Man convicted of murder in 2011 strangling case

06/14/2013 11:51 AM

08/08/2014 10:17 AM

A man was convicted Friday of strangling a Wichita woman in 2011 while on parole for murdering a woman in Lawrence more than two decades earlier.

A Sedgwick County jury deliberated less than four hours before convicting Tyrone Walker, 47, of first-degree murder in the death of Janis Sanders, 44. Her nude body was found between an abandoned house and a small business in the 1100 block of South Washington on June 4, 2011.

During his trial, jurors were told that Walker was convicted in Douglas County of second-degree murder in the death of Tamara Baker, 25, who was reported missing on Oct. 31, 1989. Her body was found six months later in a wooded area of Lawrence. Walker was sentenced to 12 years to life in prison on that charge and was paroled to Wichita in February 2011.

Prosecutor Kim Parker told the jury in her closing arguments that Walker’s DNA was found under Sanders’ fingernails and on the shoestrings that were used to strangle her. Defense lawyer Steve Mank said Walker admitted to being with Sanders two days before she was killed, but he said prosecutors had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Walker killed her.

Some of the strongest testimony against Walker came from an El Dorado Correctional Facility inmate who said he and Walker were being held in the Sedgwick County Jail when Walker described to him how he strangled Sanders.

Prosecutors said the inmate, Thomas L. Wilson, wrote a letter to Detective Tim Relph in November 2012 that included details of the crime and an offer to help investigators in exchange for a reduction in Wilson’s armed robbery sentence. The letter mentioned that Sanders had been strangled by two shoelaces tied together and that a kitchen knife had been stuck into the ground next to her body – details that only the killer would have known.

When he was called to the stand as a witness on Thursday, Wilson all but denied writing the letter.

“Is that your name?” Parker asked him as she showed him the letter.

“Yes,” Wilson replied.

“Is that your inmate number?”

“Yes.”

“Is that your handwriting?”

“It looks like it.”

“And did you write that letter?”

“I don’t remember.”

Wilson told Parker that he smokes so much marijuana in prison that he has trouble with his memory.

“How did you know about this knife being in the ground?” Parker asked at one point.

“I don’t remember.”

“You knew that there were shoelaces used, and there was a knife. How did you know that?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Did you get a deal or sentence reduction from the district attorney’s office?”

“No.”

“Is that why you don’t remember?”

“No. I don’t remember ’cause I smoke weed. I did lot of drugs in my life, and I don’t remember things.”

Relph told the jury that Wilson told him during an interview in prison that Walker said he strangled Sanders after she shunned his sexual advances.

Walker will be sentenced Aug. 1 by District Judge Joseph Bribiesca.

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