Crime & Courts

New charge for boy accused of killing his mom: Second-degree intentional murder

Prosecutors have filed an amended charge against a teen accused of killing his mother in her sprawling Andover-area mansion last year.

The boy, who was 14 at the time of the fatal shooting, is now facing a charge of second-degree murder in 41-year-old Lisa Trimmell’s June 20, 2018, shooting death after the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office filed an amended complaint in the case Monday.

The new complaint accuses the boy of “unlawfully and intentionally” killing his mother, the document says.

When the case was first filed in July, prosecutors charged the boy with a voluntary manslaughter count alleging he “unlawfully and knowing(ly)“ shot Lisa Trimmell “upon an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified use of deadly force.”

While the murder charge sounds more severe, in juvenile court it carries the same penalty as a voluntary manslaughter conviction: incarceration up to 22 1/2 years of age.

It was immediately unclear why prosecutors decided to amend the charge now. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett declined to comment on the change Tuesday.

The boy’s defense attorney, Dan Monnat, also did not comment on the development.

The Eagle is not naming the boy because he is charged in juvenile court.

Sedgwick County juvenile court Judge Patrick Walters announced the new charge during a brief court hearing Tuesday morning, where the boy sat surrounded by lawyers and his father, Wichita orthodontist Justin Trimmell. Justin and Lisa Trimmell were married when she died, but the couple was in the throes of a divorce and had been living apart at the time.

The boys had also moved out of the house where their mother lived, The Eagle previously reported.

Tuesday’s hearing had been scheduled as the boy’s first appearance — where a judge tells a defendant what criminal charge or charges he or she is facing.

But Walters said in court that before anything else, he plans first to take up a request from the boy’s defense attorneys to toss out the charge under a state law that allows people to use force to defend themselves or others. The judge set the matter over to a date in late January.

The boy’s lawyers at that time plan to argue that he is immune from prosecution because Lisa Trimmell allegedly physically attacked his younger 12-year-old brother in a drunken fit and he shot her to stop the abuse. The motion to dismiss the case says the older boy grabbed his mother’s gun, “fearing for the life of his younger brother, as well as his own,” and fired.

Monnat in an July interview with The Eagle said the boy “acted bravely and legally” and that under Kansas law “children have as much right to defend themselves and their siblings against repeated acts of violent abuse as anybody else.” He has said the boy will plead not guilty in the case.

Lisa Trimmell’s friends, meanwhile, have dismissed allegations that she was violent or abusive and described her as a devoted mother who “couldn’t hurt anybody.”

Trimmell’s autopsy report found she had “acute and chronic alcoholism” and “hepatic cirrhosis,” or scarring of the liver, and that her blood-alcohol level was 0.185 — more than double the legal limit for driving — when her body was examined. The night she died, she was having court-ordered visitation with her two boys, then 12 and 14, and had taken them to her home after the older boy’s baseball game in west Wichita.

After he allegedly fired a single shot at his mother, the older boy called 911 to report the shooting. The bullet hit her neck and severed her spine.

The boy’s defense attorney wrote in court documents that Lisa Trimmell had been consuming alcohol that night and that her drinking triggered post-traumatic stress disorder in the boys that was the result of prior physical and psychological abuse.

Filing of the criminal case came in July, more than a year after Lisa Trimmell’s homicide and a lengthy investigation by the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office. The boys were home alone with their mother when she was shot.

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