By Teri L. Hansen
Noah Bratcher, 19, pleaded not guilty this morning during a preliminary hearing in shooting death of 22-year-old Jordan Krell.
On June 11, 2018 at 12:25 a.m., emergency personnel responded to Mustang Mobile Park for a report of shots fired. The body of Krell was found in a vacant lot in the 400 block of Dale’s Draw. Krell was pronounced dead at the scene, the result of a gunshot wound, which was ruled a homicide.
Bratcher at the time of the incident was 17 years old, though he will be tried as an adult. At the time of his arrest he was booked into juvenile detention. He was moved to the McPherson County Law Enforcement Center after he turned 18 on June 28, 2018 just weeks after the incident.
The first item on the agenda at the McPherson County District Court was the combining of two cases revolving around Bratcher. Administrative Judge Joe Dickinson ruled in favor of combining the cases. Bratcher now faces charges of burglary of a vehicle, theft of a firearm, attempted aggravated robbery and murder in the first degree.
While the burglary and theft took place nearly two weeks prior to the shooting of Krell, the prosecution argued that the cases are linked, and they can prove that the firearm stolen was used in the shooting.
Defense attorney Kevin Loeffler argued that there is no real connection between the two, and that while some of the witnesses may be the same, that is not enough to connect them.
“Arguments can be made obviously both ways,” Dickinson stated in his decision. “I think the cases could be tried together. I don’t believe there is any particular prejudice.”
Chief Deputy County Attorney Amanda Voth called numerous witnesses to the stand who shed some light on the events that occurred in Mustang more than 16 months ago. The first to the stand was Bryan Sales, who worked with Bratcher. He testified that after giving Bratcher a ride home from work on the evening of May 28, 2018, the following morning he discovered his vehicle had been broken into and a Ruger 9mm handgun was missing from his vehicle.
Next to the stand was McPherson Police Department Sgt. Kyle Askren. He testified as one of the responders on the scene where Krell was shot. He recovered a bullet that had went through a home in the vicinity of the shooting. The bullet entered through the front of the home, traveled through a bedroom and bedroom closet, before stopping in a living room closet. The bullet recovered, was a 9mm caliber.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jeff Newsum testified that during the course of the investigation a backpack was found about a block away from the victim. The backpack contained a yellow, plastic bag of bindweed, a fairly common plant in Kansas of the morning glory family. During the course of the investigation, Newsum went to Bratcher’s home to speak with him. He observed that at the home, bindweed was growing by the front porch, as well as what appeared to be similar yellow bags.
While interviewing Bratcher, Newsum stated that multiple versions of the incident were relayed by Bratcher, but eventually one final story came out. According to that version, Bratcher was supposed to sell Krell marijuana. The intent was to meet at a trailer in Mustang Park, the home of a mutual acquaintance. The exchange was intended to take place without any face-to-face contact. Bratcher hid behind a nearby fence and watched Krell look into the bag. The yellow bag in question contained no drugs, but the bindweed that was discovered later. Bratcher told Newsum that it was double-bagged. When he called law enforcement on the scene, it was determined that it was in fact double-bagged as Bratcher had stated.
Krell began walking away, leaving the bag behind. Bratcher followed him, confronting him for money. According to his statements during the interview, Bratcher raised his shirt showing a gun in his waistband. Krell allegedly charged him, knocking him over causing him to hit his head. Krell then ran. Bratcher fired at him four times. He then drove home in his mother’s van.
The final witness in the proceedings was McPherson Police Detective Stacy Snyder who testified that in a search of the Bratcher home, he was told where to locate a Ruger 9mm handgun in the garage in backpack under a tarp.
This concluded witness statements, as the defense did not call any of their own.
“I don’t believe they’ve shown enough evidence for the first degree murder charge,” Loeffler stated during closing arguments, when he asked that the charge be thrown out.
Dickinson did not agree and ruled that enough evidence had been presented to move forward. A jury trial is set to begin at 9 a.m., Feb. 3 and is expected to last five days. Pre-trail is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Jan. 16.
Krell and Bratcher worked together previously. Newsum said that during the course of interviewing him, Bratcher stated that he thought of Krell “as a brother.”