Kimberly Younger, the woman charged with capital murder in the deaths of Alfred “Sonny” and Pauline Carpenter during the 2018 Barton County Fair, has entered “not guilty” pleas to all counts.
Younger appeared in Barton County District Court on Wednesday for her arraignment. Although she waived a formal reading of the charges, District Judge Mike Keeley explained the possible penalties for all six counts, should she be convicted of any of the charges.
The first charge is capital murder. If found guilty, Younger could face a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole. Assistant Attorney General Jessica Domme said the State will not seek the death penalty if Younger is found guilty.
The second and third counts are in the alternative to capital murder. Younger is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Keeley advised that the penalty for a conviction is life in prison with no chance for parole for 50 years, although in some cases the court may find mitigating circumstances and allow parole after 25 years.
Count Four is conspiracy to commit murder, a Level 2 person felony. If convicted of this crime, the sentence would depend on previous criminal history and could range from 109-493 months (approximately nine to 41 years) and a fine of up to $300,000.
Count Five is criminal solicitation, a Level 3 person felony. The sentence could range from 55-247 months (approximately 4.5 to 20 years) and a fine of up to $300,000.
Count Six is felony theft, a Level 7 non-person felony that carries a possible sentence of 11-34 months and a fine of up to $100,000.
Defense Attorney Tim Frieden spoke when asked how Younger wished to plead.
“As to all counts, she pleads not guilty and asks for a jury trial,” Frieden said. Younger also understands that she is entitled to a speedy trial, within 150 days of the arraignment, and she was prepared to waive that right.
Keeley asked Younger if she understood this and she answered, “Yes sir.”
The handcuff on her right hand was removed so she could sign the waiver.
Later, when the judge accepted the document, he again asked if she agreed to waive her right to a speedy trial. “Yes sir, I have no objections,” Younger said.
Frieden said the court might not want to schedule the trial earlier than May or June of 2021. Younger has advised him there might be some potential witnesses in other states and it could take a while to get them to Kansas. These might include “carnival-type witnesses” who don’t come through Kansas regularly, he said.
After further discussion, Keeley scheduled a case management conference for 1 p.m. on May 6. At that time, attorneys will have a framework for when motions should be filed and when other hearings might be scheduled.
Other attorneys who participated in the hearing Wednesday were Deputy Attorney General Vic Braden and defense attorney Gary Owens.
About the case
Alfred and Pauline Carpenter were a Wichita couple in their late 70s who were vendors at the Barton County Fair and were killed July 14, 2018.
Investigators determined carnival workers killed the Carpenters, who sold crafts, jewelry, purses and other handmade items during the fair. The suspects used the couple’s recreational vehicle to drive the bodies to Arkansas. Their bodies were found on July 16, 2018, next to a creek bed outside the small community of Natural Dam in the Ozark National Forest.
Other suspects charged in connection with the Carpenters’ deaths entered guilty pleas last year:
Michael Fowler Jr., from Sarasota, Fla., entered a guilty plea two counts of first-degree, premeditated murder. In exchange for the plea, a charge of capital murder was dismissed.
Rusty L. Frasier, from Aransas Pass, Texas, also entered a guilty plea to two counts of first-degree murder, in exchange for the dismissal of a capital murder charge.
Thomas D. Drake, from Van Buren, Arkansas, entered a guilty plea to one count of obstructing apprehension.
Christine M. Tenny, from La Marque, Texas, entered a guilty plea to one count of aggravated robbery and to one count of obstructing apprehension in the case.
The state maintains that between July 11-14, 2018, Fowler, Younger and Frasier, all employees of the Wagner Carnival set up at the Barton County Fair, hatched the plot to kill the Carpenters and obtain their possessions.
At Younger’s preliminary hearing last December, Fowler testified that he and Frasier killed the Carpenters and used their truck and camper to drive the bodies to Arkansas. He said Younger identified the Carpenters as victims and she drove the truck out of Barton County. The state maintains that Younger, posing as “Frank Zaitchik” via phone texts, ordered the killings.
When Frasier entered his guilty pleas last July, Domme explained what evidence the State was prepared to show if the case went to a jury trial. During the week of the 2018 Barton County Fair, “Kimberly Younger had recruited and planned for (Frasier) to kill someone,” Domme said. Younger later “determined it would be the Carpenters” and identified them as the intended victims.