West Liberty school shooting suspect to stay in adult court, trial set

The suspect in the 2017 West Liberty-Salem High School shooting will stay in adult court and has a new trial date.

The state is expected to present its evidence against Ely Serna, now 18, starting April 10. The trial is expected to last through April 20.

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Serna is charged with numerous felonies, including two counts of attempted murder, in connection with the Jan. 20, 2017, school shooting. He’s accused of sneaking a shotgun into West Liberty High School and shooting student Logan Cole twice in the chest. He’s also accused of shooting at a teacher and toward classrooms.

Serna was in Champaign County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday for a motion hearing that requested the case be moved back to juvenile court so another hearing could take place to see if Serna could be rehabilitated in that court system.

EXTRA: West Liberty school shooting suspect found competent for trial

Judge Nick Selvaggio denied the motion.

Serna had been moved to the Tri-County Jail recently, defense attorney Dennis Leiberman said. The defense had asked the court to allow Serna to appear in court in street clothes because they feared jail uniforms could taint a potential jury pool.

Selvaggio denied that request for court hearings, saying security reasons and the dangers of setting a precedent wouldn’t allow him to do so. Serna will be allowed to wear street clothes at trial.

The defense also made a motion to suppress statements made by Serna to law enforcement after the school shooting. Serna has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and the defense contends he couldn’t waive his constitutional Miranda right at the time.

However, the defense didn’t get a document to the prosecutor’s office by a deadline, Selvaggio said, and therefore he had to schedule another hearing date for that motion. Serna is due back in court on Feb. 13 for a suppression hearing.

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If the court does decide to suppress his statements to police, Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi said in court that it would not be fatal to his case.

At this time, Talebi said, the state anticipates calling about 30 to 35 witnesses during the trial.

The defense is also exploring whether they might waive their rights to a jury trial and instead have a bench trial, Lieberman said.

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