Public Safety

Judge denies bail for man accused in 2019 Christmas Day fatal shooting

Bail remains at more than $1.2 million

Brothers Elijah McAbee (left) and Milton McAbee are charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 25, 2019, fatal shootin
Brothers Elijah McAbee (left) and Milton McAbee are charged with first-degree murder in the Dec. 25, 2019, fatal shooting of Gregory Jackson in Coralville. (Submitted photos)

IOWA CITY — A judge Tuesday denied the defense’s request to lower a more than $1 million bail for a man who fled the state after a fatal Christmas shooting in 2019.

A lawyer for Elijah McAbee, 19, charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder, asked 6th Judicial District Judge Paul Miller to lower her client’s bail to $250,000 cash or surety.

His bail now is $1 million on the first-degree murder charge and $250,000 for the attempted murder.

The lawyer, Sara Smith, argued during a phone bail review hearing that McAbee was only 18 at the time of the shooting and had no criminal history. If the court lowers the bail — something his family could possibly pay — his parents would move back to Iowa City to provide him with a place to live pending trial, Smith said, adding they moved out of state because they have received “threats from the alleged victims.”

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness asked Miller not to lower the bail because McAbee, who faces life in prison without parole on the murder charge, would be a great flight risk. His bail possibly should be increased based on the charges, she said.

Lyness also noted McAbee fled Iowa after the shooting and moved to Illinois. He then fled to Kentucky when he knew he was going to be arrested. In Kentucky, after being arrested, he fought extradition back to Iowa.

McAbee wasn’t charged until last April because of the extradition process, according to court records.

Miller ruled Tuesday afternoon that the nature and circumstances of the offenses and McAbee fleeing after the shooting are “determinative factors” that weigh “strongly” in favor of a substantial bond.

McAbee and his brother, Milton L. McAbee, 20, are both charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Gregory Jackson on Dec. 25, 2019, in the area of 952 Boston Way in Coralville.

Coralville police Chief Shane Kron told The Gazette in April the shootings grew out of a dispute between juveniles — name calling and gesturing — who were roaming the neighborhood looking for a fight.

Court documents filed after the McAbee arrests indicate a witness identified Elijah McAbee as the shooter.

Coralville police were called to the area at 9:32 p.m. where they found three people with gunshot injuries.

Jackson and another man — a “close associate” of Jackson who is identified only as “Victim #2” — were taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, according to the search warrant affidavit. Jackson died about 10:41 p.m., with an autopsy showing he had three or four gunshot wounds.

While investigators were at that hospital, they learned Phillip McAbee was being treated for a fractured jaw as a result of being “pistol-whipped” by Jackson, according to the affidavit.

Officers at the shooting scene had talked to Elijah McAbee, Phillip’s son, who was “upset and agitated” about what had happened to his father, the affidavits stated.

A separate complaint stated Milton McAbee, in retaliation for Jackson injuring his father, threatened to kill Jackson. He obtained a gun and went with others to confront Jackson, fatally shooting him.

Milton McAbee admitted the shooting to another person, according to the complaint.

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