Trial approaching for man charged in death of Shea Stremcha; sign up now to attend and show support

Jeff and Leanne Stremcha would appreciate a show of community support at the upcoming jury trial. (For background, see this July 20, 2011 blog post, R.I.P.: Former Northfielder Shea Stremcha shot and killed in his Minneapolis home.)

Shea StremchaA trial date has been set for Semaj Williams, one of two men charged with first degree murder in the death of Shea Stremcha.  Jury selection is expected to begin on Tuesday, May 15 with the trial itself likely beginning on Monday, May 21. Shea was killed during an invasion of his home located in an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood in south Minneapolis on July 20, 2011.  Williams has pleaded not guilty of the crime.

We (Shea’s parents) are hoping that approximately 15-20 friends will attend each day of the actual trial as a show of support for Shea. Jury selection is expected to last 3-5 days w/ the trial following. The trial is expected to last 5-7 days.

Shea Stremcha Trial Attendance Signup FormTo that end, an online sign-up process has been established to help facilitate attendance to the proceeding and to try to prevent over/under attendance.  The courtroom will have a total of 42 ‘observer’ seats and roughly one-third will be reserved for immediate family members on each side of the case.  After that, seating is on a first come, first served basis. Anyone planning to attend, is asked to complete this online sign-up form.

All trial activities are held in room 1456, Tower C, of the Hennepin County Govt Center on S 6th Street between 3rd Ave S and S 4th Ave in downtown Minneapolis.  Hennepin County District Judge, The Honorable Marilyn Kaman, will hear the case which will be prosecuted by Assistant County Attorneys Therese Galatowitsch and Sarah Hilleren.  Williams is being defended by Katie Rindfleisch of the Kamrath Law Group.

Jeff and Leanne Stremcha

4 thoughts on “Trial approaching for man charged in death of Shea Stremcha; sign up now to attend and show support”

  1. More details from Jeff Stremcha:

    Friends –

    Just a very brief update regarding the latest pre-trial hearing that had been scheduled last week on April 4. As before, I’ll continue to summarize activities to-date lower in the note in order to spare you having to refer back to earlier notes and, if you want to add someone to the list, simply forward this on to them and “cc” me and I will add them to the list for future updates.

    Over this upcoming weekend, I hope to send logistical information and a link to the sign-up sheet for attending the trial which is still scheduled to begin in mid-May for Williams. Stay tuned for that.

    Update:

    Robert Shelby, Age 28 (dob 2/26/84): Attorney: Demetrius Clemons, Assistant Public Defender, Hennepin County

    A hearing had been scheduled for last Wednesday, April 4. However, a new development came to light at the last minute and the attorneys requested more time to consider it. The judge gave them three weeks and deferred the hearing until Wednesday, April 25 at 1:15M.

    Summary of Activities To-Date:

    Shea was murdered on July 20, 2011 shortly after 3:00 AM. Shelby and Williams were arrested the next day and, since that time, they have remained separated and in jail. Bail for each is set at $1 million dollars.

    July 26: The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charged each defendant with Burglary and Second Degree Murder.

    August 5: A Grand Jury was convened and determined that sufficient evidence existed to charge the two with First Degree Murder. Only a Grand Jury can make this charge. In MN, this charge carries a Mandatory Life Sentence with eligibility for parole after 30 years.

    August 24: Pre-trial hearings were held for each defendant. No motions were filed. Each defendant waived their option to request a speedy trial (In all likelihood, the judge would have ruled against such a request due to the amount of forensic evidence needing to be analyzed).

    November 29: Pre-trial hearings were held for each defendant. No motions were filed. Williams entered a plea of “Not Guilty” of the charges and made a request for a speedy trial. Next hearing dates were set at January 23 for Shelby (later deferred to March 13 and then to April 4) and January 30 for Williams.

    January 30: A hearing was held for Williams on the morning of Jan 30. At that time, the court learned that Williams had dismissed the public defender, John Ryan, who had been assigned. Williams has engaged a private defense attorney, Kate/Katie Rindfleisch. According to Google, she works for Kamrath Law Group (along with 2 other attorneys) in St Paul and received her law degree from William Mitchell in 2010.

    The prosecutors had filed, and planned to argue, two procedural motions. However, due to the change in counsel and the fact that Ms. Rindfleisch had not been engaged for long enough to have been able to prepare, these motions were not argued and moved to the agenda for the next hearing. With the last minute change in counsel and, since the prosecution was still waiting for lab results, the judge used the hearing to recap the activities to-date and to outline a new schedule going forward. She emphasized that she expected both sides to be ready to proceed under the new schedule. A private, in-chambers, checkpoint meeting among the attorneys and the judge was scheduled for February 29. The next pre-trial hearing was scheduled for March 13 at 1:00 (later rescheduled to March 27. A trial date was scheduled for May 14.

    March 27: A hearing was held for Williams on the morning of March 27. At that time, the prosecution argued two motions which they had filed and the defense argued three that they had filed. All motions pertained to admissibility of certain evidence or testimony and/or to procedural matters related to the upcoming trial. The judge took all motions under advisement and will rule on the matters before, or at, the trial.

    **************************************************************************************************
    Sincerely,
    Jeff and Leanne

  2. From Jeff Stremcha:

    Re-scheduled Trial Approaching for Man Charged in Death of Shea Stremcha

    The re-scheduled trial date is approaching for Semaj Williams, one of the men charged with first degree murder in the death of Shea Stremcha. Jury selection is expected to begin on November 6, with the trial itself likely beginning on Monday, November 12. Shea was killed during an invasion of his home located in an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood in south Minneapolis on July 20, 2011. Williams has pleaded not guilty of the crime.

    Shea’s parents, Jeff and Leanne Stremcha are hoping that approximately 15-20 family members and friends will attend each day of the actual trial as a show of support for Shea. Jury selection is expected to last 3-5 days with the trial following. The trial is expected to last 5-7 days. To that end, an online sign-up process has been established to help facilitate attendance to the proceedings and to try to prevent over/under attendance. The courtroom will have a total of 42 ‘observer’ seats and roughly one-third will be reserved for immediate family members on each side of the case. After that, seating is on a first come, first served basis. Anyone planning to attend, is asked to complete a sign-up form which can be accessed via the link below:

    http://bit.ly/T1hNFk

    All trial activities are held in room 1456, Tower C, of the Hennepin County Govt Center on S 6th Street between 3rd Ave S and S 4th Ave in downtown Minneapolis. Hennepin County District Judge, The Honorable Marilyn Kaman, will hear the case which will be prosecuted by Assistant County Attorneys Therese Galatowitsch and Sarah Hilleren. Williams is being defended by Katie Rindfleisch of the Kamrath Law Group.

  3. From Jeff Stremcha:

    Yesterday (Wednesday, 11/7), jury selection was scheduled to begin for the trial of Semaj Williams. We went to the courtroom to observe the process and a set of prospective jurors were there to begin questioning. However, before the questioning began, Williams agreed to a deal negotiated by Hennepin County Attorneys and pled guilty to Second Degree Intentional Murder. He agreed to a sentence of 460 months (38 yrs 4 mos) making him eligible for parole in 25.5 years. The time he has already served in jail awaiting trial counts against this total.

    Below is a link to a Star Tribune report covering the plea. A couple of points you might notice:
    1) The break-in was not random. It was targeted and preplanned. Tragically, they got the wrong house. Investigators are entirely satisfied that Shea was a completely innocent victim.

    2) The report describes that Williams is the “second of three” defendants. As the investigation continued over the course of the past few months, police learned that a third man, Xavier Walker, also participated in the break in. In fact, they believe Walker is the @#$%& who shot Shea. When we learned about this a few months ago, the prosecutors asked us not to call any additional attention to the fact that there was a third criminal involved. By the time the police learned of his involvement and had sufficient evidence to charge him, Walker was in jail on another matter. Prior to being released on those charges, he was charged in Shea’s murder and retained in jail. He was then indicted by the Grand Jury on charges of First Degree Intentional Murder – the same charges that had been brought against both Shelby and Williams. He remains in jail.

    3) The press continues to want to sensationalize the tragedy and state that Shea “went to confront the burglars”. We find this characterization misleading and hurtful. We firmly believe Shea never expected to find anyone in his house when he left his bedroom that night. He was investigating a noise and wanted to re-assure Ashley that there was ‘no bogeyman’. Turns out he was wrong– there were three. We continue to believe our son a hero who saved Ashley’s life and provided evidence that was pivotal in enabling the detectives to arrest the criminals involved in this home heinous crime and the prosecution to bring charges against them.

    StarTribune Report

    So, where does this leave us?

    Focus will now shift to the case against Xavier Walker, who is scheduled for trial beginning on March 4, 2013. We’ll plan to try the signup process again in advance of that trial. The pleas by Shelby and Williams are not final until sentencing occurs and sentencing will not occur until after the Walker case is resolved.

    Thanks so much for your continued interest, concern and support.

    Jeff and Leanne

  4. From Jeff Stremcha:

    We hope this message finds you well. I last wrote back in early November to report that the second defendant in Shea’s murder, Semaj Williams, had pled guilty to a reduced charge of second degree intentional murder in order to avoid trial. I also wrote that a third defendant, Xavier Walker, had been charged with first degree intentional murder. Police believe that Walker is the criminal who actually shot Shea and he is scheduled to stand trial beginning on Tuesday, March 5. We attended a pre-trial “motions hearing” last week and, at this point, the court is still planning to proceed with the trial on that date. Even though the process has been very unpredictable so far, we are still hoping there can be a strong showing of support for Shea assuming the trial proceeds. We think that it is important to make an impression on the judge and jury and we have to prepare on the assumption that the trial will proceed.

    To that end, we have once again (thanks to the good folks at Northfield.org) established an online sign-up form in an effort to help fill the courtroom and facilitate attendance. The courtroom has a total of 42 ‘observer’ seats and, other than the judge, lawyers, defendent and jury, all attendees (i.e. press, etc) must be seated in one of them. No standing is permitted. Roughly one-third of the seats will be reserved for immediate family members on each side of the case. After that, seating is on a first come, first served basis. To try to prevent over/under attendance we’re asking anyone who can plan to attend on our/Shea’s behalf to complete a signup form which can be accessed via the link below:

    http://bit.ly/Xrvqee

    If you have any questions with it, or need to change your plans after you’ve already submitted the form, feel free to contact me.

    Additional Trial Information:

    The trial is officially scheduled to begin on Monday, March 4. However, nothing observable will happen on that day. Thus, we are not planning to attend. The activity that does occur is that a pool of 50 potential jurors are called in and required to complete a written questionnaire. Each prospective juror is then assigned to a day when they are to return for questioning. The prospective jurors are then all sent home and the judge and attorneys have the rest of the day to review the 50 questionnaires.

    Jury questioning and selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, March 5. During this process, each prospective juror is called in individually and questioned by the judge, defense attorney and prosecutor. Jury selection is expected to take 3-5 days and we have been told that it has all the excitement and drama of watching paint dry. Nonetheless, we are currently planning to attend each day of the process and believe that at least a few others may attend some of those days as well.

    Also on or about March 4, the judge is expected to declare when she wishes to begin taking testimony – i.e. the trial will really begin. A best guess is that she will set a target to have completed jury selection and begin the trial on Monday, March 11. This is something of a conundrum because we’d really like to have a strong showing of support for Shea on the first day that the jury is seated but can’t be certain on when that will be. So, we’ll plan for it to be the 11th and hope that enough of you have flexibility to adjust if/as necessary.

    The trial is expected to last for 5-7 days. It might well wrap-up the during week of the 11th or it may have to continue into the next week. I have no basis for predicting likelihood either way. Stay tuned.

    All trial activities are held in room 1456, Tower C, of the Hennepin County Govt Center on S 6th Street between 3rd Ave S and S 4th Ave in downtown Minneapolis. Hennepin County District Judge, The Honorable Marilyn Kaman, will hear the case which will be prosecuted by Assistant County Attorneys Therese Galatowitsch and Sarah Hilleren. Walker is being defended by Robert Paule working on behalf of the Hennepin County public defenders office.

    Impact Statements:

    We are still requesting those of you who knew Shea, if you haven’t already done so, to consider writing an Impact Statement. These statements provide a chance for you to tell the judge how you have been impacted by this crime. They are officially presented, usually in writing, at the sentencing hearings but before sentencing. Separate sentencing hearings for the first two criminals, Semaj Williams and Robert Shelby, are each scheduled on Tuesday, March 26. Our court advocate has requested that all written impact statements be received by the end of this month– February 28th.

    Statements should be personal and brief (one or two pages) and addressed to The Honorable Marilyn J. Kaman, Hennepin County District Judge. Our liaison, Jessica Immerman, has suggested writing them as emails or as attachments to emails and sending them to her. We can also take them to her if that is easier. She will compile them for the judge. It might be a good idea to specify them to be presented at each of the sentencing hearings – Shelby, Williams and, assuming he is ultimately found guilty, Walker. We have been told that this judge is very diligent about reading all of these that are received. Jessica’s email is: jessica.immerman@co.hennepin.mn.us Thanks to those of you who have already submitted statements.

    Given the history to-date, the obvious question is: “Will there really be a trial this time?” Unfortunately, no one can really answer that. We’re trying to make sure we are ready but not let ourselves have too many expectations. It continues to be a difficult and tumultuous process. Thank you for helping us get this far and we hope that many of you will be able to sign-up to honor Shea and help us stand witness to the next leg of this sad, emotional journey.

    Best wishes,
    Jeff & Leanne

Leave a Reply