Archive for Monday, August 9, 2004

Murderer soon up for parole

Lawrence man convicted in 1983 beating death

August 9, 2004


Lawrence Police Lt. Dan Affalter's blood still boils when he thinks about the murder of the little, old man.

Harry Puckett was 94 when a burglar beat him to death 21 years ago in his east Lawrence home.

"Harry was a frail, old guy, and it wouldn't have taken much," Affalter said, recalling the incident.

Soon, James Chadwick Fourhorn, the man convicted in December 1983 of killing Puckett, will be eligible for parole. In 1984 he was ordered to serve 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder and a concurrent five- to 20-year sentence for aggravated burglary.

"He's mean," Affalter said of Fourhorn. "He should be spending the rest of his life in prison."

On the night of June 24, 1983, Fourhorn, now 48, talked about "robbing an old guy," according to witnesses' testimony during his trial. The next morning, Puckett was found dead in his house at 1109 Del. A police investigation led to Fourhorn's arrest along with that of a 17-year-old juvenile who had acted as a watcher outside the house.

Affalter, who was working with the police drug unit at the time, assisted other detectives with the Puckett murder investigation. He recalled Puckett as an eccentric man who lived in a cluttered house despite having real estate and other investments.

Fourhorn apparently had heard rumors that Puckett kept a hidden fortune in his house or buried in his yard, Affalter said. Investigators said Fourhorn beat Puckett trying to get him to reveal where that money was.

"His house was kind of messy, and searching it would have taken forever," Affalter said. "It would have been easy to hide money in the house, as much stuff as he had in there. The old man lived there alone for years."

No fortune was found in Puckett's house, but according to court affidavits filed after Fourhorn's arrest, a total of $4,000 in cash was found around the place. Court papers and testimony also revealed there was no electricity in the house and that Puckett used flashlights to read and see at night.

Fourhorn was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated burglary. But his attorney, Stan Hazlett, sought a new trial, and Judge Mike Malone granted it because of jury misconduct. In March 1984, before a new trial could take place, Fourhorn pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree murder.

In January 2000, Fourhorn failed to report back from work to the Wichita Work Release Facility. A couple of days later he turned himself in to authorities in Wyandotte County. He was later convicted of aggravated escape in Sedgwick County and sentenced to 17 months in prison, to be served consecutively with his murder sentence. If he ever is granted parole, he will have to serve the 17 months before he can be released, a spokesman with the Kansas Department of Corrections said.

Parole for Fourhorn has been rejected in the past. Affalter said he hoped Fourhorn, who is held in the El Dorado Correctional Facility, is never allowed out.

"I'm never in favor of letting a killer out of prison," he said. "If they take another person's life, then they should forfeit their own."

In addition to James Chadwick Fourhorn, two others convicted of crimes in Douglas County soon will be up for parole:¢ Derek A. Meek, held in the Ellsworth Correctional Facility on convictions of attempted burglary in Douglas County and the following crimes in Shawnee County: criminal use of a financial card, forgery, burglary, aggravated assault, attempted aggravated escape from custody and manufacturing, possessing or distributing drugs.¢ David Jackson Jr., held in the Wichita Work Release Facility. He was convicted in Douglas County of the following crimes: aggravated robbery, kidnapping and attempted aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.

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