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Court dates set for alleged carnival killers
Phone status conferences for five defendants in January
new_re_Muder_Michael Fowler Jr. Mug.jpg
Michael Fowler

All of the five people charged in connection with the deaths of an elderly couple at the Barton County Fair this past July have telephone status conferences set for January, said Jennifer Montgomery, Kansas Attorney General Office public information officer. The defendants all had their first-appearance hearings on Dec. 21 in Barton County District Court after being extradited from Crawford County, Ark.

The charges stem from the deaths of Alfred “Sonny” Carpenter, 78, and Pauline Carpenter, 79, of Wichita who were killed during the Barton County Fair in July. The couple sold crafts and trinkets at carnivals, using a trailer behind their camper vehicle.

The case involved a text message in which one of the suspects allegedly claimed to be a “carnival mafia” boss and ordered the couple killed.

Michael Fowler Jr., 54 of Sarasota, Fla., Rusty Fraiser, 35, of Aransas, Texas, and Kimberly Younger, 52, of McIntosh, Fla., were booked Wednesday, Dec. 19, on charges of capital murder, first degree murder and theft. 

They are each being held in lieu of a $1,000,000 bond. 

Also booked in the county jail that day were Thomas Drake, 31, of Van Buren, Ark., and Christine Tenney. 38, of Santa Fe Texas, both for obstruction and obstructing apprehension. Their bond was set at $300,000 each.

All remain in custody at the county jail.

According to Montgomery, a phone conference has been set for Kimberly Younger for Jan. 22. The other four defendants have a conference scheduled for Jan. 10.


Background

According to the Van Buren, Ark., Police Department, Fowler admitted to police that he shot the Carpenters in Great Bend. He told police that Frazier and Younger, also known as Myrna Khan, were with him when the couple was killed.

Police allege that Fowler shot the Carpenters at the Barton County Fair. Investigators say he told police he killed the couple after receiving text messages from someone named Frank Zaitchik, a man he believed to be a member of a “carnival mafia.” Police said they later discovered the text messages were sent by Younger.

Van Buren officers found the suspects at an apartment complex after receiving a call that a woman with them was concerned for her safety. The woman and another man were with the suspects when officers arrived. 

Officers also found a Dodge Ram pickup and camper that belonged to the Carpenters.

Authorities believe the Carpenters were killed Friday, July 13.

Investigators believe the carnival workers used the couple’s recreational vehicle the following day to drive the bodies 320 miles to Van Buren, Ark., where a relative of one of the workers lived. Authorities suspect the bodies were buried the following Monday next to a creek bed outside the unincorporated community of Natural Dam in the Ozark National Forest.

The suspects were originally charged in Arkansas with abuse of a corpse and other crimes after the couple’s bodies were found in shallow graves in a national forest in Arkansas. 

But, last week, A Crawford County, Ark., judge dismissed local charges against the suspects. Prosecutors asked that the Arkansas charges be dropped because the suspects had been extradited to Kansas, where capital murder charges were filed.