first_imgLANCASTER – A former security guard arrested in the 2000 murder of a Palmdale teenager at a Park and Ride lot that he was guarding wants to be released from jail without bail while awaiting trial, citing his military service in Iraq. Handcuffed and wearing a dark-blue hooded sweat shirt, Raymond Lee Jennings appeared Thursday in a high-security courtroom where his attorney asked the judge for a report on the suitability of releasing Jennings on a written promise to appear for future hearings. “Counsel, c’mon, this is murder in the first degree,” Antelope Valley Superior Court Judge Steve Ogden said. Ogden nonetheless ordered the report, though he commented that it “seems like a total exercise in futility.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Deputy Public Defender John Henderson cited Jennings’ ties to the community and his military service including about 10 months in combat zones in Iraq. “He has spent six years in the valley and spent several months fighting for our country in Iraq,” Henderson said. Jennings did not enter a plea Thursday in his first appearance at the Antelope Valley Courthouse. He was ordered to return to court Jan. 9 for arraignment, and meanwhile bail remained at $1 million. Jennings, 31, is charged with murder in the Feb. 22, 2000, death of 18-year-old Michelle O’Keefe. She was found shot to death behind the wheel of her blue 2000 Ford Mustang in the Park and Ride lot on Avenue S in Palmdale. With its engine running and the driver’s door opened, the car had backed out of a parking space and rolled over the edge of a small concrete planter. In interviews with investigators, Jennings, who was on duty for a private security company under contract with the city when O’Keefe was shot to death, has denied killing her. He told investigators he heard gunfire and watched the Mustang roll backward, but didn’t see the killer because his view was blocked by a parked van. Jennings said he called a supervisor and waited for her to arrive before he approached the car. O’Keefe’s parents and brother attended the hearing and left court without commenting. Family friend Allen Bell, who accompanied them, said later, “No matter what happens in the criminal case, it won’t fill the void or ease the pain.” While O’Keefe’s family sat in the first row, Jennings’ wife, holding an infant in her lap, sat in the second row. Crying as she left the courtroom, she did not comment. Jennings was named in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by O’Keefe’s parents in December 2000, but he was not criminally charged until prosecutors filed the case Nov. 15, about two days before Jennings, a sergeant in the Army National Guard, returned home on leave. He was arrested Tuesday when deputies stopped his vehicle on a Lancaster street. Prosecutors in the past declined to file criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence, but said this week that proceedings in the civil case changed the “character of the evidence.” Prosecutors and investigators declined to discuss the evidence against Jennings. “I’m glad it has provided the victim’s family some relief. This is just the first step in the long journey through the court process,” sheriff’s homicide Sgt. Richard Longshore said. O’Keefe had returned to her car after leaving it at the lot while she rode with a friend to work as an extra in the taping of a music video for rapper Kid Rock. The gun that killed O’Keefe has never been found. In May 2002, members of a local scuba diving club combed the murky bottom of nearby Palmdale Lake but turned up nothing. Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744 karen.maeshiro@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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