Crime & Courts

Man sentenced to Hard 50 for kicking girlfriend to death with steel-toed boots

Amber Kostner’s body was found in a ditch along 55th Street South, near Campus High School. (Oct. 1, 2012)
Amber Kostner’s body was found in a ditch along 55th Street South, near Campus High School. (Oct. 1, 2012) File photo

A Wichita man was sentenced Friday to life without parole for 50 years for kicking his girlfriend to death with steel-toed boots.

District Judge William Woolley imposed the sentence on Anson Bernhardt, 43, who sat with his head bowed as relatives of the victim, Amber Kostner, spoke of the disgust they felt for him.

“Anson Bernhardt is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Kostner’s mother, Debbie Grimes. “He does not deserve to be part of a normal society. I hope what life he has now will be a living hell, and that he is haunted every day by Amber’s image.”

“He murdered my most precious, treasured gift from God, my child, my Amber.”

During Bernhardt’s trial in July, a Sedgwick County sheriff’s detective described how Bernhardt admitted kicking Kostner 20 to 30 times with his boots on Sept. 30, 2012, after the two had quarreled in a bar. Bernhardt told the detective that Kostner, 38, was still breathing when Bernhardt left her at the side of the road across from Campus High School. A jury deliberated 1 1/2 hours before convicting him of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors then asked for a Hard 50 prison sentence, arguing in part that the crime was committed in an “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner.”

Bernhardt’s sentencing was delayed by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the state’s Hard 50 law, and his sentencing was conducted under a revised Hard 50 law that was passed in a special session of the Kansas Legislature last fall. Woolley was following the revised law on Monday when he ruled that a Hard 50 sentence was warranted because the aggravating factors in the case were not outweighed by the mitigating factors.

Woolley also sentenced Bernhardt to 27 months in prison on an unrelated aggravated battery charge.

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