Two men on Monday pleaded guilty to crimes in connection with the July 2018 deaths of Alfred “Sonny” Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter, both of Wichita, at last year’s Barton County Fair. Additional charges were dropped as the result of plea negotiations.
Rusty Lee Frasier, 36, of Aransas Pass, Texas, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree premeditated murder in Barton County District Court. Thomas Donald Drake, 32, of Van Buren, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing apprehension. District Judge Steve Johnson accepted the pleas in both cases after Assistant Attorney General Jessica Domme described what the state’s evidence would be if the cases went to juries.
This brings to four the number of defendants who have entered guilty pleas in cases related to the murders.
In May, Christine M. Tenney, 39, of La Marque, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated robbery and one count of obstructing apprehension in the case. In March, Michael Fowler Jr., 54, of Sarasota, Florida, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of theft.
Sentencing has not been scheduled in any of the cases.
That leaves one pending case. Kimberly Younger, 52, of McIntosh, Florida, is charged with one count of capital murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of criminal solicitation. The other defendants have agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and to testify truthfully if summoned to do so in the Younger case.
Drake’s plea was heard first Monday. Previously, he had received an evaluation from The Center in Great Bend which concluded he was not competent to stand trial; after that, the prosecution had gotten a second evaluation at Hays, where he was found competent. At Monday’s hearing, defense attorney Jane Isern said Drake was willing to accept the finding that he was competent and he was ready to waive his right to a preliminary hearing and enter a plea. He had been charged with three counts of obstructing apprehension, in regard to Younger, Fowler and Frasier, respectively. His plea was to the first count — obstructing in the apprehension of Younger — and the other counts were dismissed.
A deputy in the courtroom released Drake’s right hand from the cuffs chained at his waist so he could sign the agreement.
The charge is a Level 8 non-person felony with a possible sentence of seven to 23 months, depending on his prior criminal history. He could also be fined up to $100,000.
Judge Johnson questioned Drake to be sure he understood his rights and what he was doing.
“I understand, sir,” he said.
Domme described the evidence and testimony the state was prepared to present to a jury:
On June 14, 2018, Drake was working for a carnival here in Barton County. Around 3 a.m. he said he heard gunshots and Younger told him that Fowler and Frasier had “got the job done.” They called Tenney, who assisted in loading items into the Carpenters’ trailer. Drake was told to grab a trash bag, brush and bleach. He filled a water bottle from an outdoor faucet and took the water to where they were cleaning up blood. Then they all went to Arkansas together in the Carpenters’ vehicle.
Frasier appeared with his attorney, Joe Shepak, and was asked similar questions about his understanding of his rights and whether he wanted to waive his right to a preliminary hearing.
“Yes sir, I do so waive,” Frasier said. He entered guilty pleas to the first-degree murders of both of the Carpenters. The state dropped a charge of capital murder and four counts of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.
Shepak said Frasier had also been mentally evaluated. “He is able to read and write English,” Shepak said, adding his client “has some difficulty grasping some legal terms.” However, Shepak said he had spent several hours with Frasier going over his rights at the Rice County Jail where he is in custody. Although Frasier has been taking Zprexa for difficulty sleeping they had gone over the three-page plea agreement and his plea was made freely and voluntarily, his attorney said.
It was noted that his pleas would be to off-the-grid crimes which could result in so-called “Hard 25,” “Hard 40” or “Hard 50” sentences and may include a fine of up to $500,000 on each count. Frasier must also register as a violent offender if he is ever released.
“I understand,” he said.
Domme again explained what the state was prepared to show if the case went to a jury trial. During the week of the 2018 Barton County Fair, Frasier was employed by Wagner Carnival.
“Kimberly Younger had recruited and planned for him to kill someone,” Domme said. Younger later “determined it would be the Carpenters” and identified them as the intended victims. The victims were a Wichita couple who sold items at the fair. They were there with a truck, camper and cargo trailer.
Domme said the evidence would show Younger “directed Frasier and Fowler of the best time to do it.” Alfred Carpenter was outside and his wife Pauline was sleeping in the camper when Frasier lay as a lookout. Fowler stabbed Mr. Carpenter in the chest with a knife and then shot him in the abdomen. He asked Frasier to assist as he dragged Mr. Carpenter into the camper and shot Mrs. Carpenter in the face and neck as she slept. Autopsy reports would show Alfred Carpenter died from the stabbing his wife from gunshot wounds, Domme said. Both victims were shot by a Ruger 9 mm pistol. The corpses were placed in the camper and taken to Arkansas.
The cases were investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; Van Buren, Arkansas Police Department; and the Crawford County, Arkansas, Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Attorney General Vic Braden is also prosecuting the cases.
Kimberly Younger had recruited and planned for him to kill someone. (Later she) determined it would be the Carpenters.Assistant Kansas Attorney General Jessica Domme, concerning Rusty Lee Frasier