A Sedgwick County jury deliberated just 1½ hours Thursday before convicting a Wichita man of first–degree murder for kicking his girlfriend to death.
There was no question during the 3½-day trial that Anson Bernhardt, 42, killed Amber Kostner, 38, on the morning of Sept. 30. Both sides agreed that she was still breathing when he left her at the side of the road across from Campus High School in the 2100 block of West 55th Street South.
“There is no dispute at all that the defendant is the one who killed Amber Kostner,” prosecutor Tyler Roush said in his closing argument. “Really what we’re talking about is whether it was intentional and whether it was premeditated.”
The jury concluded it was both. It rejected lesser charges of intentional second-degree murder, which does not involve premeditation, and reckless second-degree murder, which is an unintentional killing done with extreme indifference to the value of human life.
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During the trial, jurors watched a two-hour, videotaped statement that Bernhardt gave to Sedgwick County sheriff’s detectives about 24 hours after the killing. Although he initially denied knowing anything about Kostner’s whereabouts, Bernhardt eventually admitted that “I beat the crap out of her and dumped her body.”
Prosecutors said Bernhardt kicked Kostner 20 to 30 times with a steel-toed boots after the two had quarreled in a bar about breaking up. He didn’t dispute a detective’s suggestion that Kostner may have lost consciousness after the first five kicks.
One of the jury instructions said premeditation can be inferred from a number of circumstances, including “the dealing of lethal blows after the deceased was felled and rendered helpless.”
Defense lawyer Steve Osburn argued unsuccessfully in his closing that his client was guilty of one of the lesser crimes.
“There is no direct evidence of premeditation,” he said. “He just lost it. He pulled her out of car in a fit of rage and anger, no doubt fueled by alcohol, and he kicked her repeatedly. He was drunk, he snapped, and he acted in a rage.”
Bernhardt will be sentenced Aug. 15 by District Judge William Woolley.