A Texas woman has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on capital murder charges stemming from the deaths of two individuals at the Barton County Fair in July 2018, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.
Kimberley Stacey Younger, 55, of Aransas Pass, Texas, was sentenced on one count of capital murder, Monday in Barton County District Court. Senior Judge James Fleetwood sentenced Younger to an additional 245 months (20 years and five months) for one count of conspiracy to commit murder, one count of solicitation to commit murder and one count of theft. The sentences are to be served consecutively in a Kansas Department of Corrections facility. Because the State did not seek the death penalty in this case, the only authorized sentence was life without parole.
Younger’s sentence is for her role in connection with the deaths of Alfred “Sonny” Carpenter and Pauline Carpenter, both of Wichita, at the Barton County Fair in July of 2018. Four other individuals entered pleas and have been convicted for their connection to the crimes. They are Michael Fowler Jr., Sarasota, Fla.; Rusty Frasier, Aransas Pass, Texas; Christine Tenney, Santa Fe, Texas; and Thomas Drake, Van Buren, Ark.
Younger hatched the plot in which carnival workers killed the Carpenters, who sold crafts, jewelry, purses and other handmade items during the fair. The suspects then used the couple’s recreational vehicle to drive the bodies 320 miles to Van Buren, 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.
In 2019, Fowler entered a guilty plea to two counts of first-degree, premeditated murder and one count of theft, agreeing to testify against Younger as his charge of capital murder was dropped.
At that hearing, Deputy Kansas Attorney General Vic Braden, handling the prosecution, outlined the details of the killings. Between July 11-14, 2018, Younger, Fowler and Frasier, all employees of the Wagner Carnival set up at the fair, decided to rob and kill the Carpenters, based on “their vulnerability, the desire to kill and to obtain their possessions,” Braden said.
The plan early in the morning on July 14 was to have Younger distract Alfred Carpenter, who was outside behind the trailer. Fowler, who was armed with a knife and a 9 mm handgun, was going to come up behind him and slit his neck.
However, a struggle ensued and Braden said Fowler ended up stabbing Alfred Carpenter in the chest. The victim was dragged face-up into the trailer where Pauline Carpenter was asleep in a loft.
Once inside, Mr. Carpenter was shot in the chest. Mrs. Carpenter was shot twice in the face and twice elsewhere in her body as she slept.
Although Younger did not fire the gun, the sentence she received Monday reflects the fact that her crime was committed with a firearm and involved the use of a deadly weapon, as her co-conspirators carried out the plan.
Braden and Assistant Attorney General Jessica Domme of Schmidt’s office prosecuted Younger’s case.
On Monday, Domme recapped some of the facts of the case from the 10-day jury trial earlier this year. Fowler and Frasier did the killing, but Younger set it all in motion.
“One person was responsible, was the leader,” Domme said. “Without (Younger) there’s probably not a murder. She planned it for months.”
Domme said Younger “picked the targets and made sure the crimes were done.” Then she directed the cleanup.
“The defendant was the leader of this group and she’s the last to be sentenced.”
The case was investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Great Bend Police Department in Kansas, as well as the Van Buren Police Department, Crawford County (Arkansas) Sheriff’s Office, and the Arkansas State Police.
At the sentencing
Two of the Carpenters’ six children, Sharon McGoldrick and Kristi Lee, spoke at the sentencing hearing, which was held one day after what would have been Alfred Carpenter’s 82nd birthday. The sisters stood together and showed the judge a photo of their parents.
Lee described the Carpenters as friendly, honest, hard-working and caring people.
“The two people whose lives you did not care about cared about so many people,” she said to Younger. “I could go on and on about what great people my parents were. You robbed all of us.”
McGoldrick said the sentencing came at the end of three years of waiting for justice, with many trips to the Barton County Courthouse and climbing the 51 stair steps to the third-floor courtroom. She said Younger showed disrespect for her parents at her jury trial, with “fake crocodile tears.” But on Monday, Younger stared ahead throughout the hearing, not looking at the family members.
“Two people were murdered, two lives were taken, and for what?” McGoldrick said.
Both sisters asked that the judge make the sentences run consecutively, as he did, recognizing each of the crimes.
The state also asked for restitution. Although Younger will most likely never be released, if she gets a prison job, 25% of her income will go toward restitution of more than $30,000.
Tim Frieden from the Death Penalty Defense Unit objected to the restitution order, saying a prison job, should Younger ever hold one, might pay as little as $20 a month. “There’s no way she’ll ever be close to paying this,”
Domme responded that the law allows for prisoners to contribute a portion of their disposable income toward restitution and said 25% is reasonable.
Frieden said Younger will appeal the verdict. He said his client opposed wording in the sentence that she had committed murder with a firearm. “She did not fire the gun,” Frieden said. However, he was aware that the ruling was legal because Younger had caused the killings to happen.
The defense team began investigating Younger’s past when the possibility of a death sentence was still on the table. Frieden said the investigation would have gone deeper but the State announced it would not seek the death penalty. Even so, he wanted to explain a bit about his client’s life, which included being sexually abused by her stepfather when she was a young child.
“It’s not a justification but it’s an explanation,” he said.
Judge Fleetwood also gave Younger the opportunity to speak. She said, “I don’t wish to address the court, sir.”
Lee and McGoldrick spoke at length about the Carpenters, their generosity and kindness, and especially what they meant to many family members. Younger robbed Albert and Pauline Carpenter, but they also robbed the family they said.
“Mostly they just loved people and never met a stranger,” Lee said.
The Carpenters were married for 32 years. They had “retired” once but started the business of traveling to carnivals to sell their wares. The summer of 2018 was to be their final season and they planned to spend even more time with family, going to grandchildren’s sporting events and activities.
Al was 78 and Pauline was 79 years old. “They had more years left in them,” Lee said.
“We have to live it every day for the rest of our lives,” McGoldrick said, “this nightmare we’ve all been forced to live.”
Editor’s note: A shorter version of this story was posted online Monday evening.