Prosecution, defense at odds over expert in Joliet Township murder case

Defense expert concluded victim died from self-inflicted gunshot wound

A judge presiding over a 2017 Joliet Township murder case may decide whether to allow testimony from an expert witness who concluded the victim was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Prosecutors seek to bar testimony from attorney Chuck Bretz’s expert Arthur Borchers, which concluded Kaitlyn Kearns, 24, died in 2017 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound rather than at the hands of Bretz’s client Jeremy Boshears, 36.

Bretz called the request “an extreme one” in a recent court filing and argued it was “unnecessary” since the prosecutor’s own expert concluded that “suicide is as plausible as homicide.”

A hearing is slated for June 23, four months before the Oct. 25 jury trial.

Boshears has been in jail since Nov. 18, 2017, after he was charged with first-degree murder and concealment of a homicide in connection with Kearns’ death.

Kearns was reported missing on Nov. 14, 2017 and she was last seen at Woody’s Bar in Joliet Township, where she worked. Her body was later found in the back of her 1996 Grand Cherokee, which was parked inside of a pole barn in Kankakee County, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office.

She died from a gunshot wound to her head.

Boshears’ attorneys have publicly theorized since 2018 that Kearns died by suicide.

Will County Deputy Chief Dan Jungles rejected the idea that Kearns died by suicide. He questioned how Kearns’ death could be suicide if her body was disposed of in another county and why the crime scene was covered up.

“It doesn’t make sense to me why someone could come up with that theory,” Jungles said.

Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Steven Platek filed a motion on May 10 to bar Borchers’ testimony as his conclusion that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted “goes far beyond his expertise in forensic reconstruction and has no basis.”

Platek’s motion said there are no eyewitness statements or accounts as to what happened when the gun was fired.

He argued that Borchers “assumes body positions and angles of the victim’s head without any basis” and also assumes that if Boshears did the shooting, he would have had a “natural shooting position with a straight arm.”

“There is no basis for this assumption,” he said.

Bretz responded that the prosecution’s claim that Borchers’ opinion is speculative, based on assumption or beyond his expertise is “grossly misleading.”

Bretz said Boshears told his wife just days after his arrest that Kerns died by suicide. Bretz also said Borchers’ opinion is consistent with the evidence and that Kerns was at a hospital three weeks before her death receiving suicide prevention education.

Bretz argued the prosecution’s own expert, Matthew Nodel, “apparently has the ability to formulate an opinion that homicide and suicide are equally plausible answers.”

“The state’s request in this case is an extreme one,” Bretz said. “It will deny the defendant a fundamental right to present a defense. Additionally, it is an unnecessary one, given that their own expert has essentially formulated a similar opinion.”

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News