Status hearings for defendants in cases related to last year’s double homicide at the Barton County Fair are scheduled for Monday, March 25, in Barton County District Court. The attorneys for Kimberly Younger, Thomas Drake, Rusty Fraiser and Christine Tenney will join a telephone conference call with District Judge Steve Johnson and Assistant Attorney General Jessica G. Domme.
Michael Fowler Jr., 54, from Sarasota, Fla., has already pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of Alfred “Sonny” Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter, a Wichita couple who were vendors at the fair. He also pleaded guilty to stealing their truck and attached camper and its contents. In exchange for his plea on March 4, a charge of capital murder was dismissed.
District Judge Mike Keeley delayed setting a sentencing date at that time but scheduled a status hearing for 2 p.m. on July 15.
Rusty Lee Frasier, 35, Aransas Pass, Texas, is charged with one count of capital murder and Kimberly Younger, 52, from McIntosh, Fla., has been charged with one count of capital murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, one count of criminal solicitation and one count of theft.
Christine Tenney, 38, Santa Fe, Texas, is charged with three counts of obstructing apprehension; and Thomas Drake, 31, Van Buren, Ark., is charged with three counts of obstructing apprehension.
Here is an update on some of the other cases in Barton County District Court that the Great Bend Tribune is following.
Chaz Zachery Stephens, who is charged with the first-degree murder of 2-year-old Iviona Marae May Lewis from Hoisington in March of 2018, as well as child abuse and drug charges, was scheduled for a status hearing on March 14 but that date was later changed. Senior Judge Edward Bouker did come to the Barton County Courthouse on Thursday but others did not have the hearing on their calendars. Stephens is scheduled for a pre-trail hearing at 2 p.m. on May 7 and a jury trial May 29-31 and June 3-7, starting at 9 a.m. daily. The judge is also scheduled to hear “Daubert motions” April 22-23. Previously, the trial was scheduled to begin March 28.
A Daubert motion is raised to exclude the presentation of unqualified evidence to a jury. According to USLegal.com, the testimony of an expert witness has to pass tests of reliability and relevancy for a judge to accept the witness.
After Stephens was arraigned last August, District Judge Scott McPherson noted that he was entitled to a speedy trial within 150 days, making the deadline Jan. 29, 2019. Although the state remained willing to meet that deadline and at one point objected to a continuance of the trial, the defense requested more time and Stephens waived his right to a speedy trial.
Pawnee County Attorney Doug McNett has been appointed as a special counsel to represent the state when Steven Terry "Dewey" Jordan gets a new trial on his 2015 rape conviction. Barton County Attorney Levi Morris had a potential conflict of interest in the case because he provided assistance to the defense in Jordan’s first trial.
Jordan was convicted of rape and other charges in 2015, stemming from the nights of Feb. 6, 2013, when he allegedly went to a house in the 1100 block of Morphy Street in Great Bend, broke the dead-bolted wooden front door, entered and raped a 22-year-old woman. The defense presented a case in which they suggested the woman lied to police and to the jury about having consensual sex with Jordan for methamphetamine, which he did not then supply.
After the jury returned a guilty verdict, District Judge Ron Svaty sentenced Jordan to more than 50 years in prison for rape, the most serious charge. However, on an appeal Jordan’s attorneys argued that the district court violated his constitutional right to present this theory of defense by excluding relevant evidence when he was not allowed to present evidence of the woman’s prior drug use.
The Court of Appeals agreed and published its opinion on Jan. 12, 2018, stating, “Because we agree that Jordan was denied his right to present his defense, we reverse his convictions, vacate his sentences, and remand for a new trial.”
A panel of potential jurors was chosen last October and the new trial was nearly ready to get underway when District Judge Scott McPherson sent everyone home.
Barton County Attorney Amy Mellor later confirmed that Jordan’s new trial was continued at Jordan’s request.
“I cannot comment on the details of the case because it is still being prosecuted, but Mr. Jordan has been appointed new counsel,” Mellor said.
The defense attorney recently waived Jordan’s right to a speedy trial to provide more time to locate potential witnesses. A pretrial conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 22.
March 22 is also the date for a pretrial hearing for Austin James Levingston; that hearing is set for 8 a.m. Levingston was bound over on three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior following his preliminary hearing last November. A sixth count, again charging lewd and lascivious behavior, was dismissed by the court when it was determined that the testimony did not support the charge.
Troy Tutak and Kenneth Birt Jr.
Two men were charged with attempted murder following unrelated shootings last October, one in Great Bend and one in the county.
Troy Thomas Tutak is alleged to have shot his wife at their Great Bend resident and Kenneth Allen Birt Jr. was arrested in rural Barton County after a man sustained multiple gunshot wounds to his left leg.
Tutak’s preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Feb. 7 but has been continued by the state.
Birt’s preliminary hearing was also continued and is now scheduled for April 18.
Jorge Aguilera was charged with attempted murder after a shooting last summer in the 800 block of Pine Street in Great Bend. Police said he shot the victim during an argument. Aguilera was also facing a charge of possession of methamphetamine in a separate case.
In February, Aguilera agreed to plead no contest or guilty to two lesser charges: criminal discharge of a firearm into an occupied building and aggravated battery with a firearm. It was noted that his anticipated sentence would be 38-48 months, but it was also agreed that the defense would file a motion for a downward departure of three years (36 months).
His sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 12.
Hipolito Castro-Zaragoza was booked into the Barton County Jail on Jan. 16 for a charge of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The alleged victim was born in 2005 and the incident was alleged to have occurred in 2016. Castro-Zaragoza is scheduled to appear in district court at 1 p.m. on March 28.