation with a man, not Newman, just weeks before her death, and during that altercation, which was over missing marijuana, the man pulled out a gun.
The altercation prompted Keppler to buy a gun for protection, according to testimony from multiple witnesses.
Prosecutors say when Newman was initially questioned the day Keppler was found, he wasn’t even a person of interest, as investigators were focusing on the man involved in the altercation.
However, Newman kept changing stories during his interview, first saying the last time he saw Keppler was when she let him borrow her car the Saturday before she was found dead, then eventually admitting he went into her house Wednesday, found her decomposing, but didn’t call police because he was on parole and very shaken at the discovery.
Newman kept Keppler’s car after borrowing it Saturday and was seen driving it around town in the days following her death.
His defense team says this is normal, as she and Newman had a very trusting relationship, but both her ex boyfriend and her mother testified that Keppler was very protective over her vehicle and wouldn’t even let them drive it for longer than a trip to the store and back.
Newman is also accused of trying to get $200 out of Keppler’s bank account multiple times in the days before she was found dead – money Newman’s defense team says is rightfully his from a joint drug sale venture he and Keppler committed together.
Prosecutors also pointed out that Newman pawned some of Keppler’s personal belongings in the days before her body was found, including a speaker system hooked up to the car he borrowed.
Newman’s Tampering with Evidence charge was issued while he was in jail. Prosecutors reviewed a phone call where he told a witness he would pay any fines she got for ignoring a subpoena to testify against him in court.
This witness told investigators that Newman confessed to a crime, saying “he killed her”, though he never elaborated on who “her” was.
The Defense team says this witness has tried to recant that statement because she believes it was coerced by police and that she only said it in the first place because the officers interviewing her made her mad and were trying to turn her against Newman.
Investigators were able to recover the murder weapon from a third witness, who has not yet testified, who, according to Prosecutors, says Newman traded him the gun for drugs and said “if anyone asks, you didn’t get this from me.”
Forensic tests confirm this gun, the same gun Keppler had just bought for protection, was the murder weapon.
Testimony in the trial is expected to continue throughout the week. Stick with BigCountryHomepage for the latest information from court.
*The mother mentioned in this article is a mother-figure to Keppler and not her biological mother.