More than 11 months after hunters discovered the body of 25-year-old Damon Galyardt, the Pawnee Rock man accused of murdering him is headed to court.
The preliminary hearing for Jeffrey Wade Chapman, 31, charged with first-degree murder, is set to begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, in Barton County District Court.
Galyardt’s body was discovered on land southwest of Great Bend on Nov. 12, 2011. Authorities later said he’d been shot and died either Nov. 11 or 12. Chapman soon became a “person of interest” and he was arrested within a week, but it was on an unrelated charge. The murder charge was filed earlier this year.
Hunters contacted the sheriff’s office at 8:47 a.m. on a Saturday after finding a body in a ditch on the north side of 250 SW 60 Road (6 miles south of Great Bend, and about 2.5 miles west), between the road and a row a trees. The victim was wearing black pants and had a blanket wrapped around him. One hunter reported tire tracks up to the body suggested it was dumped, but he said he didn’t go up and look at the body.
District Magistrate Judge Don Alvord will preside at the preliminary examination, where the court will determine if the state has enough evidence for Chapman to be bound over for trial. If Alvord rules there is probable cause, the case will be assigned to a district judge. With Judge Hannelore Kitts retiring at the end of her term and an election pending, it is not known who would oversee a trial, if there is one, Alvord said at a pre-trial conference held in August.
Wichita Attorney Jeff Wicks with the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit is representing Chapman, even though the defendant is not charged with capital murder.
Wicks was one of the attorneys appointed to represent Adam Longoria, who was convicted in April of capital murder, also in Barton County. The high profile Longoria case prompted Wicks to file a motion asking that Chapman be allowed to appear in court without handcuffs or leg shackles.
“Your Honor, this motion was filed and phrased the way it was whenever it looked like all the motions were going to be decided during the media circus that was the Longoria case,” Wicks said at the August pretrial hearing. Longoria wore a shocking device on his leg, under his pants, instead of shackles – so jurors would not see the restraints.
Wicks argued that Chapman will need his hands free to take notes and participate in his defense, but said, “I don’t think the shackles are necessarily a problem ... as long as the media is not here.”
“If the media does show up, they are at issue,” Wicks added.
However, he said the problem may have been negated because Alvord also granted a defense motion to ban cameras from the courtroom and inside the courthouse during the preliminary hearing.
Assistant Barton County Attorney Amy Mellor said the state had no position on cameras in the courtroom, but she did weigh in on restraints.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate that a defendant that’s here on a first degree murder charge appears without any restraints,” she said at the August hearing.
Alvord’s decision not to allow cameras includes TV cameras, video feeds and photographs.
“My position is that those things can be disruptive to the proceedings, and so at least for my part of this, which would be the preliminary examination, that would be my orders,” he said.
Last month Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Karrer became the attorney of record in this case for the prosecution.
Earlier reports show hunters contacted the sheriff’s office at 8:47 a.m. Saturday after finding a body in a ditch on the north side of 250 SW 60 Road (6 miles south of Great Bend, and about 2.5 miles west), between the road and a row a trees. The victim was wearing black pants and had a blanket wrapped around him. One hunter reported tire tracks up to the body suggested it was dumped, but he said he didn’t go up and look at the body.