WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal for Jonathan and Reginal Carr, the two brothers convicted in a Wichita crime spree that left five people dead.
The crimes happened in December of 2000. When the brothers were sentenced to death in 2002, they were both in their 20s. With the Supreme Court’s decision, Jonathan, now 42, and Reginald, now 45, move a step closer to having that sentence fulfilled.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, on his last day as attorney general, issued a news release Monday morning. He says the Supreme Court’s action means the Carr brothers “have exhausted their direct appeals, and their convictions and death sentences are considered final, although they still have the ability to file additional lawsuits in state or federal court seeking to prevent their executions, and it is expected they will do so.”
The Carr brothers’ week-long crime spree in December of 2000 involved the robbery of an assistant baseball coach and an attack on Ann Walenta, a local cellist, who was injured and later died in the hospital.
A few days later, the brothers broke into a home on Birchwood Drive, where they abused and terrorized five young adults for hours. Finally, after being forced to take money out of ATMs, the victims were taken to a field, shot in the head, run over, and left for dead. Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander and Jason Befort were killed.
One of the five survived when a bullet hit a barrette in her hair. During the trial, she was referred to as H.G. Her testimony was critical.
The brothers were convicted in 2002 on four counts of capital murder, one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, and multiple counts of rape, kidnapping, and robbery.
Schmidt says this is the second time the U.S. Supreme Court has considered these cases. In 2016, he asked the Court to reinstate the defendants’ death sentences after the Kansas Supreme Court had overturned them. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Kansas court’s ruling, and in 2022 the Kansas Supreme Court then rejected additional challenges to the convictions and death sentences.
“The slow but steady march toward justice continues,” Schmidt said.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, 18th Judicial District, says the next procedural step will be the “indirect” appeals, sometimes referred to as “1507” proceedings — a reference to state statute, K.S.A. 60-1507.
Bennett says 1507 proceedings typically provide the forum for defendants to allege that their trial attorney(s) provided ineffective representation. The proceedings usually take place in the county in which the trial occurred. In this case, it would be Sedgwick County.
Bennett says his office will provide notice as the process unfolds and hearings are set.
“I would like to thank Attorney General Schmidt and his team for their work successfully
shepherding these matters through the appellate system – State and Federal — the past
several years,” Bennett said in a news release. “Specifically, I thank General Schmidt for personally – and successfully — handling oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court in October of 2015.”
KANSAS DEATH PENALTY
A total of nine people currently are under sentence of death in Kansas. Including today’s decisions, seven of those have exhausted their direct appeals and are in various stages of collateral litigation.
Those who have exhausted their direct appeals, in addition to the Carr brothers, are Gary Kleypas, John Robinson, Sydney Gleason, Scott Cheever, and James Kraig Kahler. The two whose cases are still on direct appeal are Justin Thurber and Kyle Flack.
Both Carr brothers are being held in the El Dorado Correctional Facility, where they have been since Nov. 2002.