Crime & Courts

Supreme Court upholds parolee’s second strangulation conviction

Tyrone Walker
Tyrone Walker Courtesy photo

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and Hard 50 sentence of a man who strangled a Wichita woman to death in 2011, while he was on parole for the 1989 strangling death of a Lawrence woman.

Justices turned aside arguments from Tyrone Walker, 50, who contended the trial court had improperly allowed the jury to hear statements he made when police continued to interrogate him after he had invoked his constitutional right to remain silent.

In the opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall and released Friday, the Supreme Court agreed that was an error by the trial court. But they ruled the error was harmless because other witnesses had testified to the same information, his whereabouts on the night of the killing that placed him near the scene of the crime.

Two of Walker’s acquaintances testified that they had been riding with him in a car when he spotted the victim, Janis Sanders, 44, near the intersection of Washington and Lincoln. They testified Walker told the driver to stop, got out of the car and went to talk with her as they drove away.

Sanders was found dead the night of June 4, 2011. Her nude body was discovered between an abandoned house and a small business building in the 1100 block of South Washington.

An autopsy found that Sanders had been strangled to death with shoelaces that had been tied together. According to court testimony, Walker’s DNA was found on those shoestrings and under the victim’s fingernails.

A jailhouse informant also testified Walker had admitted to him that he killed Sanders after she rebuffed his sexual advances while they smoked rock cocaine at an abandoned house.

Walker’s first trial ended in a hung jury, 11-1. The jury in his 2103 retrial convicted him after less than four hours of deliberation.

The Supreme Court justices also upheld Walker’s sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for 50 years, because it relied solely on Walker’s previous murder conviction.

Walker pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1992 in the 1989 death of Tamara Baker of Lawrence. In that case, Walker was sentenced to 12 years in prison and was paroled to Wichita in 2011, after having served additional time on a parole violation.

The Supreme Court opinion noted several similarities between the two murders, including that both appeared to have been motivated by sex.

“Walker claimed he became angry (at Baker) after the two had been kissing in his car and Baker told him that he needed to give her money or she would tell his wife what they were doing,” the court opinion said.

And like in the Sanders case, Baker had been manually strangled to death and her body was discovered virtually unclothed, the court opinion said.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas