Prosecutors filed a court document Wednesday that will allow them to seek the death penalty against Kisha Schaberg, one of four people accused of killing a Valley Center couple last year.
Dressed in a colorful blouse and wearing ankle shackles, Schaberg sat impassively as Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced during her arraignment that he wanted an option to ask for Schaberg’s execution if she is convicted of capital murder in the Nov. 15, 2013, shootings of her son’s adoptive parents, Roger and Melissa Bluml.
The document, called a Notice of Intent to Request Separate Sentencing Proceeding, reserves that option but does not state whether prosecutors actually will ask for the death penalty. In an e-mail after the hearing, Bennett said a final decision has not yet been made.
The document also gives notice that prosecutors at Schaberg’s sentencing hearing may present evidence relevant to any of four aggravating circumstances alleged in the case: That the defendant “knowingly or purposely killed” multiple people; committed the crime to receive money or other valuables; authorized another person to commit the crime; and/or that the crime was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.”
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“By filing the notice, the law allows me to seek the death penalty in the future,” Bennett said by e-mail. “I am not required to do so and am free to seek it or not seek it in the future.”
Such notices must be filed within five days of an arraignment, he added.
Schaberg’s attorney, Jeffrey Wicks, could not be reached for comment after the hearing. He is a member of the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit.
In Kansas, a defendant can be charged with capital murder if two or more people are killed as part of the same felony act. If convicted, Schaberg, 36, could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole eligibility.
Also charged in Roger and Melissa Blumls’ killings is their adoptive son, 19-year-old Anthony Bluml, and two of his friends, Braden Smith and Andrew Ellington. Anthony Bluml is Schaberg’s biological son.
All four defendants have been charged with capital murder or, in the alternative, two counts of first-degree murder. They also face two counts of aggravated robbery, a burglary charge and a theft charge.
Melissa and Roger Bluml were shot in the head as they sat in a car outside their rural Valley Center home. The shootings were part of a plot to gain life insurance money and also because of resentment of the couple, according to testimony given by Smith during a July court hearing.
Melissa Bluml, 53, died at a Wichita hospital the next day. Her husband, 48-year-old Roger Bluml, succumbed to his injuries about five weeks later.
Schaberg allegedly pulled the trigger, Smith testified in July.
In addition to hearing the district attorney’s sentencing announcement Wednesday, Schaberg waived a formal reading of the charges and her right to a speedy trial.
Because of the severity of the charges and possible punishment, it could take a year or longer for her case to go before a jury, according to a court document filed by her attorney.
“Do you understand that by waiving your speedy trial right you are waiving your right to have this matter brought to trial within 150 days?” District Judge Jeffrey Goering asked.
“Yes, sir,” Schaberg quietly replied.
“And you’re OK with that?”
“Yes, sir,” she said.
Goering entered a not-guilty plea on Schaberg’s behalf and set her next court date – a status conference – for Jan. 13.
At the conference, the judge will receive an update on the case’s progress from attorneys. A trial date will be set later.
Of the other three defendants charged in the case:
▪ Anthony Bluml pleaded not guilty last month. Prosecutors in October said they may ask that Bluml be executed if convicted. He is set for jury trial Nov. 17, though the date likely will be postponed.
▪ Andrew Ellington, 19, is scheduled for arraignment Nov. 20.
▪ Braden Smith, 19, has pleaded not guilty and is set for jury trial Monday, though the date will likely be postponed.
This summer he struck a plea deal with prosecutors that would reduce his capital murder charge to two counts of second-degree intentional murder in exchange for his testimony against the other three. Prosecutors will ask that Smith be sentenced to 24.5 years in prison, but the judge does not have to abide by terms of the plea deal.
Schaberg, Anthony Bluml, Ellington and Smith are being held in Sedgwick County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond each.