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Accused looters appear in court, moved to Mullinville

  • Published Wednesday, May 9, 2007, at 1:44 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

Nine accused looters and curfew violators from the Greensburg tornado site made their first appearance before a judge this afternoon in a vacant Mullinville drug store.

Chief Justice Kay McFarland of the Kansas Supreme Court signed an order this morning moving district court operations for the area from the Kiowa County Courthouse, destroyed by Friday's tornado, in Greensburg approximately 10 miles west to Mullinville.

Four of the defendants were Army soldiers from Fort Riley: James A. Sweene, Jacob B. Kilgore, Spencer T. Basoco and Joel A. Dominguez. Along with reserve police officer Joseph G. Novak, they were charged with burglary and theft.

Kiowa County Attorney Candace Lattin said the men stole cigarettes and beer Sunday from a Dillons grocery store shattered during the storm. Officials from the state's adjutant general's office said the five had been allowed to come and go, despite a curfew, since they were in uniform, but weren't a part of any official rescue or search effort in the town.

District Judge Daniel Love set a preliminary hearing for May 17.

Two other men, David Sheley and James E. Carlisle, were charged with burglary and theft at the Dillons and also charged with impersonating Red Cross volunteers. Sheley and Carlisle told Judge Love they'd grown up in Norton County and now lived in Pratt.

Lattin said the final two defendants, Adan Gonzalez-Matta and Alejandro Vergara, who said they were roofers from Wichita, were charged with criminal trespass. They were accused of sneaking into town after curfew and refusing police orders to leave.

Love is chief judge of the 16th Judicial District, which includes Kiowa County.

The court's new location is 102 W. Highway 400, which is adjacent to the Mullinville branch of the Haviland State Bank.

The district court will be located there until the Kiowa County Courthouse is "sufficiently repaired and suitable for the return of court business," the Supreme Court order states.

Court officials -- including Love and court clerks DeLanna Nichols and Debra Schmidt -- salvaged court equipment and moved court records and supplies to Mullinville on Monday and Tuesday.

McFarland said staff from the Haviland bank, along with students from Greensburg High School, electricians, carpenters and others, helped relocate the court.

Ron Sylvester and Roy Wenzl

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