The filing of criminal charges in Barton County against the four Arkansas residents accused of murdering two vendors at the Barton County Fair may be weeks away, County Attorney Amy Mellor told commissioners Monday morning. But, the county will soon receive bills for investigative work done by Arkansas authorities.
“Those will start to trickle in,” she said. There will be bills for the transfer of evidence and the autopsy costs from Crawford County, Ark., where the victims were found and the suspects were arrested.
Mellor was referring to the deaths of Sonny and Pauline Carpenter of Wichita, who were probably killed on the night of July 14 at the Barton County Fair. Their bodies were found Monday, July 16, buried in a forest near Van Buren, Ark.
Three suspects were arrested the next day in Van Buren and a fourth has since been charged, Mellor said. They remain in custody in Crawford County, and among the Arkansas charges are abuse of a corpse, theft and obstruction of law enforcement.
Jailed are Michael Fowler, Rusty Frazier and Kimberly Younger, also known as Myrna Khan, and Christine Tenney.
Mellor told commissioners she met with Kansas Attorney General’s Office personnel on Sept. 7. “I wanted to get a timeline as to when charges would be filed (in Kansas). They said we are not at that point.”
Mellor and the AG’s Office are jointly prosecuting the case.
Last Thursday and Friday, Mellor, two assistant Kansas attorneys general and an agent from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation traveled to Arkansas. They viewed the burial site and other evidence in the case.
“We were very impressed,” Mellor said of the investigators in Arkansas. “I think they are very competent.”
The speedy trial requirements in Arkansas are more lenient than in Kansas, Mellor said. Starting at the arraignment, authorities have up to nine months to take a case to trial if a suspect is in custody (12 months if the suspect is not incarcerated).
This is an issue because Mellor said Barton County doesn’t want to get caught missing the Kansas trial deadline. In Kansas, the speedy trial clock runs 150 days if the suspect is jailed (180 days if not) and starts at the arraignment, when pleas are entered.
But, “we should be fine,” Mellor said. As of now, the suspects remain securely in jail on the Arkansas cases.
Still, she is hoping to have local charges filed within six to eight weeks. This will depend in part on when her office receives reports from Crawford County and when evidence is transferred to the Great Bend Police Department.
“We want to make sure we know all the facts when we file charges,” Mellor said. “We want to be ready to go to trial.”
So, this may not be before the end of the year, she said.
When this is done, the defendants will be extradited to Barton County.
What to expect
“There is just a lot I don’t know right now,” Mellor said. With two victims, four defendants and charges in two states, this is a complicated case that could take up to two years or more to complete.
This will likely be a capital murder case, meaning prosecutors could seek the death penalty, Mellor said. The defendants will have either a local public defender or representation from the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit from the Board of Indigents’ Defense Services.
There are deadlines for prosecuting the case. But, there can be extensions and continuances.
This is where the costs will soar, she said. “It’s going to be significant.”
There will be prisoner transfers, expenses for witnesses, investigative costs and other charges. These will string out until the case is resolved.
“The (Barton) county is responsible for these cost,” Mellor said.