Anson Bernhardt was 30 minutes into an interview with detectives when he realized they weren’t buying his story.
Bernhardt had told some people that his girlfriend, Amber Kostner, stormed out of a bar the night of Sept. 30 after the two had argued. But he told others that the argument occurred in the home they shared near Central and West.
Sedgwick County sheriff’s Detective Justin Antle pressed Bernhardt about the inconsistencies.
“If something happened, you know, now’s the time to talk about it,” Antle said.
Bernhardt stared at the floor with hands in his lap, and after 90 seconds of awkward silence responded.
“I beat the crap out of her and dumped her body,” he said.
Bernhardt’s video taped interview with detectives was played to a jury Tuesday during the first day of testimony in Bernhardt’s first-degree murder trial in Sedgwick County District Court.
He is charged with kicking Amber Kostner to death and leaving her body at the side of the road across from Campus High School in the 2100 block of West 55th Street South.
In his opening statement to the jury Tuesday, prosecutor Tyler Roush said Bernhardt, 42, and Kostner, 38, discussed breaking up as they attended a birthday party and went to a bar on the night of Sept. 30. On the way to their home, Roush said, Bernhardt pulled over on a darkened street near their home.
"He got out, pulled her out by her hair onto street, then kicked her and beat her and stomped her 20 to 30 times with steel-tipped boots," Roush said.
Bernhardt put Kostner in the back seat and drove off, Roush said. Because she was making gurgling sounds in the back of the car, Roush said, Bernhardt stopped and moved Kostner to the trunk. He then drove to 55th Street South and left her by the side of the road.
Defense lawyer Steve Osburn said in his opening statement that his client never denied killing Kostner, but he said Bernhardt was not guilty of first-degree murder.
"That’s why we’re having this trial," Osburn said. "Was there intent to kill and was there premeditation kill? You’re going to hear how this occurred, but what you won’t hear is ‘I planned to murder her.’”
On the morning of Oct. 1, Roush said, Bernhardt tried to cover his tracks by calling some of Kostner’s friends and relatives to say that she was missing. He stuck to the story during the first half-hour of his interview with detectives later that night.
Antle said was bluffing during the interview when he told Bernhardt that the car he was driving that night had been photographed by a security camera at the high school. When Bernhardt finally admitted his involvement, he described in detail how he lost his temper and dragged Kostner out of the car just south of the intersection of Central and Knight.
“How many times would you say you kicked her?” Antle asked at one point.
“I don’t know; 20, 30,” Bernhardt replied.
“How many kicks you think before you think she got knocked out? Five?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“What made you stop?”
Bernhardt didn’t answer.
The trial resumes Wednesday in the courtroom of District Judge William Woolley.