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Archive for Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Police say couple shot by burglar

July 16, 2002

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Revelations Monday that two elderly Lawrence residents were shot to death when they surprised a burglar in their home did nothing to ease fears in their eastern Lawrence neighborhood.

"I'm getting a security system, and I know of at least one family that's getting a dog," said Melissa Manning, the couple's neighbor.

A team of investigators late Sunday afternoon completed its work at 1530 Learnard Ave., the home of George "Pete" Wallace and Wyona Chandlee, both 71. Their bodies were found late Thursday by a close family friend and a relative.

Police made public Monday morning some of their conclusions about the slayings.

"We believe that someone was already inside and that it was a spontaneous murder," Police Chief Ron Olin told a news conference.

A daytime burglary in a residential neighborhood is rare, Olin said, especially one that leads to a slaying.

Olin said police did not know specifically when during the day the couple was killed or whether it happened Wednesday or Thursday. One neighbor told the Journal-World last week he saw the couple return home about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

No suspects

Police do not have any suspects and an "around-the-clock" investigation is continuing, Olin said. Investigators still are trying to determine whether anything was taken from the home. Olin declined to say if there were signs of forced entry or if the home had been ransacked.

"I'd rather not be specific about the crime scene, but I can tell you it was not in pristine condition," he said.

Investigators think there was only one burglar in the home, but Olin said police were not ruling out the possibility of more.

Police are increasing patrols in the Learnard Avenue area and conducting a study of burglary reports police have received throughout the city, Olin said.

Monday, Lawrence Police said they were investigating a burglary in the 1900 block of Learnard Avenue that reportedly took place July 8. Police said they did not know if the incidents were related.

Though neighbors are concerned, a check of some Lawrence security firms and gun dealers found no significant increase in business.

At Rueschhoff Security Systems, 2441 W. Sixth St., there have been two requests for security systems related to the slayings, owner David Rueschhoff said.

"We haven't been inundated with calls," he said.

Nevertheless, Olin said he could understand neighbors' fears.

"The fact that this happened makes us as nervous as the citizens," he said.

Relatives ask for help

Relatives of Wallace and Chandlee are trying to come to grips with the deaths and trying to keep a low profile, said Chandlee's granddaughter, Nina Chandlee, 17, Lawrence.

"We would really just like people to know we will miss them so much, and whoever committed this terrible crime will be found and punished," Nina Chandlee said. "I hope that he or she can live with themselves after taking two loved people away."

The Chandlee family joins police in asking that anyone with information that could help the investigation call the Douglas County Crime Stoppers Tips hotline. Police want to hear from anyone who was in the area last week.

"We just hope people will call, even if it's something that sounds stupid," Nina Chandlee said.

Nearly 30 officers, most from the police department and some from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and Kansas Bureau of Investigation, were continuing their investigation, Olin said. As of Monday, more than 100 leads had been checked, he said.

A team of five police officers and two KBI agents worked at the victims' house an average of 16 hours a day over four days, Olin said. Those officers checked surfaces for fingerprints and searched for evidence of fibers or anything else that might be of value in the investigation, he said.

Anyone with information about the deaths can call 843-TIPS. Callers remain anonymous, and a reward is possible. Calls can also be taken directly by detectives at 840-7430.

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