UPDATE 5:30 P.M.: A Blount County grand jury will hear the case against Brian Stalans, accused of murdering a Maryville police officer in August, after a judge on Thursday found probable cause exists for the charges against him.
Stalans faces five charges, including first-degree murder in the death of Officer Kenny Moats on Aug. 25.
Judge William Brewer raised Stalans’ bond to a total $2.7 million.
During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors laid out their evidence against Stalans, including a handwritten note found in Stalans’ kitchen that said in part, “Goodbye cruel world … I will now find out what’s on the other side.”
The note was written on Stalans’ own birthday card.
He was originally charged with one count of criminal homicide and four counts of aggravated assault. Brewer amended those charges Thursday to first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault, because he believed sufficient evidence exists that the killing was premeditated.
Stalans had been living with his girlfriend, Margaret Partridge, and her son on Kerrway Lane west of Alcoa Highway.
Partridge testified Thursday that Stalans was drunk and had been fighting with his father, who lives next door, on the day of the shooting, which happened to be Stalans’ 44th birthday.
Partridge said she came home in the afternoon to see Stalans crouched in a gazebo by the house and pointing a handgun at his father’s house.
She said Stalans fired one shot. When she turned around Stalans was pointing the gun at her and their young son, she said.
She called Ken Stalans to warn him, and he called the police, which brought officer Kenny Moats and deputy David Mendez to the scene.
Stalans was brought into court Thursday in wrist and ankle restraints. He wiped away tears at times during the hearing.
Stalans is represented by Blount County Public Defender Mack Garner.
Blount County Sheriff’s Deputy David Mendez, who was Moats’ partner on the 5th Judicial Drug Task Force, testified officers took cover behind their car when they arrived at Stalans’ house that day. The pair was not dispatched to the call, but were the closest officers to the scene when the call came in.
Mendez said Ken Stalans took cover with the officers behind their SUV. He then heard Stalans’ weapon fire.
“I heard Officer Moats make a noise and … I looked over … I saw his radio and his gun flop and he hit the ground,” Mendez said.
Moats, 32, was pronounced dead later the same day at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Family in the courtroom wiped away tears hearing the description of his death.
The Knox County Medical Examiner, who conducted the autopsy, presented testimony about Moats' death.
"I thought we were both going to die," said Mendez.
Stalans’ defense team said Thursday they anticipate he will be back in court in November. A Blount County grand jury will likely hear his case that month.
PREVIOUS STORY: The man accused of ambushing and fatally shooting a Maryville police officer appears in court Thursday afternoon where a judge is expected to determine whether there is probable cause to move the case forward.
As it stands, 44-year-old Brian Keith Stalans faces five charges, including criminal homicide, in the shooting death of officer Kenny Moats. He also faces four counts of aggravated assault.
Moats, 32, died of a single gunshot wound to the neck after responding to a domestic violence call at Stalans’ Blount County home on Kerrrway Lane on Aug. 25.
The judge Thursday will determine whether to transfer the case to a Blount County grand jury, which will then determine which criminal homicide charge to apply in the case.
In the meantime, Stalans is in custody at the Blount County Detention Facility, where he is being held on $1.5 million bond.
“This charge is an unspecified criminal homicide. That is anything from first degree capital murder to second degree murder to voluntary manslaughter to negligent homicide,” Public Defender Mack Garner, who is assigned to represent Stalans, told WBIR 10News last month. “Until we know what the facts are, we don’t even know for sure what grade of homicide the grand jury is going to charge him with. So even if he’s guilty of a homicide, the question is what grade is it? How severe is it?”
The most severe charge the grand jury could indict on is capital murder. If that is the charge, then the Blount County Attorney General’s Office will be able to file notice if they are seeking the death penalty or life in prison without parole.