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Hutchinson teen seeks to bar public from his murder trial

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at 3:09 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at 10:17 a.m.

A Reno County judge on Tuesday delayed ruling on a 14-year-old Hutchinson boy’s request to bar public access to court proceedings in the arson deaths of his mother and younger sister.

Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said following the afternoon’s arguments that the “court decided that it would take the matter under advisement and issue a written decision.” He did not say when when that would occur.

Schroeder added that an attorney representing the Hutchinson News appeared in court on the newspaper’s behalf. He declined further comment on the case.

Reno County District Court Judge Patricia Macke Dick scheduled the hearing on a defense motion seeking a protective order to close all hearings in the case of Sam Vonachen, seal the court record and impose a gag order.

The teen’s lawyer has said putting him on “public display” could cause embarrassment, fright and psychological damage.

Sam Vonachen, a Buhler High School freshman, is charged with first-degree murder in the killings of his mother, Karla Vonachen, and 11-year-old sister, Audrey. He’s also charged with the attempted murder of his father, Steve Vonachen, and aggravated arson in the Sept. 26 fire at the family’s Hutchinson home.

Court documents allege that the 14-year-old poured an accelerant in several rooms of the two-story home’s first floor then set it ablaze around midnight while his family was inside. His mother and sister, who were found in a upstairs bedroom, died later at separate hospitals.

Steve Vonachen, the boy’s father, escaped without injury.

Last month, the teen’s attorney waived his right to a detention hearing. Sam Vonachen is held in Reno County Youth Services Detention facility.

The state is seeking to prosecute him as an adult.

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

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