Archive for Saturday, February 17, 1996


February 17, 1996


— The prison sentence was the maximum under Kansas sentencing guidelines, given the severity of the crime and Nathan Earwood's criminal history.

A fatal September shooting that stunned the city resulted in an eight-year prison term Friday for a Topeka teen-ager.

Nathan Earwood, 17, smiled as District Judge Thomas Sachse handed down the sentence on a second-degree murder charge.

Earwood originally was charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 24 shooting death of Stephanie Perez, 14, but pleaded guilty to the reduced count on Jan. 19.

Before the sentencing, the victim's mother told Sachse that she didn't believe Earwood regretted the crime. Paula Ellis said Earwood had laughed his way through court hearings.

"He was brought up here to kill my daughter," she said. "I don't think he has any remorse for what he's done."

Ellis left the court building shortly after the hearing and could not be reached later by telephone.

Sachse called the crime "a terrible tragedy for this family and this community." The prison term was the maximum under Kansas sentencing guidelines, given the severity of the crime and Earwood's criminal history.

As part of the sentence, Earwood will face a three-year supervised probation term after he is released from prison. The slightly built teen-ager, dressed in a bright-orange jail-issue uniform, declined to speak on his own behalf.

Authorities alleged that Earwood was one of nine teen-agers who went to a southeast Ottawa apartment to fight with Stephanie's brothers, whom the teens considered rival gang members. During a preliminary hearing, one of the teens who accompanied Earwood testified that he saw Earwood fire a .22-caliber pistol several times at a group of people outside the apartment.

Stephanie died after being struck in the chest with a .22 slug.

In a community that seemed far away from gang violence in larger cities, the death was a shock.

As parents called to ask whether their children were safe at school, education officials ordered security measures, including locking doors during school hours.

While Ottawa police investigated rumors of retaliation, city officials told court administrators that teen-agers involved in the shooting were not welcome to perform city-related community service work.

Tension over the shooting remained evident on Friday. Several law enforcement officers roamed the Franklin County District Court hallways, and Sachse warned observers that he would deal harshly with outbursts.

"If you feel you'll have some problems controlling your emotions, you might want to leave now," he said, adding that he wouldn't hesitate to find unruly spectators in contempt of court.

  • Is an eight-year sentence for second-degree murder too lenient? Answer the J-W Access question on page 2A.

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