Crime & Courts

Funds for investigator sought in murder case

TOPEKA — An attorney for a woman charged with murder in the 2002 deaths of her ex-husband and his fiancee in Topeka is asking a judge to allow the use of money from a state fund to pay a private investigator to pursue "a previously unknown suspect" in the case.

Dana Chandler is charged with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the slayings of Michael Sisco, 47, and Karen Harkness, 53. She is accused of shooting Sisco and Harkness multiple times as they slept on July 7, 2002, in Harkness' Topeka apartment.

Chandler, 51, of Duncan, Okla., is Sisco's ex-wife. She was arrested in Duncan on July 25, 2011.

Defense attorney Mark Bennett filed a motion with Shawnee County District Court seeking funds to hire retired FBI agent Denny Conway to track leads in the case.

Conway would "pursue, develop and identify other possible suspects in this matter that have been ignored by the local investigative agencies in the course of their investigation," the document said.

Bennett is asking Chief Judge Nancy Parrish to authorize him to hire an investigator to be paid no more than $5,000 with funds from the State Board of Indigents Defense Services.

Bennett said "the defendant's investigator has developed at least one previously unknown suspect," but he did not elaborate. The investigator also has determined that some information in the probable cause affidavit that led to Chandler's arrest "is incorrect or false," Bennett wrote.

Chandler's family is paying her legal fees but doesn't have funds for an investigator, Bennett wrote.

Bennett also is seeking a court order requiring prosecutors to provide him "an exact replica or copy" of any individual photo or photo lineup shown to any witness or potential witness in the preliminary hearing or trial.

Bennett said Topeka police showed a photo of Chandler to someone three days after the killings and a photo lineup including Chandler to the same person three weeks after the killings. In both cases, the person didn't make a positive identification of Chandler, Bennett said.

The case against Chandler went cold after the couple's death. The investigation picked up again in 2009, but prosecutors have declined to say what specific evidence led them to arrest Chandler.

Chandler's next scheduled court appearance is Nov. 23 for a motion hearing. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 12. She has not yet entered a plea.