Oneida man indicted in Galesburg death

Kai Lefler, 25, of Oneida, is led into the courtroom on Tuesday afternoon for his arraignment hearing at the Knox County Courthouse. Lefler is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, unlawful possession of weapons by a felon and aggravated battery. At the hearing Lefler pleaded not guilty and asked for a jury trial.

The man accused of murdering 23-year-old Robert Kilgore of Galesburg pleaded not guilty to the nine counts against him in Knox County court Tuesday.

Kai A. Lefler, 25, Oneida, was read the charges after a grand jury determined there was probable cause for his case and indicted him on nine charges, which were slightly different from the original nine counts.

Lefler is now charged with four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and one count each of involuntary manslaughter, unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon and attempted burglary.

Prior to the bill of indictment, Lefler was charged with reckless homicide and aggravated battery, but the two charges were replaced after consideration by prosecutors.

"After a thorough review of the evidence, (State's Attorney John Pepmeyer) and I felt the better choice for (Lefler) would be attempted burglary, because that's what the evidence has shown up to this point," said Assistant State's Attorney Elisa Tanner. "The way a grand jury works, we are sort of their legal adviser, so we draft up the indictment and present our evidence much as we would at a preliminary hearing."

The grand jury hears the prosecutors' evidence – and does not hear a cross examination from the defense – and then decides which charges to file against the defendant, Tanner said.

First-degree murder carries a possible sentence of 20 to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Second-degree murder, a Class 1 felony, carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Lefler is accused of killing Kilgore during an altercation Jan. 20 in which Lefler allegedly tried to break into Kilgore's vehicle in Galesburg.

Witnesses said Kilgore caught Lefler in the act and tried to detain him, but was stabbed multiple times in the process.

The defendant remained collected during the court hearing, despite previously acting somewhat strangely during a video conference hearing following his arrest.

When Judge Paul Mangieri asked Lefler if he understood the charges against him, Lefler initially responded, "Not exactly entirely."

Mangieri advised Lefler to consult with public defender James Harrell on the differences between various charges, and Lefler said he believed he understood the charges.

Harrell entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of his client and asked for a jury trial, which could begin as early as April 15.

Lefler is scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. March 6 and again at 9 a.m. April 1 for a pre-trial conference. He remains in Knox County jail in lieu of $1 million bond.