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Status hearing held for capital murder case
Judge seals affidavits
Michael Fowler Jr.

Attorneys have begun filing motions for discovery and a judge has sealed the probable cause affidavits in the cases related to the deaths of an elderly Wichita couple last July at the Barton County Fair.

A telephone conference was held Thursday in Barton County District Court for two of the three suspects charged with capital murder and two additional suspects who have been charged with lesser crimes, all related to the deaths of Alfred “Sonny” Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter.

According to Jennifer Montgomery, public information officer with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, the conference call with Barton County District Judge Scott McPherson was a status hearing for defendants Michael Fowler Jr., 54, Sarasota, Fla., who is charged with one count of capital murder and one count of theft; Rusty Lee Frasier, 35, Aransas Pass, Texas, who is charged with one count of capital murder; Christine Tenney, 38, Santa Fe, Texas, who is charged with three counts of obstructing apprehension; and Thomas Drake, 31, Van Buren, Ark., who is charged with three counts of obstructing apprehension.

All of the court-appointed attorneys for those defendants were present by phone, as was the state, represented by Assistant Attorney General Victor J. Braden. The case was continued for further status to be set with District Judge Steve Johnson.

At the defendants’ first court appearances in December, Joel B. Jackson was appointed to represent Fowler, Joseph R. Shepack was appointed to represent Frasier, Benjamin J. Fisher was appointed to represent Tenney and Jane Isern was appointed to represent Drake. 

Kimberly Younger, 52, from McIntosh, Fla., has also 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. Timothy Frieden was appointed to represent her and a phone conference on the status of her case is set for 9 a.m. on Jan. 22.

Additional rulings in this case came earlier this week, with Assistant Attorney General Jessica Domme representing the state.

On Monday, Judge McPherson ruled on a request for disclosure of the probable cause affidavits and sworn testimony in the case. The request was filed by a reporter for KWCH television. McPherson denied the request and ruled that the affidavits and sworn testimony shall remain sealed.

Suspect reportedly posed as 'carnival mafia' member

According to earlier reports, Van Buren, Arkansas, police said Younger posed as a carnival mafia member named “Frank Zaitchik” and texted others to kill the Carpenters on the fairgrounds at Great Bend, where the couple sold handbags, trinkets and other items. They died on July 14, 2018. Fowler reportedly told investigators that the killings were an initiation into the carnival mafia. The Carpenters’ truck and camper were stolen and their bodies were transported to Arkansas, where they were dumped near the Natural Dam in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas, The Associated Press reported. Arkansas police also reported that there is no such thing as the "carnival mafia."