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New trial denied for man convicted of killing pregnant woman in 2007

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Sep. 14, 2013, at 5:50 p.m.

A man convicted of killing a pregnant woman and wounding her boyfriend during a gang-related shooting in 2007 will not get a new trial.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday upheld the convictions and sentences imposed upon Steven S. Novotny, who was found guilty of first-degree felony murder and aggravated battery by a Sedgwick County jury in 2009.

Novotny, 35, is serving a life sentence without parole eligibility for 20 years in the slaying of Laquishia Starr, who was shot during an attack on her boyfriend at her apartment in the 800 block of South San Pablo in April 2007. She was feeding her 2-year-old son at the time.

Starr, 21, died a week after one of three bullets fired at Xavier Worley went through his body, pierced the front door then struck her between the eyes. She was 30 weeks pregnant.

The baby, delivered by C-section, died four months later after he was found unresponsive in his crib.

Novotny is also serving four years for aggravated battery in Worley’s shooting. Authorities in 2007 attributed the attack to retaliation for a drive-by.

On appeal, Novotny argued that authorities did not have probable cause to search his home and that the district court erred in admitting Worley’s eyewitness identification of him as the shooter during the trial. Eagle articles show that Worley declined to immediately name Novotny as the shooter until pressed repeatedly by law enforcement. In testimony, he cited fear of retaliation as the reason for withholding the information.

Among other claims, Novotny also said the district court wrongly instructed jurors on a question of aiding and abetting that emerged during deliberations and he accused a prosecutor of misconduct during closing arguments.

The state’s high court affirmed his convictions and sentences, saying that although tactics used by law enforcement to obtain the shooter’s name were found to be “unnecessarily suggestive” by the district court, they “did not lead to a substantial likelihood of misidentification” because Worley was acquainted with Novotny. The court also ruled that a prosecutor did not misstate evidence when she told jurors that one witness was reluctant to testify before Novotny during his trial.

The opinion was written by Justice Nancy Moritz.

Novotny is housed at Larned State Hospital under maximum security, Kansas Department of Corrections records show. He has no release date listed.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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