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Man ordered to stand trial for murder in drug-deal death

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 7, 2014, at 12:27 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 7, 2014, at 12:49 p.m.

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A Wichita man whose arrest last year prompted his mother to enter the race for governor was ordered Friday to stand trial for first-degree murder.

Prosecutors said Kyler Carriker, 22, arranged a $1,100 marijuana deal that led to the April 18, 2013, shooting death of Ronald Betts, 33, of Derby.

Prosecutors said Carriker and two other men were planning to sell a quarter-pound of marijuana in a house at 446 N. Emporia when one of three would-be customers pulled out a gun and began firing in an aborted robbery. Carriker was seriously injured by the gunfire.

Carriker’s preliminary hearing started in January but was continued after defense lawyer Sarah Swain decided to call two of Carrier’s co-defendants as defense witnesses.

The first witness, John Carter, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.

The second witness, Lorenzo Spires, also tried to invoke his Fifth Amendment right, but District Judge David Kaufman ruled that Swain could compel him to testify about matters he had already discussed in open court. Spires, who had testified at an earlier preliminary hearing, then testified that he, Carter and a third man, Dennis O. Haynes, went to the house with the intent to commit a robbery.

Prosecutor Justen Phelps said at the close of the hearing that the evidence showed that Carriker was instrumental in setting up the drug deal that resulted in Betts’ death.

“This defendant’s intent was to sell marijuana, and during the course of that conduct Mr. Betts was killed,” he said.

Swain conceded that Betts was killed during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, but said the felony was attempted robbery, not the attempted sale of marijuana.

Kaufman, noting that he was bound by law to view the evidence in a light that was most favorable to the prosecution, ruled that the issue should be settled by a jury. He set the case for trial May 27.

Carriker’s mother, Jennifer Winn, announced her candidacy for governor in January, saying her son’s case prompted her to enter the race. Carriker is free on $500,000 bond.

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

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