Detective Rick Craig stood at a construction site of what would later be a soccer field in the brisk Kansas cold of December. It was 25 degrees and a 14 mph wind whistled around 3 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2000. Craig shuddered as he walked up the makeshift path to four naked bodies, all lying in the snow with gunshots to the back of the head.
"I walked up on that and I wasn't cold anymore," Craig said this week.
A decade later, Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston still is working on the case of Jonathan and Reginald Carr.
The Carrs were convicted and sentenced to death in five killings and the assault of a woman who lived to tell about the torture she and her friends endured.
Foulston's legal brief on the Carrs' appeal of the conviction and the death penalty sat in front of her at her desk on Tuesday. It's due to the Kansas Supreme Court next month.
Foulston said she still gets a churning feeling in her stomach when she remembers the crimes.
"My recollection of it is like it was yesterday," she said. "It was the most horrible and frightening experience."
Wichita awoke that morning to learn of its second quadruple killing in eight days.
Foulston didn't believe the call she received at home about multiple bodies, just after celebrating her 50th birthday.
"I said, 'that happened last week,' " Foulston said. "I could still remember being at that house, and seeing what those poor people suffered through."
The 911 dispatcher said, "No, there's been another."
Sales of home security systems jumped in those days before Christmas.
It was a fear based more on the shock of two horrible crimes than a real threat. The Carrs were locked away in jail by noon that same day.
A week of crime
Foulston remembered having to tell the parents of Heather Muller what had happened.
Muller had worked at the law office of Foulston's husband, Steve. Muller's parents couldn't find her that night and had gone to the home where her friends lived, looking for her.
Muller, 25, was one of those left dead in the field. So were Jason Befort, 26, Aaron Sander, 29, and Brad Heyka, 27.
Soon, police would piece together two other crimes.
On Dec. 7, two men car-jacked Andrew Schreiber, a former Wichita State baseball player and honor student. He was forced at gunpoint to drive around east Wichita, withdrawing money from ATMs before being released unharmed. His captors fired a bullet into his car tire.
On Dec. 11, Ann Walenta, a cellist with the Wichita Symphony, was critically shot during a carjacking attempt. She died of her wounds on Jan. 2, 2001.
Bullets would tie those crimes to the same gun used to kill the four others.
Death penalty cases get an automatic appeal, and the cases have proven a slippery slope in Kansas.
The state's highest court has overturned every death penalty case since the state reinstated a law allowing for capital punishment in 1994.
No one has been executed in Kansas since 1965.
The death penalty has been put on hold several times during the eight years since a jury convicted the Carrs and condemned them to execution in November 2002.
That has pushed back deadlines for filing briefs. The Carrs' appellate public defenders filed lengthy arguments early this year.
The public defenders are arguing that the brothers should have been tried separately instead of together and that the brother who didn't do the shooting shouldn't face death.
According to the testimony of the surviving woman, the shots came one after another, indicating there was one shooter. Jonathan Carr, his lawyer is arguing, watched his brother kill the four victims, according to the briefs.
Foulston hopes this will be the first death penalty case that passes the constitutional test.
"No one is entitled to a perfect trial, only a fair one," Foulston said. "But this came close to being a perfect trial, in terms of legal issues and being resolved and how we went about trying the case."
Foulston pointed to the jury, which found Jonathan Carr not guilty of Walenta's killing.
"It shows the jury just didn't write it off — they carefully considered the cases separately," she said.
Foulston said that care by the jury could be a key factor in upholding the convictions and sentence.
As a veteran homicide detective, Craig hopes people remember the crimes as being solved with the help of concerned citizens who weren't afraid to get involved.
"That's something you don't always get," Craig said.
When police put out a description of a Dodge pickup, a man spotted it in a Wichita apartment complex and notified police.
That led to the arrest of Jonathan Carr early that morning.
When a woman in north Wichita heard a description of the shirt one of the assailants wore, she called police. A man fitting that description — a friend of her daughter — had spent the night at her house.
Jonathan Carr was still at the house when she called. He ran when he saw police and was arrested after a foot chase through the neighborhood.
"I wish we had more cases where that happened," Craig said. "Crimes would be solved a lot more quickly and the cases would be stronger."
The surviving woman was saved by a plastic butterfly hair clip. The bullet to the back of her head shattered the clip, which kept it from killing her.
The woman played dead and waited for the killers to leave before hiking, naked and bleeding, through the snow to a nearby house for help.
"If you don't believe in God, you have to ask if He didn't help keep her alive and help her across the field," Craig said.
Foulston speaks of the case the same way.
"There was like a divine providence in all of this," she said.
After the trial, the surviving woman would marry Schreiber, the former WSU baseball player who was also kidnapped by the brothers. They moved from Wichita. Schreiber went to work in law enforcement.
"Sometimes, I will take a family vacation and go visit them," Craig said.
"We don't talk about what happened," Craig added. "But I am amazed by her strength. She is so strong. I think she's great. She's an angel."