Homicide suspect to remain in jail
Rock County Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer heard arguments Thursday afternoon about Keith Abbott's bond, his flight risk and how to proceed with the case, which spans two counties.
Abbott, 47, formerly of Sturtevant, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide by use of a dangerous weapon and hiding a corpse. If found guilty on both charges, Abbott would face life in prison plus five years.
Abbott is charged with stabbing his former daughter-in-law, Kristin Miller, 33, of Racine and leaving her body in a ditch in rural Avon Township in western Rock County. Abbott was having an affair with Miller. She had been asking him for money in exchange for her silence, according to the criminal complaint.
Abbott and his attorney, assistant public defender Kelly Mattingly, appeared in court via video from the Rock County Jail. Throughout the proceedings, Abbott could be seen shaking violently.
Abbott had been charged in Racine County Court, but new DNA evidence could not establish that Miller was killed in Racine County, so the case has been moved to Rock County, where the body was discovered.
Randy Schneider, Racine County assistant district attorney, said the case hadn't had a preliminary hearing in Racine County because Abbott's competence had been "an issue."
A defendant is considered incompetent if he cannot understand the charges against him or assist in his own defense.
"Initially, the court had an expert that found Mr. Abbott competent, and the public defender at that time conceded competence," Schneider said.
During the competency hearing, however, Abbott had trouble communicating with the judge.
The judge requested another exam, and the second expert said Abbott was not competent to stand trial.
Meanwhile, evidence from the State Crime Lab showed it would be difficult to prove the crime was committed in Racine County, Schneider said.
The case was moved to Rock County. The courts here will determine Abbott's fate.
Abbott was being held on a $1 million bond.
Schneider argued that Abbott is a flight risk because sometime shortly before or after the crime, he left Wisconsin, going to Des Moines, Iowa.
"It's a very strong case primarily because the defendant was covered in the victim's blood two days after we believe the victim was killed," Schneider said.
Mattingly argued that his client, who has no criminal record, knew he was the prime suspect in a "very, very serious case" for more than a month and made no attempt to flee.
Abbott's family members said they were willing to comply with any non-monetary bond conditions and would make sure he appeared in court, Mattingly said.
Meyer kept the $1 million bond in place.
"The mental health issues, to some extent, make me concerned about his appearing," Meyer said.
Abbott will next appear in court at 4 p.m. Friday, June 24.