The jury trial for the man charged with involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 deaths of Shawn and Danielle Schellenger has been delayed. Meanwhile, a civil suit against the defendant, Great Bend landscaper William Howard Baker, has been settled, according to records in Barton County District Court.
Baker was driving a pickup pulling a trailer that came loose on Aug. 16, 2014, crossing into oncoming traffic on 10th Street in Great Bend and hitting the Schellengers’ motorcycle. Both Shawn and Danielle died as a result of the accident.
Baker’s jury trial was scheduled for last week but District Judge Ron Svaty granted a motion to continue all proceedings, filed by Baker’s attorney, Charles O’Hara, on Feb. 24. The case is now scheduled for a control hearing on May 12. The charges include two counts of involuntary manslaughter, which is a level 5 person felony, and multiple misdemeanor traffic infractions, including driving without properly securing a load.
Recent motions filed by the Douglas Matthews at the Barton County Attorney’s Office sought to subpoena two additional witnesses: Terry Kummer from the Kansas Highway Patrol and Susan Marvin from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Matthews also asked the court to allow reading from the preliminary hearing testimony of former Great Bend Police Patrolman Douglas O. Hein at the trial. Hein died on May 14, 2016.
The civil suit was filed by Shawn Schellenger’s father, Jeffrey Schellenger, on behalf of the estate and the Schellengers’ son and daughter. The suit named Baker and his business, HB Landscaping, as defendants. The wrongful death suit listed eight counts and requested in excess of $75,000 on each count.
Court records show that District Judge Mike Keeley presided over a settlement hearing on March 10 and signed an order of apportionment and dismissal without prejudice. The amount of the settlement was unavailable on Friday.
The civil suit summarized the events that claimed the lives of Shawn and Danielle Schellenger as follows:
At 11:35 a.m. on Aug. 16, 2014, five motorcyclists were traveling west through Great Bend on 10th Street. Shawn was fourth in line, with Danielle as his passenger on a Kawasaki. Both were wearing helmets.
Baker was eastbound in the inside line, approaching the motorcycles in a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup pulling a single-axel trailer that was 12 feet long and 6 feet wide and weighed over 700 pounds, and was secured only by chicken wire surrounding the frame. There was a large amount of wear on the ball. A riding mower was placed in the rear of the trailer. This created a seesaw effect that put additional strain on the ball and hitch. Baker failed to attach safety chains on the trailer, and when the ball popped off the hitch, the trailer came loose and traveled into the oncoming traffic, striking the motorcycle. Danielle Schellenger died that afternoon and Shawn Schellenger died the following evening.