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Court continues Thursday in the trial of 19-year-old William Riley Gaul. If there’s one thing both sides can agree on, it’s that he killed 16-year-old ex-girlfriend Emma Jane Walker. Even the defense lawyer Wesley Stone said in opening statements on Tuesday that his client opened fire at the victim’s house in 2016, bullets piercing the wall, and striking her while she was in bed. The debate in this case, however, is over intent: Gaul didn’t mean to kill Walker, Stone said. He wanted to create a scenario in which he could come to her rescue.
“Intentionally doing an act and intending to kill are two entirely different things,” Stone said. He is pushing for his client to only be convicted of reckless homicide.
The prosecution won’t have any of that. They said Gaul is responsible for intentionally killing Walker, and he should be convicted of first-degree murder. Walker’s mother said in testimony on Tuesday that the couple had been dating, but broke up after she and her husband disapproved of the way Gaul treated their daughter.
As told by prosecutor Kevin Allen in opening statements, instead of letting go, Gaul allegedly badgered Walker, engaging in a bizarre stalking campaign in which he contacted her via anonymous text messages, staged his own kidnapping, and was a “man in black” seen stalking in the neighborhood.
On Wednesday, two of Walker’s friends, Zach Greene and Hailey McDonald testified about what prosecutors said was a kidnapping staged by Gaul. Greene said Walker approached him about anonymous texts telling her someone she knew had been kidnapped. Walker believed the messages were by one of Gaul’s friends. Greene testified that they and other friends found Gaul outside laying on the ground face-down.
McDonald testified that Gaul claimed to have been hit on the head and to be unable to remember anything. McDonald said she suggested that it was likely all made up by him.
“It was the type of behavior he’d exhibited before,” she said.
Aaron Keller and Cathy Russon contributed to this report.
[Mugshot via Knox County Sheriff’s Office]