Additional Pretrial Date Added as Acree Murder Trial Remains On Track for September Start

By Jeremy Coumbes on July 21, 2023 at 3:25pm

The tentative trial date for a rural Morgan County man accused of first-degree murder survived a pretrial conference this afternoon.

34-year-old Kenneth J. Acree appeared in Morgan County Court hearing this afternoon. Acree faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of concealment of a homicidal death in the shooting death of 32-year-old Robert Schofield in October 2020 in rural Morgan County.

Defense attorney W. Scott Hanken this afternoon requested another pre-trial hearing before the trial begins in September. Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll says both sides need more time to discuss points of the case however, he does not believe it will delay the start of the trial.

It had been previously set for September 18th for trial, maybe a jury trial, maybe a bench trial, we’ll find out probably at the next pretrial date. That date remains set however there is another pretrial date between now and then.

Between now and the next pretrial, the attorneys will get together and work out some stipulations for foundational issues where we can. On August 25th we envision any agreements that we cannot come to we would then bring to the court’s attention and address them either at that court date or another court date prior to September 18th.”

During his last appearance in May, Acree was leaning toward requesting a bench trial over a jury trial. Hanken did not indicate during today’s hearing if a filing for a bench trial was forthcoming or not.

Hanken told the court that previous questions he had concerning if co-defendants in the case would testify for the state in exchange for immunity had been satisfactorily answered.

Ken Acree’s wife, 36-year-old Laura C. Acree, and the decedent’s wife, 29-year-old Sara M. Schofield are each facing charges of concealment of a homicidal death in the case.

Noll says it’s possible either or both could be called to testify, but nothing is set at this time. “We obviously have a list of individuals that may testify at this trial. Two of them are individuals that have been charged as well as co-defendants in the concealment of a homicide charge at least. Those two individuals are on our witness list so it is possible that they would be called to testify at this trial.”

Acree has filed an affirmative defense in the case pleading self-defense in the shooting death of Schofield. He is next due in court for a final pretrial hearing on August 25th at 1:30 pm. The trial remains scheduled to begin on September 18th.