The preliminary hearing for a Tennessee man accused of murder has been postponed until mid-March.
The preliminary hearing for Connor O’Neal Whited, 23, was continued to 9 a.m. March 17 because Judge Kelly Neel is in the middle of another hearing that would have prevented Whited from having one continuous hearing.
“While there have been several continuances, this case isn’t particularly old,” Neel said.
Whited, who appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit, is accused of fatally beating an Indiana man Brett Keiling, 55, using a club on Sept. 26 in Eureka. Keiling died Oct. 11.
Humboldt County Conflict Counsel April Van Dyke made a motion to continue because of new evidence she received that included DNA evidence from the victim that Van Dyke said she needed to speak to an expert about.
Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada said the two DNA samples had mixed results that came back inconclusive but didn’t exclude Whited as a suspect.
The surveillance video clearly shows Whited as the perpetrator, Kamada said.
Since preliminary hearings are supposed to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial, Kamada said evaluating the DNA evidence wouldn’t change the outcome of the hearing.
Neel decided there wasn’t enough good cause to continue the hearing based on the defense’s motion, but continued the preliminary hearing to ensure two full days were reserved for it.
Whited was arrested and booked into the Humboldt County jail on Oct. 19 in connection to the Sept. 26 assault in Eureka’s Opera Alley that left Keiling, who recently moved to the area from Indiana, dead.
A news release from the Eureka Police Department shortly after the incident stated the assault wasn’t random and Whited had targeted Keiling.
At Whited’s arraignment in October, where he pleaded not guilty, Conflict Counsel Meagan O’Connell requested the rap sheet of Keiling and a third individual, Troy Welsch.
Court records indicated Welsch has a long rap sheet related to sex offenses and assault.
Whited is being held at the Humboldt County jail on $1,015,000 bond.
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.