One of two men arrested in the Sept. 8 stabbing death of a burglary suspect in College Hill Park had no idea at the time that his co-defendant had stabbed the victim, a defense lawyer told a jury Tuesday.
Kyle A. Carter, 31, is standing trial this week for first-degree murder in the death of Carl Cooper, 32, who died several hours after collapsing on a doorstep in the 300 block of South Clifton about 3:30 a.m. Carter and his co-defendant, Trenton Custer, 34, are both charged with first-degree murder.
Wichita police said Carter and Custer were acting as vigilantes on the morning of Sept. 8 when Cooper broke into a BMW that was parked in the driveway of a home the men were visiting in the 400 block of South Clifton. Carter chased the suspect on foot, police said, while Custer went after him in his pickup. One of the men stabbed Custer three times in the lower back during a confrontation near the park’s swimming pool.
Prosecutor Justen Phelps said in his opening statement that a knife with Cooper’s blood on it was found in Custer’s pickup when he was stopped by police a few minutes after the stabbing. Phelps said traces of the victim’s blood were later detected in the cuticles of Carter’s left hand.
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Phelps told the jury that Carter later bragged in a telephone call about his role in the confrontation.
“ ‘I saw a black man breaking into a BMW, and I punished him’ – those are the defendant’s words about what he did on Sept. 8," Phelps said. "The only difference is that he didn’t use ‘black male.’ He used the n-word.”
Defense lawyer Quentin Pittman said in his opening statement that his client had nothing to do with the stabbing,
He said that Custer, driving his pickup, was able to catch Cooper before Carter even reached the park. As Carter approached the park, he said, he saw Custer and Cooper fighting before Cooper fell to the ground.
Not realizing that Cooper had been stabbed, Pittman said, Carter ran up and took two swings at Cooper, missing with his right hand and connecting with his left.
Pittman said if his client bragged about his role in the incident, he was talking about beating the victim, not stabbing him.