Wichita man draws 24 1/2 year prison term for 2011 shooting

10/17/2013 11:16 AM

10/17/2013 11:29 AM

A Wichita man was sentenced Thursday to 24 1/2 years in prison for killing one man and wounding another in a shooting that occurred nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

Travis Knighten, 21, was convicted by a jury in May of second-degree murder and aggravated battery for killing Mario Brown and wounding Carl Meridy Jr.

Prosecutors said Knighten fired eight shots from a .40-caliber handgun at a group of people who had gathered at an after-hours party at 13th and Hillside on May 7, 2011. Witnesses said the shots were fired from an SUV as it drove through a parking lot containing at least 50 people.

In imposing the maximum sentence, District Judge Terry Pullman rejected the notion that the shots were not intended for the victims.

“Out of those eight (shots), Mr. Meridy was hit twice, and Mr. Brown was hit four times,” he said. “If it was just random, wild shooting, I think more than two people would have been hit.

“By the intervention of God or mere luck, Mr. Meridy was not killed. He easily could have been.”

Defense lawyer Gary Owens said his client has always maintained that he did not fire the shots. Prosecutor Mandee Schauf said the evidence proved otherwise.

“Mr. Knighten may remain in denial, but a jury in this community disagreed,” she said. “The defendant should be given the maximum sentence for his actions.”

In a brief statement before he was sentenced, Knighten expressed remorse to Brown’s relatives and thanked his own family for supporting him.

“My family is also losing a loved one in this tragedy,” he said.

Toya Brown, Mario Brown’s aunt, told the judge that Brown left behind two young children.

“It’s been two years, and we’re still mourning the loss,” she said.

Knighten was convicted largely on the testimony of a witness who committed suicide six weeks before his trial began. Because the witness, Arthur Gary, was not available to testify, Gary’s preliminary hearing testimony was read to the jury.

Gary testified at that hearing that he was driving the SUV when Knighten opened fire on two men in the parking lot who were giving him intimidating looks.

Gary’s body was found on the banks of the Arkansas River in April, and a coroner’s report said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Pullman told jurors that Gary had died, but he did not tell them the cause of death.

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