OLATHE, Kan. -- Two men suspected in the September killing of an aspiring Kansas City rapper appeared together for a preliminary hearing in court on Tuesday.
On Friday, a judge found probable cause to send James and Dale Willis to trial for the murder charges against them. The Willis brothers will be back in court on Feb. 23 for a motion to sever their case, so that they can be tried separately.
James Willis was arrested on Dec. 31 for the shooting death of 24-year-old Jurl Carter outside the Roxy Bar in Overland Park. Willis's brother, Dale, was arrested a little over a week before that for his involvement in the murder. Both face a first degree murder charge and each were held on an exceptionally high $15 million bond.
There was a very high police presence outside the Johnson County Courthouse on Tuesday, because authorities have reason to believe that the Willis brothers and their associates are very dangerous people.
Officers were stationed on rooftops and patrolled the outside of the courthouse with high-powered weapons, while at least eight sheriff's deputies were present in the courtroom.
Sources within the local music scene told FOX 4 in December that Dale Willis fancied himself as a rap promoter and producer.
Prosecutors emphasized the fact that Dale Willis owned a record label, and proposed that the murder was the result of a rap beef between Willis and Carter.
The prosecution put forth six witnesses in the courtroom. One witness said he was with Carter at the time of the murder and recalled pulling him from the car after he was shot.
The prosecution said that Dale Willis physically attacked Carter, punching him and knocking him to the ground. Then, the prosecution said, Carter got in his car and attempted to drive away, but was shot by James Willis.
Some courtroom observers felt like testimony from witnesses changed under cross-examination from the defense.
I felt like, [they were] probably nervous, or whatever the case may be, for them not to probably be called a snitch," Devin Brooks, a friend of the victim, said. "It's kind of hard to really just say. It's just crazy right now."
The case has so far been sealed, meaning no official reports or probable cause statements are available to the public. Prosecutors said Dale Willis made threats online against any witnesses who may testify or anyone who might come forward with information, which is likely the reason this case has been closed off to the public.
Two of the scheduled witnesses did not show up at court on Tuesday. One of those witnesses was James Willis's girlfriend. The judge put a $100,000 Failure to Appear as a Material Witness bond on each of the two witnesses.
The victim was a popular local rapper who went by the name "Bo Boogie." His family said he was a loving father who used music as his escape from the stresses of life, often rapping about his family.
"Just because you say he is a rapper, he is automatically got to be something bad. That's not true. You can carry your positive message and don't have to be bad,” one family member told FOX 4 back in September.
Carter's family said he was trying to get away from a fight when he was shot.
FOX 4 will have more as the case proceeds.