Crime & Courts

Eviction underway at house where three people were killed

Triple-homicide news conference on Monday morning

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton gives a news conference about the rural Harvey County, Kansas, triple homicide that occurred on Sunday. (Oct. 31, 2016) (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)
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Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton gives a news conference about the rural Harvey County, Kansas, triple homicide that occurred on Sunday. (Oct. 31, 2016) (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

A landlord says he was in the process of evicting tenants at a Harvey County farmhouse that has become the scene of a triple homicide.

In a phone interview with The Eagle on Monday evening, Kalani Walsh said he owns the 4.83-acre property where the killings occurred. He said he was evicting the tenants – a couple – because of property damage, because other people living there were not on the lease and partly because there were too many dogs.

Earlier Monday, authorities had yet to identify any suspects in the case but think the shooting of the three was a “targeted” crime.

They had not released the identities of the victims – a 33-year-old man, a 37-year-old woman and a 52-year-old man – as of Monday evening.

Walsh, 27, of McPherson said he gave an eviction notice to the tenants – the 33-year-old man and 37-year-old woman – on Oct. 1 and then talked to the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office about the situation on Oct. 16, when he did a walk-around to check the condition of his property.

“I told the sheriff’s office I was having trouble getting them out of my house,” Walsh said.

He said he thought it was suspicious that someone at the rural farmhouse had a police scanner “going off,” video cameras “all over the house and in the trees” and monitors in the kitchen.

Speaking of the tenants, he said, “They were not taking no for an answer. … They didn’t want to move.”

Oct. 16 was the last time he was at the property, which he has owned for about two and a half years, Walsh said. The tenants had lived there about a year and a month, he said.

Referring to the shooting deaths of the couple who lived there and a third person, Walsh said: “It’s kind of shocking. I can’t believe that this happened. I wouldn’t want to even live there anymore because of this.”

Walsh said investigators haven’t contacted him since the killings.

At a briefing Monday morning, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said investigators had yet to identify any suspects in the triple homicide.

Asked why the victims appeared to have been targeted, Walton said, “Just looking at the crime scene and the way the bodies are and the wounds.”

There didn’t appear to be any struggle, he said. Walton wouldn’t elaborate.

But the sheriff seemed to want to reassure the public: “This isn’t a random person running around. We view this as a targeted shooting.”

He wouldn’t give the names of the victims, saying that some relatives hadn’t been notified.

On Sunday evening, all three victims were found shot outside the couple’s home in the 8600 block of North Spring Lake Road. That is in a rural spot south of Moundridge and west of Hesston, where the landscape forms a rumpled quilt of crops bordered by shelter belts.

Deputies found the couple’s 18-month-old child unharmed but clearly upset in the house, Walton said. According to investigators’ timeline, the 18-month-old had been in the house for more than six hours before authorities found the bodies outside.

The child is now with family members, Walton said.

Investigators, including members of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, were at the crime scene throughout the night Sunday and planned to finish their work there on Monday.

Anyone with information about the killings is asked to call Harvey County 911, 316-284-6960, or the KBI at 800-KS-CRIME.

A motorist reported the killings at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday after she was waved down by another person who told her there were two bodies in front of the house, Walton said. Deputies found the third victim outside the house.

Investigators checking at other scattered homes in the area didn’t get any reports of suspicious activity, Walton said.

Neighbors, none of whom wanted to be identified by name on Monday because of safety concerns, said most of the people in that area would have been at church when the shootings occurred. The nearest neighbor’s house is about a quarter of a mile from the crime scene.

On Monday, a state trooper’s car and a “Road Closed” sign blocked Spring Lake Road leading to the house where the killings occurred.

At least a dozen vehicles used by investigators lined the sandy gravel road about 5 miles west of Hesston. Waist-high coppery prairie grass fills ditches on both sides of the road.

The house sits about 200 yards north of West Dutch Avenue, a rural blacktop.

It’s an old, white, one-and-a-half to two-story farmhouse beyond a large metal building, tree row and hay bales. There’s a wheat crop coming up in the field east of the house.

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton briefed local media on one woman and two men found dead on a rural county driveway west of Hesston. (Video by Beccy Tanner / The Wichita Eagle / Oct. 30, 2016)