Joseph Rykiel, the man convicted in the death of 15-year-old Jessica Cheyanne Shearer after he injected her with morphine on July 4, 2011, was sentenced on Monday to four years and nine months in prison. Barton County District Judge Ron Svaty approved the standard sentence for someone with Rykiel’s criminal history, even though the defendant’s court-appoint attorney filed a motion seeking a reduced sentence.
After Rykiel, who is 31 years old, is released from the Kansas Department of Corrections, he’ll be on the state’s list of registered offenders.
On Feb. 1, Rykiel entered a plea of “no contest” to involuntary manslaughter, a reduction from the original charge of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, and the county attorney’s office dropped charges of criminal sodomy with a child 14-16 years old and aggravated endangering of a child. In the plea agreement, Barton County Attorney Douglas Matthews said the state would oppose a bid for a lesser sentence, but would allow the defense counsel to recommend it.
Defense Attorney Robert Anderson Sr. filed a motion asking the judge to cut the sentence from 57 months to 29 or even 19 months, saying the full standard prison sentence would be “purely vindictive and without any rehabilitative effect.” He argued Rykiel had accepted responsibility for the girl’s death and spared her family the grief of a trial. Anderson also suggested there was plenty of blame to go around in the victim’s tragic death.
First, the motion states, there’s “the obvious failure of the Barton County Youth Care Inc.’s Home for Girls.” The victim told staff on July 1, 2011, she was going to run away, but she was allowed to go out onto the porch to talk to another girl. When she ran way, the staff “never notified the family,” the motion states.
St. Francis Academy Inc., the statewide placement agency, didn’t report she was missing until the following day, the motion continues. The girl’s mother learned her daughter wasn’t at the girls home when her other daughter received a posting from her on Facebook.
Her mother called the Great Bend Police Department in a panic and pleaded for an Amber Alert, media alerts or a neighborhood search because she was worried about her daughter not taking her medication, the motion continues. “Legitimate and reasonable requests of the victim’s mother were abruptly denied and/or ignored by the police.”
Finally, Anderson argued that the court should consider “the actions of an uncharged potential codefendant,” whose involvement contributed to the events.
Matthews filed a response to the defense motion, saying, “Neither the facts nor the law of this case support the defendant’s stated reasons for wishing a downward departure.” He argued that saying “it’s not all my fault” is not sufficient reason for a lesser sentence, and that anyone who has not been charged must be presumed innocent. Runaways don’t meet the criteria for an Amber Alert, Matthews added.
Shearer was originally from Sublette, but had been living in Garden City and then at the girls home in Great Bend.
According to the Kansas Department of Corrections, Rykiel has three drug-related convictions, one driving under the influence conviction and one aggravated robbery conviction, dating back to 2001. These came in Neosho, Crawford and Labette counties.
He had been in prison since September 2004 and was released Feb. 13, 2011.