Archive for Saturday, November 11, 1989

DA says defendant admitted killing boy

November 11, 1989


Emphasizing what authorities believe was a confession by a man accused of killing a Lawrence boy in July 1988, attorneys offered opening statements Friday in the man's Douglas County District Court trial.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jim Flory told jurors that the defendant, John William, offered several different versions of the death when he was questioned shortly after authorities found the mutilated body of the boy, Richard Settlemyre, floating in the Kansas River on July 14.
But in an interview on the morning of July 15, Flory said, William told a Lawrence police officer: "OK, I killed him."

"He admitted not only that he killed Richard Settlemyre but that he wanted to have sex with him," Flory said, adding that William also admitted to attempting to have sex with the boy after he died.

WILLIAM'S attorney, Ed Collister Jr. of Lawrence, asked jurors to consider his client's mental state while weighing the importance of the statement.

Collister said testimony would show that William functions intellectually at the level or an 8- or 9-year-old child. He said William had been in the custody of investigators for 24 hours when he made the statement.

"You'll have to decide whether a person who has disabilities was confessing to a crime or giving a police officer the answer that the police officer wanted," Collister said.

Flory said William, who is charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder or, in the alternative, felony murder, went to the Settlemyre family's residence on July 12 and took the boy fishing. Settlemyre was last seen alive by the owner of a North Lawrence store where William and the boy purchased snacks and fish bait that day, Flory said.

AUTHORITIES began searching for the boy on July 14, when his mother, Sue Ann, filed a missing person report.

Flory said that the body was discovered at 6 p.m. He said the head, hands, feet, genitals, breasts and a portion of the left buttock had been severed. The boy had been stabbed 17 times, Flory said.

Collister urged jurors to make a ruling based on the evidence and not on their emotions.

He said the state has little evidence to support the kidnapping charge. Collister said it was not unusual for his client and Settlemyre to go fishing together and added that William occasionally spent the night at the Settlemyre home.

Although two pieces of fishing string and a cord of string were discovered at the site where authorities believe Settlemyre was killed, Collister said, pathologists have found no wounds or marks on the body indicating the boy had been tied up.

ALSO, COLLISTER said, there's no evidence that small amounts of blood found on the string, William's jeans and a bucket belonging to William were Settlemyre's. He said there has been no clinical evidence of sexual abuse.

Addressing the possible use of an insanity defense, Collister said William received treatment for mental illness on at least seven occasions since 1966. Treatment, he said, included the use of mind-altering drugs.

Collister said a mental health expert will testify that his client was suffering from a "psychotic episode" and "wasn't legally sane" at the time of Settlemyre's death.

Attorneys will begin presenting evidence Monday in the trial, which is expected to last about two weeks.

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