The defense attorney for William “Bill” Chesher told a Metcalfe Circuit Court jury that his client fatally shot Ronnie Hiser in defense of himself and possibly even Hiser’s wife.
The prosecution aims to convince the jurors otherwise.
Commonwealth’s Attorney John Gardner opened his remarks by talking about some of the text messages Chesher sent Karen Hiser the morning of the shooting.
8:26 a.m.: “Listen if you hang me out to dry this time ….”
8:37 a.m.: “Hang me out and u won’t believe what happens next.”
These were among several in a timeline of Karen Hiser and Chesher’s relationship that started online December 2012 and progressed into an affair by early May. Chesher, who is from Louisville, “definitely was madly in love with Karen Hiser,” Gardner said, and after Chesher became increasingly frustrated that Karen hadn’t left her husband to be with him, the relationship “boiled over” on June 4, the day of the shooting at the Hisers’ home in the Wisdom community of Metcalfe County.
Karen told Ronnie not to answer the door when Chesher knocked; instead, she did. She saw that he was mad, “and with a gun in his hand” and she told him she wasn’t going with him. Ronnie went to get his gun and pushes Karen aside to open the door, with his gun pointed upward, toward the ceiling, and is shot, Gardner said.
At 8:59 a.m.: Karen calls 911 and says her husband’s been shot. Ronnie Hiser died at a Louisville hospital less than 24 hours later.
“The defendant shot him between the eyes and killed him,” Gardner said, adding that despite what reasoning the defense may provide, the shooting was not justified. “He was acting as a cold-blooded killer, a murderer.”
After the shooting, Chesher came in the house and, with Ronnie there “gasping for air,” Chesher tried to get Karen to shoot her husband.
Chesher’s attorney, Greg Berry, described the relationship Chesher had with Karen in a different light: “They were both lonely. He was single and Karen was in a marriage she wanted out of.”
Karen had told Chesher about troubles in her marriage, and when Karen was injured in falls on two separate occasions, he didn’t believe her version of what happened, instead thinking her husband had hurt her, Berry said. And after another incident in which Chesher thought her husband had drugged her and her daughter’s food, he decided to convince her to finally go with him, thinking he was rescuing her.
The morning of June 4, knowing she was expecting him, he waited briefly in the driveway, and when she didn’t come out, he stuck a pistol in his back pocket.
As she went to open the door, her husband asks if it’s “that son of a bitch from Louisville” and upon learning it was, went to the bedroom, got his gun and “it was ready to be used,” Berry said.
With Karen trying to keep her husband from going to the door after she had closed it, they struggled and he pushed her away.
“I believe the evidence will show she can’t see what happens at that point,” Berry said. “Bill shot in self-defense because in that moment, he thought Ronnie was going to shoot him [and possibly Karen, too].”
Further, Berry said, Chesher denies trying to get Karen to shoot Ronnie as well.
Karen Hiser was the main witness for the afternoon, with each attorney trying to focus on the aspects they wanted to prove.
The first two witnesses had been from dispatching centers – April Dunbar from the Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Communications Center in Glasgow and Tammy Wheeler from Kentucky State Police Post 15 in Columbia – who each simply verified the process that had been used to gather recordings of dispatch calls from their respective agencies.
Recordings from both dispatch centers were played aloud, and as Karen’s voice described what had happened and the condition her husband was in, some of the Hisers’ family members could be heard crying.
Each side of the aisle had fewer than 10 family members or friends who were not testifying and could be in the room after the jury selection was finished.
Steve Wilson, a cousin of Chesher’s, and a handful of others there to support the defendant had been seated in the hallway, per instruction, during the jury selection process.
“I question whether he can get a fair trial given the victim’s relationship to this small community,” Wilson said, adding he believes most likely he had heard what happened, but not enough facts were out there.
He and Hazel Bartlett, a friend of Chesher’s said she was concerned that his being “an outsider, too, not from around here” could bias the jury.
The selection of a jury from a pool of more than 100 took more than two hours, with 21 individuals dismissed after preliminary questioning. With those 21 gone and the field narrowed to 32, each attorney could then choose nine to strike from the field. Once they did that, there were still 16, and only 14 were needed for a jury of 12 plus two alternates, so two were removed by random drawing.
The final panel of 14 has an equal number of men and women.
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