Police give new details on homicide victim found in shallow grave

WICHITA — Police this morning said they are holding two people suspected of first-degree murder in the December killing of a 41-year-old Wichita man whose body was unearthed Wednesday by investigators in the Oaklawn neighborhood.

Police Lt. Ken Landwehr identified the victim as Sean "Chris" Putnam, who had worked as a roofer.

Investigators think Putnam was killed in late December at a home at 2021 S. Waco where he lived with two roommates who are now suspects in his death.

Police are awaiting autopsy results to help determine how he died, said Landwehr, head of the homicide unit.

It's possible the death involved an argument; there had been a rumor that the roommates argued over money and drugs, Landwehr said.

Police responded to a report of a disturbance at the South Waco home on Dec. 21, and no one was arrested, he said. The disturbance involved Putnam and the man now suspected of killing him, Landwehr said.

The two people are being held in the Sedgwick County Jail — a 37-year-old man already being held on suspicion of auto theft and stolen property, involving Putnam's vehicle, and a 48-year-old woman who turned herself in Wednesday evening, Landwehr said.

Both will be held on suspicion of first-degree murder as the investigation continues at the South Waco and Oaklawn homes.

On Friday, investigators plan to present their case to prosecutors, who will determine whether charges will be filed.

Putnam, who was estranged from his wife, had not been reported missing, Landwehr said.

The investigation began Monday with a Kansas parole officer passing a tip to police that someone was driving a car whose owner had been murdered. Kansas parole officers found the car, a black 2006 Dodge Charger, in the 2900 block of George Washington Boulevard.

Police looked for Putnam on Monday and Tuesday and interviewed his relatives and friends.

Investigators then received a tip on where Putnam's body was buried. The tip pointed to a third person who was not involved in the killing but who assisted in burying the body behind a house in the 3300 block of East Oaklawn Drive, near K-15 and 47th Street South, Landwehr said.

That third person is not being held, and it will be up to prosecutors whether he will be charged, Landwehr said.

The recovery of the body — in a grave less than 2 feet deep behind a shed — involved painstaking efforts to document the evidence, he said.

The body had partially decomposed, but the cold weather also helped preserve it, he said.