Crime & Courts

Wichita man to serve at least 50 years for killing wife

Derek Campbell was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife. (June 9, 2015)
Derek Campbell was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife. (June 9, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

A Wichita man will spend at least 50 years in prison for killing his wife at their home last April.

Sedgwick County District Court Judge Terry Pullman on Thursday sentenced 32-year-old Derek Campbell to life in prison with parole eligibility after he serves 50 years for shooting Rebecca “Becky” Campbell to death on April 8, 2015.

Pullman also ordered Campbell to pay $16,542.67 in restitution to cover his wife’s funeral expenses, although “there’s not much chance” the debt will be satisfied, defense attorney Val Wachtel said in court.

A jury convicted Campbell of first-degree premeditated murder in March.

Prosecutors contend he killed his wife with a Rossi revolver in the living room of their house at 20th and Salina because he wanted out of his marriage.

Prosecutors contend Derek Campbell killed his wife with a Rossi revolver in the living room of their house at 20th and Salina because he wanted out of his marriage. In the days leading up to the shooting, he had researched divorce online, browsed dating websites and was trying to rekindle a romance with an old girlfriend, according to evidence and testimony during his trial.

In the days leading up to the shooting, he had researched divorce online, browsed dating websites and was trying to rekindle a romance with an old girlfriend – including sneaking out of his home to spend time with her the night his wife died – according to evidence and testimony at trial.

Court file details man’s meeting with ex-fiancee on night of wife’s killing

Campbell maintains the shooting was accidental. Initially he told police the gun discharged as he pulled it out of a holster. Later he testified he had emptied the revolver then dry-fired the gun, not knowing the chamber still contained a live round.

“I made a mistake that night with a gun that I thought was unloaded,” Campbell told Pullman between sobs before his sentence was pronounced. “I didn’t not intentionally kill my wife. … I loved her with all my heart.”

His in-laws, however, were unconvinced. They asked the judge to impose the harshest sentence possible.

“We should have tried harder to make Becky realize that you weren’t what she needed,” Rebecca’s father, James Vansickle said, fighting back tears as he read from a letter in court that characterized Campbell as an “abusive,” threatening husband and “ego maniac.”

She needed someone to treat her like a person and not a slave. She needed someone to treat her like an equal.

James Vansickle, father of murder victim Rebecca Campbell

“She needed someone to treat her like a person and not a slave. She needed someone to treat her like an equal,” Vansickle said.

“People have told us that we need to forgive. At this point in time, we don’t see this happening. After we feel that you have been punished enough, then maybe.”

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

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