Roanoke Court is a modest cul-de-sac tucked away on the north edge of Newton, tethered to Old Highway 81 by a curving, rut-filled street.
It’s always been a quiet place to call home, longtime residents say.
“But this week it’s been really quiet,” said a woman who didn’t want to give her name.
They’ve been stunned into silence by the murders of a young woman and her 4-year-old daughter in the duplex in the southwest corner of the cul-de-sac. Alyssa Runyon, 24, was strangled, Newton police say, while Zaylynn Paz was stabbed to death.
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“It’s surreal,” said Lynette Jost, who lives across the street from where Runyon and her younger daughter were killed. “The thought that they could just knock on the doors and.…”
Authorities have said the killings were not random. The suspect in the case, Keith Lane Hawkins, knew Runyon and she voluntarily allowed him into her duplex.
From what they can tell at this point, Harvey County Attorney David Yoder said, Runyon and her daughter were killed late Monday night or early Tuesday morning. Hawkins, 19, left the area in Runyon’s vehicle and drove south to a family member’s residence in Texas, where he was arrested late Tuesday afternoon.
Toys scattered around
“It’s a really nice neighborhood,” Austin Coulter said of the cul-de-sac where he lives with his fiancee and child. “Neighbors kind of keep to themselves. They like to do their own thing.”
With two young children, Runyon fit right in, Coulter said. Runyon’s 6-year-old daughter wasn’t at home at the time of the killings, according to authorities.
Numerous children live on Roanoke Court, and they feel so comfortable they routinely leave their toys down at the playground at the end of block so they can resume playing the next day.
“There are lots of toys just scattered around,” Coulter said with a smile.
It’s a quiet street, he said, until the kids come out to play at night. Then it becomes a boisterous place.
Hawkins waived extradition to Kansas and on Friday made his first appearance in Harvey County District Court, where he learned he has been charged with capital murder and two counts of first-degree murder. His bond has been set at $2.5 million.
The death penalty “is something that is still on the table,” Yoder said.
Yoder said he would not go into the nature of Hawkins’ relationship with Runyon. He has a conviction in McPherson County dating back several years for aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
Authorities received word that Hawkins had moved to Harvey County earlier this year. Because he is a registered sex offender, Hawkins was supposed to notify authorities that he had moved into the county and provide his address.
But Hawkins never did that, and in June Harvey County issued a warrant for his arrest for failing to register as a sex offender, Yoder said. Law enforcement officers never arrested him — because they couldn’t find him.
Whether Runyon and Paz would still be alive if Hawkins would have been arrested in June is “a million-dollar question” now, Yoder said.
A chance for closure
Family and friends are left to pick up the pieces.
There is much they’d like to say, relatives said Friday, but now is not the time. They don’t want to jeopardize the investigation and legal process.
While Runyon had lived on Roanoke Court for only a couple of months, she had lived in Newton as a child on multiple occasions. She came to know many people in town — as evidenced, relatives said, in the more than 100 people who converged Friday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Runyon and Zaylynn.
“The turnout was great,” said Penny Cypret, Runyon’s aunt.
She came down for the vigil from her home in Kansas City because she won’t be able to make it for the memorial service on Wednesday.
“This gives me a chance for closure … to pay my respects,” Cypret said.
Runyon lived with her for a while as a child, and Cypret clings to those memories now.
“She was a wonderful girl,” Cypret said. “She’s got a voice you wouldn’t believe.… She could belt it out, I’m telling you. I used to make her sing for me.”
Zaylynn had her mother’s joy-filled spirit, other relatives said. She had a habit of wearing her shoes on the wrong feet.
When one relative told her recently she had done it again, she responded, “I know. Don’t worry. It will be all right.”
He’s hanging on to those words, he said before Friday's vigil, as they navigate the pain of what happened last week on Roanoke Court.