EL DORADO — Clara Biediger remembered leaning over the body of her daughter, Emily Sander, and making a promise before she buried her.
"When I kissed her good-bye, I promised her we'd get him. And we did. We got him today," Biediger said Friday, minutes after a jury convicted Israel Mireles of Sander's rape and capital murder.
The jury of six men and six women listened to four days of evidence before returning its verdict in about an hour, 15 minutes.
Mireles, 26, fled to Mexico after Sander's death in November 2007. Under the extradition agreement that returned him to Kansas, he cannot face the death penalty. But Mireles will be looking at life in prison without the possibility of parole when he returns to face Butler County District Judge David Ricke for sentencing March 31.
"He won't ever hurt anyone else," Biediger said.
The jury's quick verdict suggested it put little credence in Mireles' claim that an unknown man tried to rob him and murdered Sander, an 18-year-old Butler Community College student, early on Nov. 24, 2007.
Mireles took the stand earlier in the day and testified that he and the man wrestled over a drug deal at the El Dorado Motel. Mireles, who had been staying at the motel for a month, said he went for a drive to cool down, and returned to find Sander lying in a blood-splashed room.
"So the guy came and attacked you, tried to get your money, and you just leave him there with Emily and all your stuff?" Kansas Attorney General Steve Six asked on cross-examination.
"I just left," Mireles said.
"Did you tell anyone when you were coming back... or if you were coming back?" Six pressed.
"No," Mireles said.
"This mystery guy didn't know if you were going to get the police... or go to the Retreat (bar) and get some friends" and return?
"No," Mireles said.
Six also went over other details of Mireles' story. Mireles said he was so panicked he grabbed a knife that had Sander's blood on it —"the murder weapon," Six called it — and Sander's body, put them in the trunk of his car and later disposed of the body.
Mireles said that was correct.
"Does this make any sense to you?" Six asked.
"None of it makes any sense to me," Mireles said.
The savage abuse Sander suffered in her death didn't make sense to Six.
"Why someone would do this to someone like Emily is hard to figure out," Six said after the verdict.
Six told the jury in his closing arguments: "You need to step back and think about your common sense. You get to evaluate whether that's a credible story."
Biediger described the shock of the senseless crime.
"I'm still in shock about how she died," Biediger said. "I'm still in shock over how brutal it was."
During her closing arguments, public defender Melanie Freeman-Johnson said the evidence against Mireles came from a contaminated crime scene. She pointed out that others walked through the motel room before police arrived and that Mireles himself contaminated the crime scene when he removed the murder weapon and Sander's body, packed his clothes and left town.
"He panicked," she said.
Argued Six: "It's not evidence of contamination. It's evidence of guilt."