Olathe — Prosecutors paved the way Thursday for a possible death penalty trial for a man accused of the poolside killing of a Kansas teenager.
A first-degree murder charge against Benjamin Appleby, 29, was upgraded to capital murder. He is accused of killing and trying to rape 19-year-old Ali Kemp, of Leawood.
The new charge makes it possible for prosecutors to seek the death penalty, though Johnson County Dist. Atty. Paul Morrison would not say what his plans were.
Prosecutors have five days from a suspect's arraignment to indicate their intent to seek the death penalty. An arraignment hearing has not been set for Appleby, who made his first appearance in court Thursday by video.
Appleby, who is being held on $1 million bond, did not enter a plea during the hearing. He does not yet have a lawyer but told the judge he was looking for a private attorney.
Kemp's father discovered his daughter strangled June 18, 2002. She was found in the pump room of the community pool where she worked, about 10 miles from here, in a suburb of spacious homes and prim lawns.
Appleby was arrested Nov. 8 in Connecticut, where he was living under an alias. He later confessed to the crimes, according to an affidavit filed by Connecticut State Police.
Outside court Thursday, Appleby's father, Gary Appleby, expressed sympathy toward the victim's friends and family members.
"It's tragic," Gary Appleby said. "They're going to have to go through it all over again."
Benjamin Appleby's next hearing is set for Dec. 3.
The murder was Leawood's first in years and one of only a handful in its history. It prompted widespread publicity, thousands of leads, and a relentless effort by the girl's family and investigators to find the culprit.
Authorities said a tip pointed them to Appleby several months ago, but he was let go, not considered a central suspect.
Another tip was received in the last month, though, which reignited investigators' interest in Appleby, who authorities said had a small pool-cleaning business in the Kansas City region at the time Kemp was killed.