Patten murder trial begins in county circuit court
CENTREVILLE – The worst night of Kaleena Richardson’s life began with “a very light knock at the door,” a knock that proved to be a harbinger of looming tragedy.
Kaleena testified against her ex-husband Zachary Patten Wednesday in St. Joseph County Circuit Court who stands trial for the 2017 murder of Shane Richardson, Kaleena’s late husband. Patten faces felony murder, open murder, first-degree home invasion and felony firearm charges in connection with Richardson’s murder on July 20, 2017.
In February of 2018, a Kalamazoo County Circuit Court jury found Patten guilty of first-degree murder, carrying a concealed weapon and felony firearm for the murder of Graciela Portillo-Esparza. He was later sentenced to life without parole.
According to testimony at that trial, Patten fatally shot Portillo-Esparza, a mother of four, after she attempted to come between Patten and her brother Oscar Portillo during an argument. Portillo is the ex-boyfriend of Nichole Hart, Patten’s girlfriend. According to a Kalamazoo detective, Patten admitted he shot Portillo-Esparza but said he was aiming at her brother Oscar.
Police claim that after shooting Portillo-Esparza, Patten drove approximately 30 miles to the Constantine area to shoot and kill Richardson.
Wednesday’s proceedings began with opening statements from St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough and defense attorney Deborah Davis. McDonough said the facts of the case are “very clear” and leave little doubt as to what happened that day.
“(Patten) shot Shane Richardson in front of his ex-wife and (Patten’s) two young children — they had to watch their father shoot (Shane) — but those two you will not hear from, you will not hear from those children, that was my choice. I do not want to put them on the stand in this case. You will hear from Kaleena, who (will) testify to the terrible circumstances she witnessed,” McDonough said.
“[…] In (Patten’s) own words to the detectives, he forced his way in, using his shoulder, broke the door open, took a short walk straight toward Shane Richardson, who was on the couch… ‘Pow!’ He watched Shane fall to the ground, there was a little bit of a scuffle between (Patten) and Kaleena, and he left.”
McDonough concluded his remarks by asking the jury to use their common sense, and added that he thinks “the evidence is going to be very clear in this case,” and “Mr. Patten will be clearly guilty of what he’s charged with.”
Davis asked the jury to “separate emotions from facts” and make determinations based on those facts while “keeping an open mind.” Davis said Patten felt there was abuse in the Richardson home, specifically toward his son, and that influenced the decisions Patten made that day.
Following the opening statements, the jury heard testimony from Kaleena’s oldest daughter and Patten’s adopted daughter Alexis Patten, who lived with Patten for just over a month in the summer of 2017. Alexis testified that prior to the events of July 20, 2017, Patten told her he had a hit list that included Richardson, Richardson’s best friend, and Oscar Portillo. Alexis also testified that Patten’s claims that Richardson physically abused her two younger siblings were untrue.
After additional testimony and a short break, Kaleena took the stand. She testified for over an over about that fateful night as well as her relationship with Patten, who she was married to for the better part of eight years, from 2007 to 2015, before ultimately filing for divorce and later marrying Shane Richardson in 2016.
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