Crime & Courts

Body in Oaklawn yard was ex- cop

David Duree could see police digging behind the house next door Wednesday.

Curious, the 31-year-old stepped up to his privacy fence and listened.

"I've just located the foot," he heard an investigator say, before police realized Duree was there and asked him to go back into his home.

And that's when Duree began to learn what had happened next door in his Oaklawn neighborhood, near K-15 and 47th South.

On Thursday, Wichita police said they found the body of Sean "Chris" Putnam, 41. Putnam was a former law enforcement officer who had worked in Bel Aire, Galena and Cherokee County, in southeast Kansas.

Police Lt. Ken Landwehr said authorities are holding two people suspected of first-degree murder in the late-December killing of Putnam.

In 2001, Putnam worked with the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, and later with the Galena Police Department. He moved to the Wichita area and worked as an officer with the Bel Aire Police Department for several months in 2004, records show.

From 2004 to 2006, he was a sales account executive for KAKE television in Wichita, station officials said.

More recently, Putnam had worked as a roofer, Landwehr said.

Duree, the Oaklawn resident, said it was strange and sad to think that just last week, he had been playing in the backyard with his small children — not knowing that a body lay in a shallow grave only several feet beyond the privacy fence.

On Thursday, Landwehr said that investigators think Putnam was killed in late December at a home in the 2000 block of South Waco, where he lived with two roommates who are now being held in his death.

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

It's possible the killing involved an argument, Landwehr said.

On Dec. 21, police responded to a report of a disturbance at the South Waco house, although no one was arrested, he said. That disturbance involved Putnam and the man now suspected of killing him, Landwehr said.

On Thursday the two suspects were being held in the Sedgwick County Jail. One, a 37-year-old man, was already being held on suspicion of auto theft, involving Putnam's vehicle, Landwehr said. The other suspect is a 48-year-old woman who turned herself in Wednesday evening, Landwehr said.

The woman was being held on a $250,000 bond; the man on a $100,000 bond.

Today, 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 when a Kansas parole officer passed 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 got 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 shed at a house in the 3300 block of East Oaklawn Drive, Landwehr said. The Oaklawn residence is the home of the third person's mother, who didn't know about the body, Landwehr said.

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

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

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

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