Looking pale after two months in jail, first-degree murder suspect Keith Allen pleaded not guilty Monday in Lincoln County District Court.
Allen answered the questions of “how do you plead?” to each of two charges from Lincoln County District Judge Richard Birch in a strong voice – “not guilty.”
Family members of the victim watched, fighting tears.
Allen is charged with first-degree murder as well as the use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. He has been behind bars since May 22, when he was charged with shooting Brett Allen Torres with a handgun.
Police converged that day in the 100 block of N. Chestnut in North Platte, just a few blocks from downtown, after Allen and others called 911 around 2:30 p.m. to report the shooting.
Allen was arrested at the scene. He was initially charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was soon increased to first-degree.
He is scheduled to return to court at 10 a.m. on Sept. 14.
If convicted, he faces life in prison for homicide and 5-50 years for use of a weapon, Birch said.
Allen is represented by Todd Lancaster of Lincoln and Mike Nozicka of North Platte. Lancaster is an attorney with the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, a state agency created in 1995 to help counties provide legal representation to defendants charged with first-degree murder and other serious felonies. Counties do not have to for such legal services – costs that can decimate local budgets.
Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling was the lead prosecutor in court Monday with Deputy County Attorney Tanya Roberts Connick at her side.
Hobbled and hancuffed, Allen returned to the Lincoln County jail after entering his pleas.
Allen also faces a wrongful death civil lawsuit from Torres’ death, seeking financial payments including medical and funeral expenses, as well was other economic and non-economic “general damages as allowed by law.”