2 minors charged as adults in June shooting in Cape Girardeau
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Adult criminal charges have been filed against two minors for their alleged involvement in a drive-by shooting in Cape Girardeau on June 29.
A woman, 23-year-old Paige Smith, was critically injured after being struck in the head with a bullet on Hanover Street.
A family member says they're asking for privacy, but that Smith has a long road ahead of her and is well on her way.
The charges come a day after Ajai J. McReynolds and Zachary A. Valenti were certified as adults through the Cape Girardeau juvenile system.
Both McReynolds and Valenti were 16 years of age at the time of the shooting.
A probable cause statement says after the shooting, a Facebook account connected to McReynolds posted a status using slang that appears to reference riding around town with a .45 caliber handgun.
The day after the shooting, McReynolds, his mother Keisha, Valenti, and an unnamed suspect came to the police station.
When asked about another vehicle registered in her name (a maroon Nissan Armada which matched the description of a vehicle seen near the crime scene after the shooting), Keisha said it was at her husband's workplace in Cape Girardeau.
During questioning, Valenti said that he and the two other suspects were at McReynolds' home during the time of the shooting, cleaning their basement.
He also denied ever being in McReynolds' Armada, and consented to submitting DNA for testing.
However, Keisha said Valenti had indeed been in the vehicle many times before.
She also said all three suspects were at her home the day of the shooting, and consented to a search of the Armada.
When officials arrived to search the vehicle, Keisha's mother was seen removing unknown objects from the vehicle.
Officers found a spent .45 caliber shell on the dash, and conducted a gunshot residue test on the vehicle, which came back positive.
During a more thorough search of the Armada, officers found bullet impacts near the windshield and roof, as well as an expended bullet in the roof.
The expended bullet matched the caliber of bullets found at the shooting site.
Street cameras near the crime scene also showed a vehicle that matched the description of the Armada being driven within minutes of the 911 call for the shooting.
Officials then utilized a search warrant for the McReynolds' home on Albert Rasche Drive.
A neighbor told police he had located multiple .45 shell casings both in his own yard and in the street between their homes.
Officers located a "Hornady" .380 caliber shell casing in a trash can outside the home.
Officers also found a 9 mm handgun inside the house, despite Keisha's statement that there wouldn't be any guns in the home. Keisha's husband told police that there were, in fact, guns inside the house before police searched it.
The .380 caliber shell casing found at the scene was sent, along with the shells from the crime scene, to the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab in Jefferson City to be tested.
Results confirmed that all the shell casings were fired from the same gun, and the bullets found at the crime scene and the Armada were fired from the same gun.
An acquaintance later told police that she was contacted by Ajai earlier the day of the shooting, asking for a ride to Cape Rock Park.
When she arrived at his home, she was told by him that he instead decided to take his mother's vehicle to "do what he needed to do".
She was able to give an accurate description of the Armada.
She says she later drove Valenti to his brother's home, and then went with McReynolds and the unnamed suspect to a friend's home, where they stayed the night.
On July 27, the unnamed suspect and his mother responded to police headquarters to be questioned.
He says he stayed the night at McReynolds' home with McReynolds and Valenti the night before the shooting.
On the day of the shooting, he says he woke up around noon and rode in McReynolds' Armada with both Ajai and Valenti to acquaintance's house, so that Ajai could retrieve a backpack that had some of his "stuff" in it.
He says the backpack contained a 9 mm handgun that he had bought from that friend.
He then says that en route back to Ajai's home, they drove down a street where they encountered multiple people.
Upon seeing the people, Ajai allegedly said "there are the people that robbed me."
At this point, the unnamed suspect says that's when Valenti and Ajai pulled out handguns, with which he assumed they were going to use to scare the people.
He says he then put his own gun out the window and fired 2 to 3 times, emphasizing that he fired straight up into the air.
He said Ajai controlled the steering wheel with one hand while shooting his gun out the window with the other; he also says Valenti was partially outside the vehicle sitting on the window frame .
He does not know how many shots the two fired.
He says when they drove past, he saw a male known to him as 'Deion' as well as a girl named Paige Smith sitting on a porch.
As they were driving back to Ajai's home, Valenti reportedly said "I think I shot that girl."
He reports that Ajai was using a .45 caliber handgun, and Valenti had been using a .380 caliber handgun, both of which he says he had seen them with prior to the shooting.
The unnamed suspect says they went back home and went to the basement, when they saw on Facebook that a female had been struck in the head by a bullet.
According the probable cause, Ajai and Valenti then came back downstairs to synchronize their stories, saying they should all say they were in the basement all day if asked.
The unnamed suspect says he spent that night at his brother's house, while Ajai and Valenti stayed at Ajai's aunt's house overnight.
He says that Keisha then picked all three of them up and drove them to her mother's house, where she advised Valenti and Ajai to shower with bleach.
That is when they were brought to the police station, where they delivered an initial statement, which he says was false.
He also said that he threw his 9 mm handgun into a pond behind his apartment building a day or two after he met with investigators, and wasn't sure what the other two suspects did with their weapons.
Both Valenti and McReynolds are charged with the felony of assault in the first degree, unlawful use of a weapon, and the unclassified felony of armed criminal action.
McReynolds' and Valenti's bonds were set at $250,000 cash only.
In addition, on July 28, 2015, Keisha McReynolds, the mother of Ajai McReynolds, was charged with the felony of hindering prosecution in this case.
The unnamed suspect has not been charged with any crimes.
These charges are a result of a lengthy investigation conducted by the Cape Girardeau and Bollinger County Major Case Squad and follow-up investigations by the Cape Girardeau Police Department.
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