Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Body at center stage of murder trial

Prosecutors work to prove corpse was that of former Topeka drug runner

March 5, 2003

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If there's no murder victim, there's no murder.

That's why a decomposed body dug up in rural Lecompton in April 2001 was the subject of much testimony Tuesday in a Douglas County murder trial.

Prosecutors are trying to banish any doubt from jurors' minds that the bones found in a dump site were those of Topeka resident Dale A. Miller. From there, they aim to prove that the man they have on trial, 42-year-old Michael W. Kesselring, is the killer.

On Tuesday, a white-bearded anthropology professor from Kansas State University testified in a booming voice that he thought the bones belonged to a caucasian person. And a technician from a private lab in New Orleans said the bones' genetic makeup was consistent with a swab taken from the cheek of Miller's brother, Rick.

Kesselring's attorney, Martin Miller, said he thought prosecutors "probably" would be able to identify the body as Dale Miller's.

"They won't be able to support that Mike Kesselring did it," Miller said.

One challenge for assistant Dist. Attys. Trent Krug and Dan Dunbar is to keep jurors from forming a bad opinion about Dale Miller because of his unsavory lifestyle.

Miller was a drug runner for a Topeka-based syndicate that sold cocaine and other drugs, Krug said, but came under suspicion and disappeared after a stash of drugs worth up to $250,000 came up missing.

The state alleges Kesselring and three other men conspired to kidnap Miller in September 2000 and to scare him into saying where the missing drugs were.

Two other Topeka men allegedly involved in the kidnapping are expected to take the stand later in the week. The fourth, Michael W. Reece, who was Dale Miller's cousin, died of cancer earlier this month.

The trial, which resumes today, is scheduled to continue through next week.

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