Archive for Saturday, November 18, 1989

Williams convicted in boy’s murder

November 18, 1989


More than 16 months of investigation and legal maneuvering in the case of a 28-year-old transient accused of killing a Lawrence boy ended Friday when a Douglas County District Court jury convicted him of first-degree murder after deliberating less than two hours.

The jury handed down the verdict about 2:30 p.m., convicting John William of first-degree murder in the July 12, 1988, slaying of Richard Settlemyre, 9, Lawrence.
William, who had made two outbursts during his weeklong trial, sat quietly as the verdict was read, intently writing in a notebook.

After hearing the verdict, Douglas County District Judge James Paddock scheduled sentencing for 10 a.m. Dec. 21. The judge said any motions for a new trial would be heard at that time.

UNDER KANSAS statutes, a first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence. Currently, inmates convicted of first-degree murder are eligible for a parole hearing after being confined 15 years.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jim Flory said he was "obviously very pleased" with the verdict.

"It's been a long and difficult process," he said. "Being totally candid, it's a tremendous weight off my shoulders."

Flory attributed the verdict to a strong case built by a "very thorough investigation" by local and state law enforcement officers.

Defense attorneys Ed Collister Jr. and Margie Wakefield-Green left the courtroom shortly after the verdict was handed down. A spokesman at Collister's law office said the attorney was withholding comment on the case.

SEVERAL members of the six-man, six-woman jury also refused to comment.

Jurors on Friday had several choices for their verdict. In addition to finding William not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the jury was instructed that they could find William guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and felony murder with an underlying felony count of aggravated sodomy.

Testimony during the trial showed that William offered several different stories of the death on July 14, 1988, when he was first questioned about the murder. That was also the day that authorities found Settlemyre's dismembered body floating in the Kansas River.

In an interview the morning of July 15, witnesses testified, William admitted to killing the boy and offered several details about the crime.

AUTHORITIES testified that William told them he sliced the boy's neck with a knife, then cut off several body parts and buried them in shallow holes on the river bank.

William was charged July 15 with first-degree murder.

On Aug. 12, 1988, Paddock ruled William incompetent to stand trial and ordered him to the custody of Larned State Hospital. The judge reversed the ruling last November after Larned doctors reported that William had attained competency.

On March 9, Paddock again ruled William incompetent to stand trial. Larned doctors reported in August of this year that William had again attained competency.

Paddock ruled William competent to stand trial Nov. 2, and jury selection in the trial began five days later.

WILLIAM'S MENTAL status was also a focus of the trial and spawned differing testimony from two mental health experts.

Robert Schulman, a Topeka clinical psychologist, testified for the defense that he believed William was suffering a delusion during the crime and, therefore, was not legally responsible.

To be declared legally insane, a person must be unable to understand the nature of his or her actions during a crime and must be unable to understand that the actions are against the law.

Dr. Herbert Modlin, a Topeka psychiatrist, said he found no evidence that William was legally insane when he committed the crime.

Flory on Friday said he may seek a ruling from the appellate court on at least one issue that came up during the trial.

He was referring to a Nov. 6 ruling by Paddock to suppress a note allegedly written by William to Settlemyre in which the writer describes bondage, mutilation and homosexual acts.

Paddock sided with defense attorneys who alleged that the note was illegally seized by local law enforcement authorities.

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