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Canyon Drive death

Billings police investigate the scene of a shooting death on the 2100 block of Canyon Drive Wednesday afternoon.

A 30-year-old Billings man shot and killed his friend and survived a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the two struggled to cope with the effects of a psilocybin mushroom trip in November, according to charges.

William Eugene Kenney pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide with a weapons enhancement in Yellowstone County District Court on Friday. He’s accused of killing 25-year-old man, who was identified as John Smathers by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office.

Kenney told a Billings Police Department detective Nov. 21, 2018, that he and his friend had gotten high on mushrooms the night before, that they “got kinda crazy” and “both thought (they) were dying,” charges state. Kenney told the detective he remembered shooting Smathers with an AR-15, shooting himself and then passing out, the charges state.

Kenney’s father, whom Kenney lives with at his West End home, had called police after seeing blood in the basement and a man with a head injury whom he believed to be dead.

Kenney’s medical records showed he told first responders he and Smathers “had consumed a lot of mushrooms, they couldn’t handle it anymore, and they decided to shoot themselves,” according to charges. He said he would not have done something like that in his right mind, the charges stated.

Some mushrooms can cause hallucinations with symptoms resembling psychosis, making someone unable to maintain contact with reality and compromising their ability to act knowingly and purposely, prosecutors noted in the charges.

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Kenney was sent to the hospital with a gunshot wound to his chin, with the bullet going behind his eye and exiting at the top of his head, the charges state.

An autopsy showed Smathers died of a single gunshot wound with an entry at the back of his head, charges state.

Kenney remained jailed as of Monday morning on bond of $50,000.

The charges are punishable by up to 30 years in prison, with a minimum of two years. 

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Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.