Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Murder in My Hometown
I don't know why I am so fascinated by this, but I am. See how generous I am? I'm going to share.

You won't find any news articles online on this, at least, I haven't. I am, as you may be aware, from a very small community in Southwestern Kansas. There are only 2,000 people who live in the entire county, so everybody pretty much knows everybody and their business.

It is also a very quiet community, as you might have guessed. We have one stoplight in the county and it only functions two times per day during the school year. That is, it does the whole green, yellow, red thing only in the 15 minutes prior to and following the school day when school is in session. So, we don't have a lot of crime either. We have some problems with illegal immigrants causing trouble, maybe a few wild teenagers having parties, but by and large, it is a very sleepy little town on the High Plains.

Well, about two years ago now (I'm not exactly sure on the timeline) there was a man who went missing. Vanished! Now, we are talking about the great American desert here. People don't usually just go walk through the countryside - there's no water out there - nor do they just drive around haphazardly. People tend to take supplies with them in case of an automotive failure because you can literally be 8 hours from town by foot. So, prudence would dictate a bit of careful planning. Anyway, this guy disappears.

He wasn't exactly a pillar of the community. He was even a bit of a flake, or a nomad in the contemporary. He had, in the past, taken a flier, dropped everything, and shuffled off to California. But this seemed different. For one thing, his mother knew nothing of any plans to leave town (she is a local resident). And, interestingly enough, his company vehicle was found abandoned in the middle of nowhere quite suddenly.

When folks go missing out there, we go look for them. So, when he went missing, people searched. The vehicle was not located on the road during the search. It was found several days later in an area that had been searched. Curious, no?

So, anyway, the story continues to unfold as some curious developments are made known to law enforcement. It seems that his ex-wife (a local) and her new husband had to replace a front widow in their home due to a bullet hole. Then they had the front porch painted. Also anecdotally interesting, he was last seen at the local AMPRIDE ( a convenience store/gas station) and informed someone there, when asked, that he was going to talk to his ex-wife about their child. So, he was headed her direction.

She and her husband claim that he never arrived.

In the course of the investigation, two things happened pretty quickly. First, the police discovered what they believed to be blood on that freshly painted porch. Then, they must have had it tested because not long after that they disassembled the porch for evidence. The second thing that happened was that the KBI (Kansas Bureau of Investigation) took over the investigation. Our local deputies were no longer the lead, though they still did grunt work like searching for the body.

It was soon determined to be a homicide and the ex-wife and her husband are currently on trial.

My father (and half the county) was called as potential jurors. My father was struck from the jury on a question about knowledge of DNA (we think), but his best friend and his brother-in-law are on the jury. Nobody in the community is talking about the trial, however. The reason, I am told, is because nobody wants a retrial. The trial is expected to take about a month and nobody wants the community to suffer the hardship any longer than that. Don't forget, this is a very small community. Those are farmers and grain elevator managers and critical members of the community on the jury. If the trial goes on too long or ends in a mistrial, the local economy (and local businesses) will take a hit. To insure that this trial is untainted, nobody is talking about it.

There are a couple of interesting little tidbits about the trial. First, the judge came out of retirement to sit the trial. In that area, counties share traveling judges. The judge will be in one place on Monday, a different place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So as not to disrupt other legal matters in the surrounding counties. Also, the judge and jury, prosecutors and defense all agreed to different hours for court. It is my understanding that the day will begin at 7 am and end at 3 pm to allow farmers and others to attend to their own business in what remains of the daylight. Cool, huh?

The jury is not being sequestered for two basic reasons. One, there aren't enough hotel rooms in the county to accomodate 12 jurors. And, as my husband quite rightly (if humorously) points out: they are practically sequestered already. The local media is limited to a weekly print newspaper that is released each Wednesday. However, if you live out of town (as a great many do), you don't get the paper until it comes in Friday's mail. The lack of big town news coverage would indicate that it isn't on their radar, no matter the KBI's interest. This last point intrigues me because the last time the KBI was in town we were flooded with MSM hacks. I guess their last fruitless vigil put them off a return trip. As I might have mentioned, there aren't a lot of hotel rooms in town...

So, it seems that the ex-wife and her husband stand accused of the fellow's murder and time will bear out what the evidence is against them. I'll try to keep you informed of the developments if I hear any, though it may be that I have nothing to report until the end of the trial due to the self-imposed community gag order.

Oh! I forgot one thing. Another reason why the disappearance was a bit hinky was the fact that his pregnant girlfriend/fiance was also not aware of any intentions on his part to leave the county. Of course, she is the daughter of a notorious hot-head and from all accounts does not seem to be broken up by his disappearance, so maybe he did leave her. There is also some suggestion (and eyewitnesses) that the ex-wife has a temper and that the custody arrangement of their child was a hot button issue. The ex-wife apparently shouted down the little old lady who is the paternal grandmother at a ballgame when the grandmother requested time with the grandchild. It was very loud and it stopped the ballgame, so there are plenty of witnesses.

From all reports, the ex-wife is a bit angry and has a temper and her new husband...well, let's just say that she wears the pants in the family and he presses them.

I'm telling you, this is fascinating stuff...


posted by Phoenix | 9:07 AM


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