Olathe A former swimming pool maintenance worker was sentenced Tuesday night to life in prison for killing a suburban Kansas City woman more than four years ago.
Benjamin Appleby, 31, was convicted earlier this month of capital murder and attempted rape. Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty, so the maximum sentence that Appleby faced was life in prison with no chance of parole for 50 years.
Johnson County Judge Steve Leben imposed that sentence after a lengthy hearing that included testimony from the parents of Ali Kemp, who was 19 when she was killed in 2002.
Leben also sentenced Appleby to 19 years in prison for attempted rape and ordered the sentence to be served after he finishes the first 50 years.
"This Christmas Eve as every Christmas Eve since she died, when other people were in church, I was putting candles on her grave, and I don't go to church anymore," said Ali Kemp's mother, Kathy Kemp.
She said nothing can be done to make it right.
"I'm serving a life sentence, and I'm never being paroled," Kathy Kemp said.
Appleby had requested to be excused from the hearing. Leben granted the request after talking with Appleby and attorneys. Kansas law requires a judge's approval for a criminal defendant to be absent.
The absence of Appleby angered Kemp's father, Roger Kemp. He waged a national publicity campaign to find his daughter's killer after discovering her battered body in the pump room of the Leawood pool. She was working in the summer at the community pool after finishing her freshman year at Kansas State University.
"He didn't just murder her," Roger Kemp said. "He didn't kill her. He drug the life out of her body because she didn't want to die, and he did it. And he doesn't have the courage to sit here today and hear me tell it."
Kemp had billboards put up across the Kansas City area seeking information on his daughter's killer and bought advertisements in USA Today. The case also was the subject of "America's Most Wanted" segments.
Appleby was arrested in November 2004 in Bantam, Conn., where he was living with his fiancee under an alias. Authorities tracked him there after receiving an anonymous tip.
During the trial, the jury watched a videotape of Appleby telling Leawood detectives he had gone to the pool to check it out as a potential client. He said he found Kemp attractive and tried to "hit on her," then "lost it" when she rebuffed his advances and swung at him.
"I killed her," Appleby said on the tape. "I strangled her, I guess. I don't know what I used. There was something laying there."
Defense lawyers acknowledged that Appleby had killed Kemp but argued that the murder was not premeditated. They contended that Appleby thought Kemp was alive when he left her and that he should be convicted of a lesser charge than capital murder.