Crime & Courts

August 29, 2010

In Kansas, far more men kill women than vice versa

When the body of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt was found near Great Bend last week, it apparently marked another in a series of high-profile cases involving young women who have died violently at the hands of men. Above, a crowd gathers for tonight's vigil for Alicia in Great Bend.

When the body of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt was found near Great Bend last week, it apparently marked another in a series of high-profile cases involving young women who have died violently at the hands of men.

Crime statistics show that young women in Kansas are far more likely than men to be murdered by a member of the opposite sex.

Several of the recent high-profile cases prompted new state laws that were designed to make the state safer.

But Kathy Williams, director of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center, said the new laws and all the precautions in the world can't ensure complete safety.

"Perpetrators always look for opportunities," she said.

With certain crimes, she said, women are more vulnerable than men.

"Women are much more likely to be victims of intimate-partner violence; that is just how our society is."

No charges have been filed in Alicia's death, but the case resulted in the arrest Friday of Adam Longoria, 36, who was charged with stealing a Ford Explorer from the Great Bend company where he worked. Friday morning authorities had asked for the public's help in finding Longoria, calling him a "person of interest" in Alicia's death.

What statistics show

Although most crime statistics don't include information about age and gender, the FBI's supplemental homicide reports have extracted detailed demographic information from more than 2,000 Kansas homicides.

From 1985 through 2006, the figures show, Kansas recorded 63 homicides where the victims were females ages 12 to 21. The killers listed in those cases included 42 men and one woman. The gender of the killer was listed as unknown in 20 of the homicides.

By comparison, there were 157 male homicide victims in that age group during the same time period. Those cases included 120 where the suspect was a male, six where the suspect was a female and 31 where the gender of the killer wasn't known.

The 42 male suspects charged with killing young women ranged in age from 14 to 46. The average age was 25.

Many of the state's most notorious homicides involved victims who were girls or young women. Some examples:

* July 1, 1993: Stephanie Schmidt , a 20-year-old Pittsburg State University student from Leawood, left a bar near Pittsburg with Donald Ray Gideon, who had served 10 years in prison for raping a Labette County Community College student. Gideon, 31, later admitted that he raped and strangled Schmidt.

The crime resulted in the 1994 Sexually Violent Predator Act, which allows the state to keep some sex offenders locked up indefinitely after their prison terms expire.

* March 30, 1996: Carrie Williams , a 20-year-old Pittsburg State University junior from Parsons, was found dead in her apartment. Gary Kleypas, 40, who was on parole for a Missouri murder conviction, was convicted of the murder and became the first person to be sentenced to death under the state's current death penalty law.

* June 9, 2006: Chelsea Brooks , a 14-year-old recent graduate of Allison Middle School, was 9 months pregnant when she disappeared from Skate South at 1900 E. MacArthur. Her body was found less than a week later in a Butler County field.

Elgin "Ray Ray" Robinson, 20, was convicted of offering $500 to have Chelsea killed to prevent her from giving birth to his baby.

Everett Gentry, 17, was convicted of being a go-between in the crime, and Theodore "Ted" Burnett, 49, was convicted of strangling Chelsea.

The case resulted in the passing of Alexa's Law, which draws its name from Chelsea's unborn child and allows prosecutors to bring double charges against a person who attacks a pregnant woman and harms the fetus.

* Jan. 5, 2007: Jodi Sanderholm , a 19-year-old Cowley County student, was abducted, raped and strangled, and her body was found several days in a wildlife area near Arkansas City. Justin Eugene Thurber, 23, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

The case prompted the Kansas Legislature to pass "Jodi's Law," which makes it easier for law enforcement officers to pursue stalking charges. Thurber had been accused of stalking female students in the college's dance team, of which Jodi was a member.

* June 2, 2007: Kelsey Smith , an 18-year-old Overland Park woman, was abducted for the parking lot of a Target store, and her body was found four days later in a Missouri park. Edward Hall, 26, pleaded guilty to capital murder to avoid the death penalty.

The case prompted a law that makes it easier for police to get tracking information from cell phone companies. Kelsey's parents said her body would have been found much sooner had it been easier for police to get Smith's cell phone records.

Society's expectations

Williams said society may be partly to blame for some of the violence against women.

"Unfortunately, we socialize men to be big and strong and not show emotion," she said.

To counter the tendency toward aggression and violence, she said, men need to learn to love and care in the broad sense, and they need to learn to respect the dignity of others.

As long as society fails to "discourage all these violent images of men, we're still swimming upstream," she said.

Another point she wanted to make is this: "Too often we look at what we think victims did wrong and not what the perpetrator did wrong."

To get at the underlying factors that lead to violent crimes, she said, "we need to be talking to the men who are potentially going to be committing crimes like these. That, I believe, is the only way we are going to end it."

Williams said parents today probably are more concerned about the safety of their daughters than the safety of their sons. But, she said, "the reality is we need to watch out for all our kids."

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