By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — A standing room only audience packed Court Room A at the Jefferson County Courthouse on Wednesday for the arraignment of 47-year-old Sammy Kehrer of Mt. Vernon.
Kehrer has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Feb. 18 stabbing death of 37-year-old Eric Houser of Mt. Vernon at the Mt. Vernon Gun and Sportsman’s Club.
Through his privately hired attorney James Gomric of Belleville, Kehrer pleaded innocent to all charges.
Kehrer was recently indicted by a Jefferson County Grand Jury.
In motions heard before Judge Eric Dirnbeck, the state was granted a motion to collect DNA samples from Kehrer with State’s Attorney Doug Hoffman informing the court those samples could be taken within seven days.
Arguments were also presented for a reduction of bail. Kehrer has been lodged in the Jefferson County Justice Center under $3 million bond since his arrest at his home on the evening of the stabbing.
Gomric argued that Kehrer does not pose as a risk of flight or risk of harm.
“There is no evidence that he’s not going anywhere whether the bond is $10,000 or $300,000,” Gomric told the court, in asking for a bond reduction of $300,000.
Hoffman said his job as state’s attorney is to protect the public and the charges represent a high bond be established. A $300,000 bond is “unreasonably low,” Hoffman argued.
After taking a short recess to review statutory requirements of bail, Dirnbeck said he respects the decision made by Resident Judge Jo Beth Weber to set the bond at $3 million.
“The only reason to consider the $3 million bond is that I would have set it lower based upon my previous experience,” Dirnbeck said, noting he has 20 years of experience in criminal proceedings, many of those years as a defense attorney.
However, based on the statutory requirements, Dirnbeck denied the motion for a reduction of bond.
It was noted during the court proceedings that Kehrer has no significant criminal history, although Hoffman said Kehrer was taken into custody at Graham Correctional Center in 1986. After conferring with his client, Gomric told the court the incarceration was based on a drug charge.
The court set a 9 a.m. May 27 jury trial date and pre-trial hearings at 9:30 a.m. on April 8 and May 13.
Kehrer is accused of stabbing Houser shortly before 8 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the rural Mt. Vernon club. Houser was pronounced dead at 8:50 p.m. at Crossroads Community Hospital.
Families representing the defendant and victim attended the emotional hearing — Houser’s family occupying the seats usually reserved for juries.