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Multiple-defendant homicide cases on the rise in Sedgwick County

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, April 19, 2014, at 11:03 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at 12 p.m.

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Multiple-defendant homicide cases

Since 2010, 23 homicide cases have been filed in Sedgwick County District Court involving multiple defendants. Eleven such cases were filed in 2013. Here is a summary of the cases and the status of the defendants.

DateVictimSuspect
2/25/2010Yadira Villa, 16, killed in 6000 block of E. Lincoln in car crash during chase involving gangsJuvenile, 16, charged with second-degree murder
Juvenile, 16, charged with voluntary manslaughter
4/26/2010Otis Bolden, 21, shot at 1157 S. Webb by group seeking revenge for an alleged rapeKevin Brown, 22, found guilty of first-degree murder
Quartez Brown, 19, found guilty of first-degree murder
Kiara Williams, 19, found guilty of first-degree murder
Jalessa Bonner, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
6/20/2010Miguel Andrade, 13, shot at front door at 2412 N. Jackson by gang members firing at the wrong houseEli Bentacourt, 19, found guilty of first-degree murder
Alejandro Bentacourt, 26, found guilty of first-degree murder
Edward Laurel, 16, found guilty of first-degree murder
Gregory Patton, 19, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
10/19/2010Luke M German, 22, beaten to death at 3952 Roseberry during argument over video football gameBen Redgate, 22, found guilty of second-degree murder
Chris Redgate, 26, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
2/2/2011Sean Chris Putnam, 41, killed at 2021 S. Waco by roommates who feared him and wanted him to leaveMichael Williams, 37, found guilty of first-degree murder
Debbie Weiss, 48, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter
5/31/2011John Delgado, 24, shot at 1501 N. West in apartment complex parking lot during drug dealShannon Hutchinson, 37, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter
Patrick Unrein, 34, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter
7/17/2011John Tolliver, 47, beaten to death at 1456 N. Kansas after dispute with ex-girlfriend over dogSam Sims, 40, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter
Nelson Glover, 32, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter
12/14/2011Markez Phillips, 19, shot to death in home at 3002 E. Locust during robbery while visiting girlfriendMalek Brown, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder
Daniel Dupree, 21, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
Francis Dupree, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
Nicholas Dupree, 27, found guilty of first-degree murder
Reginald Dupree, 19, found guilty of first-degree murder
12/30/2011Kao Mike Saechao, 19, shot outside the Bai Wei restaurant at 1845 S. Rock during gang confrontationSteven M. Louis, 21, found guilty of first-degree murder
Dung Nguyen, 23, charged with first-degree murder
7/9/2012Ronald Wilson, 24, shot during robbery at his home in the Interdale Apartments at 916 N. BroadwayMatthew McDaniel, 22, found guilty of first-degree murder
Kendall D. Gentry, 23, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery
Christopher M. Brown, 29, found not guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of attempted aggravated robbery
8/4/2012Pheng Xiong, 35, throat cut in his home at 830 S. Erie by Asian Boys gang membersCaesar K Louis, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
Jerry Thach, 23, found guilty of first-degree murder
Vat Sana Khamvongsa, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
1/2/2013Shawn F Rhone, 42, shot during an attempted drug robbery in the 700 block of Northeast ParkwayMilo Jamar Brown, 21, found guilty of first-degree murder
Shawn Malik Brown, 20, found guilty of first-degree murder
Jerome Hakien Brown, 19, found guilty of first-degree murder
Myron L Peters, 19, charged with first-degree murder, later dismissed
1/3/2013Adji Tampone, 29, shot to death in his home at 732 S. Rutan over drug debtShawn Malik Brown, 20, found guilty of first-degree murder
Jerome Hakien Brown, 19, found guilty of first-degree murder
1/29/2013Jeremiah Doby, 26, shot in the 1700 block of East 23rd during attempted robberyJuvenile, 16, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
Juvenile, 16, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
1/11/2013Shawn M Lindsey, 34, injected with lethal dose of meth; body found at K-96 and HillsideDang Sean, 32, charged with first-degree murder
Jason Jones, 37, charged with first-degree murder
Justin Jones, 37, charged with first-degree murder
Anthony Garza, 28, pleaded guilty to kidnapping
Phouthalaksa Phomphihak, 32, charged with aggravated kidnapping
Aaron Stricker, 27, charged with aggravated kidnapping
3/31/2013Jordan A Turner, 19, shot to death in a field in 2600 block of S. 127th Street EastEbony Nguyen, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
Kristofer Wright, 20, found guilty of first-degree murder
Eric Jackson, 21, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder conspiracy
Emmalynn Spencer, 18, not charged
9/8/2013Carl Cooper, 32, stabbed in College Hill Park after breaking into carTrenton Custer, 34, charged with first-degree murder
Kyle Carter, 30, charged with first-degree murder
4/18/2013Donald Betts, 33, shot during marijuana sale/robbery at 446 N. EmporiaKyle Beltz, 21, found guilty of second-degree murder
Kyler Carriker, 22, charged with first-degree murder
Lorenzo Spires, 20, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
John Carter, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
Dennis O. Haynes III, 19, charged with first-degree murder
Juvenile, 17, charged with first-degree murder
11/6/2013Eric Salazar, 23, shot at 1835 N. Broadway during argument over moneyJeremy Anspach, 37, charged with second-degree murder
Manuel Rivas, 24, charged with second-degree murder
11/13/2013Paul Danny Khmabounheuang, 27, shot during robbery at 1452 N. HolyokeOrville T. Smith, 19, charged with first-degree murder
Dijon L. Thomas, 20, charged with first-degree murder
Corey Pollard Jr., 21, charged with first-degree murder
Dallas Guy, 20, charged with first-degree murder
11/15/2013Melissa Bluml, 53, shot to death outside her home at 5932 E. 109th NorthKisha Schaberg, 35, charged with capital murder
Anthony J. Bluml, 18, charged with capital murder
Andrew W. Ellington, 18, charged with capital murder
Braden M. Smith, 18, charged with capital murder
11/15/2013Roger Bluml,48, shot to death outside his home at 5932 E. 109th NorthKisha Schaberg, 35, charged with capital murder
Anthony J. Bluml, 18, charged with capital murder
Andrew W. Ellington, 18, charged with capital murder
Braden M. Smith, 18, charged with capital murder
2/21/2014Efren Antonio Villarreal-Alvarado, 44, shot during robbery while sitting in pickup at Santana Concrete at 3665 W. McCormickDeon Nolan Hale, 40, charged first-degree murder
Donnie Lalonde, 33, charged first-degree murder

Vat Khamvongsa, 24, said he was tagging along with a childhood friend on Aug. 4, 2012, when he found himself among a group of Asian Boy gang members. They forced their way into a home at 830 S. Erie, and one of them cut Pheng Xiong’s throat. Khamvongsa was charged with first-degree murder.

Emmalynn Spencer, 18, spent the night of March 30, 2013, with four other young adults partying in Old Town. Early the next morning they drove to a field southeast of Wichita where one of them shot former South High football player Jordan Turner to death. Spencer was arrested and released without being charged.

Last year prosecutors filed charges in 11 homicide cases involving multiple murder suspects – as many as in the previous three years combined – and many of those cases are now working their way through the court system. Defendants in two of those cases are scheduled to stand trial this week.

Among the first issues to be resolved in a multiple-suspect case is determining the charges. In a court system largely designed for one-suspect cases, the multiple-defendant cases present unique challenges for a variety of participants, from the deputies keeping the defendants separated in jail to the victim-witness coordinators.

“In a four-defendant case, a witness might get 20 or 30 subpoenas – even more,” said retired District Judge Clark Owens. “All kinds of issues come up when you get multiple defendants. If you try them all together, then you’ve got to make room in the courtroom for that many defendants and that many lawyers. Your jury selection doubles with two defendants and triples with three.”

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett did not want to discuss specifics of the charging decisions in the Khamvongsa and Spencer cases. But in general, he said, a criminal charge cannot be based solely on a person’s presence at a crime scene. He said a slight change in the facts can make a difference.

“Bottom line: Each charging decision in each case depends on the facts and the evidence,” he said.

Bennett said multiple-defendant cases can be especially hard on victims and witnesses, who may be subjected to cross-examination by several defense lawyers when they come to court, or who may have to come to court several times to testify. He said that can cause problems for prosecutors.

“Even the best witness will use different words or explain what they saw or heard in some slightly different way each time they testify,” he said. “This gives the later attorneys more fuel for cross-examination.”

In Sedgwick County District Court, defendants in multiple-defendant cases filed since 2010 have not fared well. Of the 21 defendants who have gone to trial, 18 were convicted of first-degree murder, two were convicted of second-degree murder and one was acquitted.

Of the rest, 19 settled their cases through plea bargains, which typically saw them pleading guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder. One case was dismissed by prosecutors and five of the suspects were charged in juvenile court.

Cases against two dozen of the defendants are now pending. The group includes four defendants who are charged with capital murder in the Nov. 15 shooting deaths of Melissa and Roger Bluml of Valley Center.

Most of the defendants who were charged with murder never actually killed anyone – at least not in the literal sense. They were charged with aiding and abetting a killer, or with taking part in an inherently dangerous felony that resulted in someone’s death.

Defense lawyer Richard Ney said aiding and abetting requires the defendant to have the same intention as the primary suspect.

“It’s basically guilt by association” he said. “Aiding and abetting requires that the defendants have the same intent.”

The felony murder law, by contrast, requires no intent, Ney said. It only requires that a person be committing an inherently dangerous felony that results in a death. The Kansas Legislature has developed a list of inherently dangerous felonies that includes arson, kidnapping, aggravated burglary and the distribution of drugs.

Owens said the felony murder law may seem harsh at times, but serves a needed legal purpose. If four hooded bandits go into a liquor store and one of them kills the clerk, he said, it’s possible that none of the witnesses will be able to positively identify the shooter. Under the felony murder law, he said, a positive identification isn’t needed to convict all four suspects of the clerk’s murder.

One person who thinks that law is misapplied is Jennifer Winn, who decided to run for Kansas governor after her son was accused of murder.

Kyler Carriker was one of six people charged in the April 19, 2013, death of Ronald Betts, who was shot to death during a drug transaction at 446 N. Emporia when one of three would-be buyers pulled out a gun and began firing. Carriker, who arranged the deal, was seriously wounded.

“He introduced someone to Ronald Betts, and because of that he needs to go to prison for 25 years?” Winn asked.

She said the case has the potential to send all six defendants to prison for life.

“Let me get this straight. Six people can go to prison for a total of 200 years for one person’s actions? I don’t know how it got to this level.”

Carriker is scheduled to stand trial in May.

In trials and court hearings to date, witnesses have offered no evidence that suggests that Khamvongsa or Spencer were part of any murder plot. But there are differences in their cases.

Testimony showed that the three people charged with murder in Turner’s death – Ebony Nguyen, Kristopher Wright and Eric Jackson – all discussed plans to kill Turner before Wright actually shot him. There was no evidence that Spencer took part in the conversations.

There was evidence that Khamvongsa was under the influence of alcohol and was looking for trouble when he helped his co-defendants – Jerry Thach and Caesar Louis – break into the victim’s house. A fourth suspect, who used the nickname “Joker,” has not been arrested.

The suspects in that case could have been charged with felony murder – committing an aggravated burglary that resulted in someone’s death – but they were instead charged with premeditated first-degree murder. Both crimes carry life sentences.

Khamvongsa pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and agreed to testify against his co-defendants. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Khamvongsa’s lawyer, Brad Sylvester, said in court papers that his client never met Louis or Joker until the night the murder happened.

“He was not part of the gang they were in, and he was not trying to join the gang.” he said.

Sylvester said his client heard the other men talking about seeking revenge from Xiong after an earlier disagreement at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. When he helped break into the victim’s home, he said, he was expecting a fight.

“He did not contemplate that there would be a murder, thinking only that this was going to be some sort of minor confrontation, and possibly being involved with beating up the victim,” Sylvester wrote.

Sylvester said his client was shocked when one of the men asked the victim if he had any last words before cutting his throat.

“Vat was sickened and somewhat in shock, because he could hardly believe what was happening,“ Sylvester said.

He said Khamvongsa later went to police and told them the whole story.

“Basically, without Vat, this case would still remain unsolved,” he said. “No one would be brought to justice, and there would be no closure for the victim’s family.”

One of the defendants scheduled to stand trial this week is Jason A. Jones, one of three defendants charged with murder in the meth-injection death of Shawn Lindsey, whose body was found near K-96 and Hillside on Jan. 16, 2013. The other is Kyle Carter, one of two defendants is charged in the death of Carl Cooper, who was stabbed to death on Sept. 8, 2013, after breaking into a car near College Hill Park.

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

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