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Homicide victim in ditch likely killed by blunt force

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, at 10:28 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, at 5:35 p.m.

A 41-year-old Wichita man has been booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of his 38-year-old girlfriend, whose body was found Sunday in a ditch across the road from Campus High School, an official said Monday.

Sedgwick County sheriff’s Maj. Mike Oliver identified the victim as Amber L. Kostner and the suspect as Anson R. Bernhardt. Oliver described them as an unmarried couple.

Based on what they have learned so far, Oliver said, investigators have strong reason to think “he’s our man.” Bernhardt was being held on a $250,000 bond.

A motorist called 911 at 10:17 a.m. on Sunday to report a body in the ditch in the 2100 block of West 55th South, Oliver said. The ditch is just south of Campus High School. Investigators converged on the scene, but Oliver said it took most of the day to determine her identity.

Evidence suggests she died from blunt-force trauma, Oliver said, but investigators are waiting for an autopsy to confirm the cause of death.

The investigation indicates Kostner was killed elsewhere and then brought to the ditch, he said, but authorities aren’t saying where. Witnesses have reported seeing Kostner on Saturday night, Oliver said, but authorities are not sure what time she was killed or how long her body was in the ditch.

Jack Slade, who owns land near where the body was found, said he gave investigators permission to look through a 54-acre soybean field extending south from the ditch. Officers with dogs walked along Meridian, west of the field.

Oliver said Kostner had been living with Bernhardt since last spring. In a pending aggravated battery case against Bernhardt, he identified Kostner as his spouse and girlfriend, court records show.

In a May 30 court document, Bernhardt said he was living at a house in the 3600 block of West Central; a family member at the house declined to comment Monday. Bernhardt said in the May court document that he was working in a contract-labor telecommunications job in the 100 block of South Lulu. He said Kostner was working for Spears and Intrust Bank Arena.

In the aggravated battery case, Bernhardt was charged with harming a man with a pocket knife on May 26. A police report said that Bernhardt and another man reportedly got into an argument in the 3800 block of West Douglas; the other man suffered a wound to his leg and was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later released. That case had been scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 24, but the trial had been rescheduled for Nov. 5, court records show.

As a part of Bernhardt’s bond requirement, he was required to attend an anger and alcohol treatment program, records show.

Investigators will present their case to prosecutors for consideration of charges Tuesday or Wednesday, Oliver said.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com. Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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