An 18-year-old Topeka man convicted of first-degree murder in a September carjacking attempt that killed a Lawrence man was sentenced today to life in prison.
Abraham M. Orr stood with his head down, etching a line on the table before him with his thumbnail, as District Judge James Paddock gave him a consecutive sentence of 32 months in prison for attempted aggravated robbery. Orr will be eligible for parole in about 17 years.
Arguing for the maximum sentences, Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells said that in his 20 years as a prosecutor, "I have not seen anyone as lethal as this man. We have a responsibility to protect the community from this man."
Orr and three friends from Topeka were driving home Sept. 18 on the Kansas Turnpike when their car broke down near the East Lawrence interchange. The four walked to North Lawrence, where Orr and another youth, Courtney L. Crockett, approached a parked Isuzu Trooper in Riverfront Park.
Inside were Edward Lees, 29, Lawrence, his girlfriend Dana Chang, and her two small children.
Orr pointed a gun at Lees and ordered him out of the vehicle. When Lees started to back the vehicle away, Orr shot him in the head.
Orr testified during his trial in March that he felt justified shooting Lees because he was trying to find a ride back to Topeka for himself and his friends. Orr declined the opportunity to speak at his sentencing hearing.
Chang attended the hearing with Lees' parents, Edward and Beverly, who had driven 350 miles from their home in Alton, Mo.
Orr's killing of Lees changed her life and that of her children, Chang told the judge in a tear-choked voice.
"Now, they don't want to hear Uncle Edward's name, because it reminds them of shattered glass and blood," she said.
After the hearing, Chang and the Lees said they were satisfied with Orr's sentences, much more so than with the probation sentence meted out last week to co-defendant James R. Wadley, 18, Topeka.
"They let that kid off scot-free, and he provided one of the guns," Edward Lees said. "An adult crime deserves adult punishment. It's that simple. I don't care if they're 17 or 70."
Wadley, who was 17 when Lees was killed, was found guilty in juvenile court of attempted aggravated robbery. He gave a 9mm semi-automatic pistol to Crockett.
Crockett, 18, was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery in a February trial and sentenced last month to confinement in the Youth Center at Topeka until his 21st birthday.
Meanwhile, Orr may face federal carjacking charges, Wells said, adding he expects a decision from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Topeka within 30 to 40 days.
In addition, Orr is scheduled to stand trial June 8 on charges that he attempted in February to escape from the Douglas County Jail with the help of his wife, Sarah Orr, Topeka.
Prosecutors claim she brought a handgun into the jail on Feb. 27 and that her husband grabbed a jailer and threatened to break the jailer's neck.
He was charged with attempted aggravated escape and kidnapping in the breakout attempt.
Sarah Orr's trial is scheduled for June 15.