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Killers could get shorter sentences under new Hard 50 law

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Sep. 7, 2013, at 5:31 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, July 18, 2014, at 2:11 p.m.

More than a dozen killers serving time in Kansas prisons – including at least four convicted in Sedgwick County – could see their prison sentences reduced under the new Hard 50 law approved last week during a special session of the Kansas Legislature.

The law says those who were sentenced to a Hard 50 by a judge, and who have not exhausted their appeals, can ask to be brought back to court and have a jury decide whether they should be held in prison for 50 years without seeing a parole board.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who asked for the special session, said 16 defendants whose cases were on appeal would likely qualify for new sentencing trials. He didn’t rule out the possibility that other inmates would seek to be resentenced through other procedures.

Of the 16 inmates who most likely will qualify for new sentencing trials, the most notable is Scott Roeder, who was convicted of murdering abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009.

The three other Sedgwick County cases gathered little media attention. They include a gang member who stabbed another man 70 times, a defendant who was convicted of one nightclub killing and acquitted of another, and a man who wrapped an 18-month-old girl in plastic bags and left her in an attic to die.

Another inmate who may benefit from the law is a man who killed a Wichita woman while on parole for a murder he committed in Lawrence more than two decades earlier.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said the law also could have an impact on a pending case involving a man who kicked his girlfriend to death and is now awaiting sentencing.

During the legislative session, there was not unanimous agreement that the law was constitutional. Defense lawyer Richard Ney said he suspects that it isn’t.

“You can’t pass a law for something that happened in the past,” he said.

Bennett, who testified in favor of the law before the Legislature, said he understands the objections to a law that applies to cases retroactively.

“Our argument to the Legislature was that we owed it to the victims to try,” he said.

Proponents of the law argued that the law makes “procedural” changes but not “substantive” changes. Both sides say they expect the Kansas Supreme Court to eventually decide the issue.

The change in the Kansas law was prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that said juries, not judges, should decide whether a case includes factors that justify increasing a defendant’s minimum prison sentence.

Gov. Sam Brownback signed the legislation on Friday, and the law will take effect Thursday.

Hard 40 and Hard 50 inmates

Kansas Department of Corrections records show that during the two-day legislative session, there were 140 prison inmates serving Hard 40 or Hard 50 sentences for murder.

That doesn’t include five inmates who died in prison while serving Hard 40 or Hard 50 sentences, and 10 inmates who are serving Hard 40 sentences for sex offenses. Those sex offenders were sentenced under Jessica’s Law and won’t be affected by the Supreme Court ruling, Bennett said.

The records show that 28 percent of the inmates are from Sedgwick County and 26 percent are from Wyandotte County. No other county has more than 8 percent of the total. There are two inmates from Butler County and one from Harvey County.

The records show that 55 percent of the inmates are white, 43 percent are black and 2 percent are American Indian. Hispanic is not counted as a race. Five of the 140 are women.

All 140 inmates were convicted of first-degree murder.

How the sentences break down

When it comes to the sentencing, the inmates fall into three general categories.

• The first group includes crimes occurring from July 1, 1990, when the Hard 40 law took effect, to July 1, 1994, when the Hard 50 took effect and the sentencing phase of the cases was passed from juries to judges.

Under the original Hard 40 law, if a jury found a defendant guilty of first-degree murder, the jury would then be asked during the sentencing phase of the trial to consider aggravating and mitigating factors. If the jury unanimously agreed that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, a Hard 40 was imposed.

“That earlier sentencing scheme would appear to have been in compliance with the (Supreme Court) directive,” Bennett said.

That first group of inmates includes James Walker, an Insane Crips leader who led his gang on a daylong crime spree in 1990 that ended in the rape and murder of a 48-year-old woman. He was the first Sedgwick County resident to receive a Hard 40. The group also includes Rick Follin, who stabbed to death his 3- and 4-year-old daughters at El Dorado Lake in 1994.

Also among that group was Andrew Perez of Topeka, who became the first person to receive a Hard 40 sentence in January 1991 after he was convicted of stabbing his wife more than 40 times. He died in 2010 at the El Dorado Correctional Facility at age 49.

• The second and largest group of inmates are those whose crimes occurred after July 1, 1994, and who have since exhausted their appeals. Bennett said that after the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled against a defendant, and the time has passed for him to try to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the case is considered to be final. He said the law will not apply to those inmates.

Ney, however, said he couldn’t rule out the possibility of an inmate in that group finding a way to have his case brought back into court.

The group of Hard 40 and Hard 50 inmates who have exhausted their appeals includes Sakone M. Donesay, who shot and killed Sedgwick County sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Easter in 1996, and Steve Papen, who was convicted of the Aug. 11, 2000, murder of Dana Anderson, whose body was found in the trunk of her car at a Colorado Springs airport.

The group also includes Cornelius Oliver, who was convicted in the shootings of four teens in a duplex at 1144 N. Erie in 2000, and Arturo Garcia, who was convicted of killing three men in his Club Mexico club at 2600 S. Oliver in 2003.

• The third group of inmates are those who were sentenced by judges and whose appeals remain active.

Among that group is Jonell Lloyd, 28, who is serving a Hard 50 sentence for the beating death of 18-month-old Chavira Brown on July 31, 2008. Prosecutors said that after Chavira woke up with wet pants, Lloyd beat her, tied her up in plastic bags and left her in the attic to die in a home that he shared with his girlfriend at 15th and Green.

Prosecutors said the crime was committed in “an especially heinous, cruel or atrocious manner.” As a mitigating factor, a defense lawyer said Lloyd had a troubled childhood that involved frequent beatings. District Judge Jeff Goering, in imposing the Hard 50 sentence, said the aggravating factors “vastly outweighed” any mitigating factors.

The final group also includes Jason Cruz, 31, who was convicted of killing Larry Barnett on Aug. 24, 2008, at Lightning Joe’s club, near Kellogg and Ridge. The same jury found Cruz not guilty in the killing of Jeff Johnson on March 8, 2007, at Baby Dolls in the 4900 block of North Arkansas. District Judge Ben Burgess imposed a Hard 50 sentence in that case and tacked on 23 more months for being a felon carrying a firearm.

Another inmate who will apparently be eligible for a new sentencing hearing is Rogelio Soto Jr., 21, who was convicted of stabbing Arturo Moreno more than 70 times over a decades-old street gang dispute.

Prosecutors said Soto had repeatedly been involved in gang violence and was involved in a Feb. 25, 2009, car chase that led to the death of a 16-year-old girl from Southeast High School. A defense lawyer said Soto was bullied in school and beat up while forced to join a gang.

District Judge David Kaufman ruled that the crime was especially heinous, violent and depraved and imposed a Hard 50 sentence.

The final Sedgwick County inmate is Tyrone Walker, 48, who received a Hard 50 sentence on Aug. 1 after he was convicted in the June 2011 strangulation death of Janis Sanders. Walker was paroled four months before Sanders’ death after serving a 12-year sentence for killing 25-year-old Tamara Baker in Lawrence in October 1989. Because the judge in the case took the Supreme Court ruling into account before sentencing, Walker might not be eligible for another hearing on the matter.

The only pending Sedgwick County case likely to be affected by the Supreme Court ruling involves Anson Bernhardt, who was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder for kicking Amber Kostner to death on Sept. 30, 2012.

District Judge William Woolley is scheduled to hear arguments on that case on Friday.

Contributing: Amy Renee Leiker of The Eagle

Prisoners with Hard 40 or Hard 50 sentences convicted in Wichita metro area

NameRaceGenderAgeDate of crimeChargeCountyPrisonEarliest release date
Hard 40 sentences
1. James A. WalkerBM47July 21, 1990Murder in the first degreeSedgwickEl Dorado CF-CentralJan. 22, 2123
2. Dennis L. RaderWM68Jan.19, 1991Murder 1 x 10SedgwickEl Dorado CF Feb. 26, 2180
3. Michael L. BornholdtWM57Aug. 21, 1993Murder 1SedgwickOut-of-stateNone listed
4. Alan K. CopridgeBM43Oct. 25, 1993Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
5. Rick D. FollinWM65Feb. 5, 1994Murder 1 x 2ButlerLarned State HospitalFeb. 8, 2074
6. David A. MonclaWM46Jan. 16, 1995Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF Feb. 2, 2035
7. Gordon R. BarnesWM38April 30, 1995Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
8. Chester L. HiggenbothamWM48Sept. 16, 1995Murder 1 x 2HarveyLansing CF None listed
9. Anthony D. ConleyBM36Sept. 26, 1995Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF March 12, 2038
10. Corey R. GholstonBM35Oct. 4, 1995Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF July 20, 2039
11. Amoneo D. LeeBM41Nov. 3, 1995Murder 1SedgwickHutchinson CF None listed
12. Daniel M. DiasWM73Jan. 1, 1996Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF-SouthJan. 9, 2036
13. Sakone M. DonesayAIM32Jan. 8, 1996Murder 1 - LEOSedgwickOut-of-stateNone listed
14. Damon L. VontressBM38March 19, 1996Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
15. Michael L. MarshWM38June 17, 1996Murder 1 x 2SedgwickEl Dorado CF None listed
16. Gavin D. ScottWM35Sept. 13, 1996Murder 1 x 2SedgwickLansing CF None listed
17. Jason M. WakefieldWM36Sept. 13, 1996Murder 1 x 2SedgwickHutchinson CF Sept. 17, 2076
18. Eddie L. GillespieBM73Nov. 1, 1996Murder 1 x 2SedgwickLansing CF Nov. 1, 2076
19. Chester R. JamisonBM39Oct. 10, 1997Murder 1 x 2SedgwickLansing CF Oct. 10, 2077
20. Jerome G. CarterBM36March 10, 1998Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
21. Stanley ElmsWM37May 4, 1998Murder 1 - rape/sodomySedgwickHutchinson CF None listed
22. Isaac D. SaizWM31July 21, 1998Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF None listed
23. David A. NoyceWM43Sept. 14, 1998Murder 1 - more than 1 personSedgwickLansing CF None listed
24. Gregory D. LessleyWM55Jan. 6, 1999Murder 1SedgwickHutchinson CF None listed
25. Arthur R. AlbrightWM65Jan. 29, 1999Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF Jan. 31, 2039
26. Will A. WimbleyBM48Feb. 9, 1999Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
Hard 50 sentences
27. Romane R. DouglasBM34Oct. 3, 1999Murder 1 x 2SedgwickLansing CF None listed
28. Tanner L. GreenWM36March 27, 2000Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF None listed
29. Steven L. PapenWM50Aug. 11, 2000Murder 1SedgwickEllsworth CFSept. 22, 2050
30. Cornelius D. OliverBM30Dec. 7, 2000Murder 1 x 4SedgwickHutchinson CF Dec. 8, 2140
31. Dajuan L. WilkersonBM37Sept. 13, 2001Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF None listed
32. Joshua RobertsonWM32March 19, 2002Murder 1ButlerEl Dorado CF March 19, 2052
33. Theodore V. HornWM55May 18, 2002Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF May 18, 2052
34. Thomas J. DrennanWM46Aug. 19, 2002Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF Aug. 19, 2052
35. Nathanial T. HurtBM41Oct. 4, 2002Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
36. Arturo J. GarciaWM40July 27, 2003Murder 1 x 2SedgwickLansing CF None listed
37. Kim E. CrumWM43Jan. 1, 2005Murder 1SedgwickHutchinson CF Jan. 1, 2055
38. Ruben Y. WarledoAIM45April 6, 2005Murder 1SedgwickEllsworth CFApril 6, 2055
39. Billy J. McCaslinAIM40Dec. 2, 2006Murder 1SedgwickEl Dorado CF None listed
40. Jonell Kevin LloydBM28July 31, 2008Murder 1SedgwickHutchinson CF None listed
41. Jason A. CruzBM31Aug. 24, 2008Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
42. Rogelio SotoWM21March 17, 2009Murder 1SedgwickOut-of-stateNone listed
43. Scott P. RoederWM55May 31, 2009Murder 1SedgwickLansing CF None listed
44. Tyrone WalkerBM48June 1, 2011Murder 1SedgwickLansing CFNone listed

The crimes

1. Leader of one of the city’s violent street gangs when he led his associates on a daylong crime spree that ended with the rape and murder of 48-year-old Rose Anna “Pat” Mitchell Johnson.
2. The self-confessed BTK strangler.
3. Convicted of killing a Wichita man scheduled to testify against him in a drug case. Received a second Hard 40 in Reno County for the January 1992 fatal shooting of a Hutchinson landscaper.
4. Stabbed Harold “Victor” Williams, 40, owner of Victor’s Auto Sound, to death at Williams’ home at 734 S. Ellis.
5. Stabbed daughters Kylie, 4, and Hanah, 3, at El Dorado Lake during break-up of marriage.
6. Hit bar owner Diane Swinney 18 times in the head with a hammer in her home at 4509 S. Seneca. Prosecutors never established a motive.
7. Stabbed 15-year-old Roger Santo Jr. at least 35 times to keep him from testifying at an auto theft trial.
8. Was serving a Hard 40 prison sentence for the 1995 murder of a 30-year-old Wichita woman when he was convicted of murdering a 36-year-old Newton mother.
9. Federal prison inmate convicted of fatally shooting a former roommate, Nicholas Armstrong, during an argument after confessing the crime to a cellmate.
10. Convicted of shooting toddler Brentashia Smith outside a Wichita QuikTrip instead of her mother’s boyfriend, a rival gang member, after first trial ended with a hung jury.
11. Shot Oswego resident Carl Mason, 25, at Oliver Square Apartments in a dispute over a car taken from Lee’s girlfriend. Convicted during second trial.
12. Stabbed his estranged wife, Deborah, with a carving fork at her Derby home after she refused to reconcile.
13. Was 14 when he shot and killed Sedgwick County sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Easter.
14. Fatally shot Tim Anderson, son of former state senator Eugene Anderson, at his home during a robbery.
15. Shot and stabbed Marry Ane Pusch, 22, during a robbery attempt, then set fire to her home, killing her 19-month-old daughter, Marry Elizabeth. Given the Hard 40 in a plea deal a decade after he was sentenced to death in the case.
16. Given Hard 40 in the killing of Goddard couple Doug and Beth Brittain during a late-night break-in after Kansas Supreme Court in 2008 overturned one of his convictions. He was originally sentenced to death.
17. Accomplice in shooting death of Goddard couple Doug and Beth Brittain, who were killed while they slept during a late-night break-in.
18. The road construction worker pleaded guilty to killing two of his co-workers at Inland Co. Gillespie, given two consecutive Hard 40 sentences in a plea deal, claimed he shot the men as an argument escalated. He also served eight years in an Illinois prison for murdering a woman in 1964.
19. Gunned down brothers James Berry and Kevin Nelson after an altercation at Elks Peerless Princess Lodge, 542 N. Indiana.
20. Fatally shot 21-year-old Troy Hawkins, who fought back after Carter’s inquiry about puppies for sale turned into a home robbery.
21. Raped, bound and slit the throat of neighbor Regina Gray. He was originally sentenced to death in the case.
22. A fugitive for nearly eight years, Saiz pleaded guilty in 2007 to shooting 8-year-old Antonio Galvan during a drive-by as the boy played in the front yard of his Planeview home. One of Saiz’s accomplices concocted a story about rival gang members causing a traffic accident, which led to the shooting.
23. Poured gasoline on his sleeping wife, Darlene, then set her on fire, leading to a blaze that also killed the couple’s 2-year-old son. Noyce pleaded guilty to capital murder in 1999 to avoid the death penalty.
24. Shot his estranged girlfriend, Via Christi nurse Lisa Sears, multiple times as she stepped out of her home at Tallgrass Apartments.
25. Stabbed Lucille Weeden to death because of his delusional belief that she was secretly taking cat food from his apartment in the 800 block of South Topeka.
26. Shot 20-year-old Leola Haskins, then left her body along a bike path along a dead-end street near 12th and I-135.
27. Was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the Oct. 3, 1999, deaths of two men whose bodies were found in McAdams Park in Wichita.
28. The parolee beat and stabbed Goddard teacher Janice Vredenburg after she hired the home restoration crew he was part of to clean up flood damage at her house. A motive for the slaying was never established.
29. Beat, choked and suffocated his common-law wife, Dana Anderson, then left her body in the trunk of her car at a Colorado airport.
30. Convicted in the shootings of four teens in a duplex at 1144 N. Erie. Two Hard 50 prison terms boosted his overall sentence to a minimum of 140 years.
31. Fatally shot Damene Lattimore, 25, at a home in the 1600 block of North Hydraulic. Attack prompted by an argument between Wilkerson and a friend of Lattimore’s.
32. Stabbed Patricia Self multiple times then set fire to her Augusta home at 4705 SW 101st Terrace. Robertson’s girlfriend, Jennifer Self, was also charged in her mother’s murder.
33. Beat his grandmother, Tina Weaver, with a wooden level at least 10 times then cut her neck with a saw. His blood-alcohol level was six times the legal limit during the attack.
34. Strangled his girlfriend, 33-year-old Shelbree Wilson, with a fan cord in her bedroom at 928 E. Mona. The couple had a history of abuse.
35. The parolee shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Palma, in her front yard in the 2000 block of North Minnesota after seeing her with another man.
36. Club Mexico owner who killed three men in his club at 2600 S. Oliver.
37. Bludgeoned friend John Neal to death with a claw hammer outside a Planeview apartment on New Year’s. He was hit at least 16 times.
38. Allegedly the victim of maternal abuse, Warledo stomped his mother, Marcia Squirrel, to death and set fire to her body.
39. Raped and stabbed 31-year-old Angela Duran before dousing her with citronella and setting her ablaze.
40. Beat 18-month-old Chavira Brown after she woke up with wet pants, then tied her up in plastic bags and left to die in the attic of a home that he shared with the girl’s mother.
41. Convicted of killing one man at Lightning Joe’s club near Kellogg and Ridge, but was acquitted in the killing of a 22-year-old man at Baby Dolls in the 4900 block of North Arkansas.
42. Stabbed Arturo Moreno more than 70 times over a decades-old street gang dispute.
43. The abortion opponent fatally shot Wichita abortion provider George Tiller in the foyer of his church.
44. Was on parole for a Douglas County murder when he strangled Janis Sanders of Wichita.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @hlaviana.

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