RACINE — Nearly 2½ years after the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Vista Jackson, a Racine teen has been sentenced to 41½ years in prison.
Her admitted killer, Keller G. McQuay, was sentenced Monday in Racine County Circuit Court.
“It won’t bring my daughter back, but the more time, the better,” said Wendell Jackson, Vista’s father.
In October, McQuay, now 17, pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree reckless homicide, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a short-barreled rifle for allegedly shooting and killing Vista Jackson in September 2015 with a sawed-off rifle.
According to the criminal complaint, a single round from the rifle entered Jackson’s chin before passing through her throat and upper chest area, traveling through her left lung and into her heart. The .22-caliber bullet then went through her right lung and lodged in her chest cavity. Jackson died later that evening from her wounds.
A lengthy sentence
During the sentencing Monday, on the homicide charge Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz sentenced McQuay to 55 years — 35 years in prison and 20 years’ extended supervision.
As the judge delivered that lengthiest part of McQuay’s sentence, McQuay remained expressionless. Members of his family gasped audibly, and a member of Vista’s family cried out “Thank you” as others wept.
For felony possession of a firearm, McQuay was sentenced to three years in prison and three years’ extended supervision.
And for felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun/rifle, McQuay received two years in jail and two years of extended supervision.
He was also sentenced Monday for charges of resisting or obstructing an officer and battery by prisoners while in custody for the homicide charge.
For resisting/obstructing an officer, McQuay received nine months of incarceration, to run concurrent with the other charges.
In total, McQuay will spend 41½ years behind bars.
“You choose to use a gun, you choose to point a gun at another human being, you choose to dispel that gun, discharge that gun, kill someone in the community, you will forfeit a long portion of your life,” Gasiorkiewicz said.
For the battery by prisoners charge, McQuay received a sentence of 1½ years incarceration and 1½ years’ extended supervision, consecutive to the other charges.
He was also sentenced to pay $4,664.62 in restitution for Vista Jackson’s medical bills and funeral expenses.
Victim’s family speaks
During the sentencing hearing, Jackson’s father, mother and aunt spoke about the hurt the family has experienced from Vista’s death.
“I love my daughter, and because of Keller my daughter is forever 14 now,” Wendell Jackson said. “She was my only child; she didn’t deserve this. You can’t bring back a life. It’s time to feel the consequences of Keller’s actions.”
Vista’s mother, Via Crockett, was visibly upset throughout the proceedings, standing before the courtroom with tears in her eyes.
“I just want justice,” she said. “I love her, I miss her. I just want justice.”
The last of Vista’s family to speak was her aunt, Rhonda Jackson, who held a photo in a frame of Vista and Rhonda’s daughter.
“This was a senseless tragedy,” she said. “I beg of the court to please not let the age of the perpetrator fool you. I don’t care if you had the worst upbringing in the world, nothing gives you the right to take a life.”
Later, McQuay addressed the court. “I just want to apologize to the Jackson family for my actions that I committed, and that I don’t wish this upon anybody,” he said.
Racine County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tanck-Adams asked the judge to consider extensive prison time for McQuay.
“My concern is that Keller McQuay will have a lot of pent-up anger and continue to wreak havoc on the community if the court does not allow him to stay in prison until his 50th birthday,” Tanck-Adams said.
The DA’s office asked for 60 years for the homicide charge, split between 35 years’ incarceration and 25 years extended supervision; five years’ incarceration and five years’ extended supervision for the felony possession of a firearm charge; and three years’ incarceration and three years’ extended supervision for the possession of a short-barreled shotgun/rifle charge.
The DA’s office also recommended nine months’ incarceration for resisting/obstructing charges and 1½ years of incarceration for his battery by prisoner charge, followed by three years’ extended supervision — all of the charges to run consecutively.
“The real question is: How much time is required for somebody of such a young age to not only satisfy the court’s punishment component as a result of the nature of the offenses, but to address the rehabilitative needs of Mr. McQuay?” said his attorney, Bradley Lochowicz.
The defense asked for 15 to 20 years’ incarceration, with eight to 10 years extended supervision, for the homicide charge; two years’ incarceration and two years’ extended supervision for the felony possession of a firearm charge; and 18 months’ incarceration and 18 months’ extended supervision for the possession of a short-barreled shotgun/rifle charge.
They also asked for two years’ extended supervision charge for battery by prisoners and four to six months’ incarceration for the resisting/obstructing charges. All sentences would run concurrently, meaning they would be served at the same time.
Gasiorkiewicz’s sentence came closer to the recommendation of the DA’s office.
“None of us can do what we want in this world without accountability,” he said. “You do not get the right to take a life of another human without paying a cost to your fellow citizens for doing so.”
“You choose to use a gun, you choose to point a gun at another human being, you choose to dispel that gun, discharge that gun, kill someone in the community, you will forfeit a long portion of your life.” —Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz