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Judge delays decision on whether man will be tried in drug-deal death

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at 8:29 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at 1:38 p.m.

A Wichita man whose arrest last year prompted his mother to enter the race for governor went to court Thursday hoping to persuade a judge to dismiss his first-degree murder charge.

The judge said he would wait until he hears the testimony of the man’s co-defendants before deciding whether to order Kyler Carriker to stand trial.

Carriker, 22, is charged with taking part in an aborted drug deal on April 18 that ended in the death of Ronald Betts, 33, of Derby. Carriker is free on $500,000 bond.

Prosecutors said Carriker and two other men were planning to sell a quarter-pound of marijuana for $1,100 in a house at 446 N. Emporia.

Testimony at Thursday’s hearing showed that a group of three would-be customers, all of whom were gang members, went to the house planning to take the marijuana by force.

As the six men stood inside the house, witnesses said, one of the customers opened fire without warning, striking Carriker in the leg. During the ensuing gun battle, Betts was hit by a shotgun blast fired by one of his friends and by three bullets fired by a 9 mm handgun brandished by one of the robbers. Wichita police recovered 20 shell casings from the scene that came from three guns.

Detective Robert Chisholm said the first shots were unprovoked.

“The shooting just started out of thin air?” defense lawyer Sarah Swain asked at one point.

“No one’s been able to give me a good reason why the shots were fired originally,” Chisholm said.

All five people who survived the shoot-out were charged with first-degree murder after prosecutors determined that they were attempting to take part in an inherently dangerous felony – the sale of drugs ‑ when Betts was killed.

Among the group of sellers was Kyle Beltz, 22, who was convicted by a jury last month of first-degree murder and is scheduled to be sentenced Jan 23.

Two of the would-be robbers – Lorenzo A. Spires, 20, and John E. Carter, 18 – have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and are awaiting sentencing. The final defendant, Dennis O. Haynes III, 19, is scheduled to stand trial in February. Prosecutors have identified Haynes as the one who fired the shots that touched off the gun battle.

Chisholm said Carriker set up the drug deal and planned to take an active role in the transaction.

“Was he present?” prosecutor Justen Phelps asked.

“Yes,” Chisholm said.

“Was he armed?”

“Yes.”

“Was it during that attempted transaction when Ronald Betts was killed?”

“Yes.”

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday after Chisholm’s testimony, and Swain said she planned to call Spires and Carter to the stand as defense witnesses. District Judge David Kaufman said he would resume the hearing when lawyers for the two co-defendants are available to be in the courtroom with their clients.

Carriker’s mother, Jennifer Winn, has scheduled a rally Saturday to announce her candidacy for governor. She said her son’s case prompted her to enter the governor’s race, and she said she will run as an advocate for marijuana legalization.

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

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