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Murder trial begins, despite suicide of key witness

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at 10:34 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, at 11:29 a.m.

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A Sedgwick County jury on Tuesday began hearing evidence in a first-degree murder trial that is being held this week despite the fact that one of the state’s key witnesses committed suicide last month.

Both sides in the case agree that the fatal shots were fired from an SUV occupied by Travis Knighten, 20, who is standing trial for murder, and Arthur Gary, 22, whose body was found last month on the banks of the Arkansas River. A coroner’s report said Gary died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Assistant District Attorney Mandee Schauf told the jury in her opening statement that Knighten fired the shots that killed 22-year-old Mario Brown. Defense lawyer Gary Owens said shots were fired by Gary.

Wichita police said the shooting occurred in the early morning hours of May 7, 2011, after about 50 people had gathered for an after-hours party in a parking lot at the southwest corner of 13th and Hillside.

Schauf told the jury that a surveillance camera at a nearby business identified a dark-colored SUV that the shots had come from. Detectives later determined that Gary was driving the SUV that morning and Knighten was in the front passenger seat.

Owens said police spent the next several months looking for Gary before finally locating him in December. Knighten was charged with Brown’s murder on Jan. 3. Gary was one of two witnesses who testified at Knighten’s preliminary hearing on May 24, 2012.

An autopsy report filed last week said that Gary’s body was found on the morning of April 4 on the banks of the Arkansas River in the 1800 block of South Greenway. The report said Gary had a history of depression, and that a .380-caliber handgun was in his right hand when his body was found.

District Judge Terry Pullman is presiding at the trial.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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