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Probe continues into teens suspicious death
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Joseph Rykiel

As of late Thursday, there were no major developments in the Monday, July 4, death of 15-year-old Jessica Cheyanne Shearer of Garden City, a death local authorities are calling “suspicious.”
Great Bend Police Chief Dean Akings said Thursday the investigation continues into the case surrounding the teen, who was found dead in the basement of a house at 2509 Walnut Drive. Authorities want to know more about her death before deciding whether or not to treat it as a homicide.
An autopsy was performed Tuesday, but Akings said it would be a while before any results are known.
Meanwhile, a Great Bend man staying at the same address where Shearer died was arrested Tuesday morning, but authorities won’t say if the charges are connected to the girl. Joseph Rykiel, 30, was apprehended at 9:40 a.m. Tuesday in an apartment at 2507 11th St., and booked on suspicion of aggravated indecent liberties with a child.
Rykiel remained in the Barton County Jail Thursday afternoon on the indecent liberties charge. Bond remains set at $100,000.
The status formal charges, which will be determined by Barton County Attorney Douglas Matthews, was not know at presstime. A voice mail message requesting an update on the charges was left for Matthews by the Great Bend Tribune, however there was no response.
According to the police report filed in the case, there was also a possible crime of second-degree murder. However, Akings said authorities are only pursuing the indecent liberties count at this time.
An ambulance was dispatched to 2509 Walnut Drive around 5:10 p.m. Monday to assist a female with respiratory problems. Rykiel also called the police, but when they arrived the girl had “passed away of unknown causes,” according to Lt. Bill Browne of the Great Bend Police Department.
According to the residents of 2509 Walnut Drive, Mary Coker and her fiance Jackie McHolland, Rykiel had been renting their basement and living there. Shearer’s body was also found in the basement.
According to Coker, Rykiel said he met the girl on the street Saturday, July 2. He asked if they would allow her to stay there.
“I said no,” Coker said. “I didn’t know who she was.” Rykiel gave conflicting ages for the girl to Coker and McHolland, telling one she was 18 and the other she was 20.
In the short time the girl was at the residence, “he made sure she stayed in the basement,” Coker said of Rykiel.
The police report shows officers seized the medication Ranitidine, commonly prescribed for heartburn, and took one oral DNA swab at the scene.
Akings said the girl’s family has been contacted. Shearer is originally from Sublette, but had been living in Garden City.
The police report lists Shearer’s address as that of Barton County Youth Care Inc.’s home for girls who are placed by various Kansas agencies.
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 of this year.