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Even the defense admits William Riley Gaul, 19, shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Emma Jane Walker, 16. But do his actions constitute first-degree murder? The defense says no, and is looking for a lesser charge of reckless homicide.
Walker died in November 2016, when Gaul stood outside her home, and fired twice at the building. One bullet got caught inside a wall. The other entered Walker’s room, and fatally struck her while she was asleep in bed. Her mother found her.
According the prosecution, it was the violent end to a stalking campaign by Gaul. He refused to get over their breakup, staged several bizarre incidents to get close to her, and contacted her through anonymous texts messages. Walker’s friends have testified that in one incident, Gaul apparently staged his own kidnapping.
In opening statements, the defense acknowledged his client’s behavior was bad, but it was only to get close to Walker. Gaul shot at her house in order to create a situation in which he could apparently come to her rescue.
Gaul’s friends secretly videotaped him soon after the shooting. Footage showed that he suggested Walker ended her own life, and he tried to hide a gun he had stolen from his grandfather.
Walker Stanley, Gaul’s roommate at Maryville College, testified on Friday that Gaul asked him if he knew how to remove fingerprints from a gun. He claimed that after the shooting, Gaul told him not to talk to investigators about it.
[Mugshot via Knox County Sheriff’s Office]